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Tips for writing with a co-author: Four Characteristics of a Good Co-author


After racking my brain for blog ideas this week, I’ve decided to answer a question that I get asked all the time by fellow writers as well as non-writer friends: How do you write with a co-author?

As you may or may not know, I have an identical twin sister named Yamini. We have been very close all our lives, and so when I was having trouble finishing my first book attempt, Yamini was intrigued and offered to help. Together we basically re-wrote my story and turned it into Orya and the Book of Songs. More recently, we’ve been working on another novel together called Cloudreader.

What do you do if you don’t have a twin? Who do you choose as your co-author?

Here are some must-have characteristics for a good co-author:

#1) Your co-author should be easy to track down and should be able to conference with you frequently

If you are trying to get something written in a timely fashion (i.e. less than 10 years to write a novel) it’s a good idea for your co-author to live within your general vicinity. Talking in person over paper is a lot more effective I’ve found than phone conferences. Not that you can’t write a book while living on opposite coasts, but if you do go this route, make sure your co-author is someone who you won’t lose touch with. It’s important that you keep in touch and answer each other’s phone calls or you’ll never get done.

#2) Your co-author should write well enough to your liking and should like your writing too

This is kind of a no-brainer, but you may find that the person you want to write with (your neighbor, your spouse, your grandma) may not be as good at writing as you initially thought. Or they might think that you don’t write as well as they thought. This can lead to a lot of bad blood between the two of you as you go along, so be careful who you choose. This relates to #3…

#3) Your co-author should handle criticism well and give good feedback

If you don’t respect each other’s opinions, you will never get be able to write even a rough draft together. My sister and I are able to yell at each other about specific sentences or directions a character is taking without taking it too personally. Sometimes she is right, and sometimes I’m right. Usually it takes time and several rounds of revision to figure out who had the right idea all along.

#4) Your co-author should share your writing goals

Remember group projects in school? In high school we frequently had to do group projects…and we didn’t get to choose who to work with. I was always the annoying kid who took everything too seriously and put in too much effort, while most people wanted to have at least some fun while getting the work done. But we were all annoyed by the one kid who didn’t seem to care at all and never showed up to group meetings. It would have been a lot more fun for everyone if we had all had the same goals and priorities for our project. Similarly while writing, it is important to establish whether you are trying to write just for fun or if you are both in it for the long haul of getting published (or both!).

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for next time where I’ll talk about the logistics of writing with someone else.

image credits:

SarahR89 / CC BY-NC 2.0

#blogseries #coauthor #writing #writingtips

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© 2020 by Amitha Jagannath Knight