HEIDI: People often ask us about co-writing; how does it work for us? Would we recommend it? That sort of thing. So, in the interest of sharing with you all, we’ve decided to talk about our experiences with this. (And in case you’re wondering, you can find out more about our WIP in this post here.)
Here’s how it all began.
Kati had the idea for the story: a chef who opens her own restaurant, serving up ridiculous, fantastical things like kraken calamari and gourmet gryphon linguini, but her main specialty is dragon cuisine.
Then she had another idea for a story: a fantasy world slowly being taken over by science, where the elves are actually gangsters fighting to keep control of the city’s poor folks as the scientists gain more and more support from the growing middle class.
I had the brilliant idea of combining these two ideas, and having the second one be the backdrop for the first. “The scientists can be steampunk scientists!” I said. And then I gave a whole bunch of other ingenious suggestions until Kati realized she’d be lost without me and asked me if I wanted to write the book with her.
Kati: That’s not quite how I remember it…
Heidi: Clearly she recognized my superior talent.
Heidi: Anyways, moving on…at this point all of our ideas are sort of mixed together, so I can’t really remember which ones I came up with and which ones belonged to Kati anymore.
Kati: For instance, I’m pretty sure that whole steampunk idea was mine…
Heidi: Very possible.
HEIDI: By now you’re probably wondering just how we go about co-writing. I mean, what are the mechanics? How do we avoid a choppy feel to the book since our styles, while complementary, are different? For instance, I’m a total pantser, meaning I don’t really plan out anything, whereas Kati is really big on creating these detailed outlines that I then completely ignore.
HEIDI: What can I say? I’m spontaneous! ; p
KATI: Anyways, we started off with a shared google document, but that ended up having its own flaws. It would change the formatting sometimes, and as the story grew longer, it just became unwieldy, so we switched to emailing our sections back and forth.
HEIDI: We also set up a few ground rules. Rule #1: Don’t talk about Mystic Cooking…Rule #2: Don’t talk about Mystic Cooking…
KATI: Very funny. Seriously, though, we did have a few rules. The first one: go ahead and edit anything you want in the other person’s section. Second rule: if it’s a major change, then discuss. Third rule: be honest, and don’t take any of the changes personally.
HEIDI: This, I think, is what made our whole story feel cohesive. Kati would write her section, let me know it was done (each section was usually between 500 – 800 words), and then I would go through hers and change whatever I wanted, then write my section. Kati would go in and see my changes to her section, then make changes to my section, and write her own, etc., etc.
KATI: When we were finally done with the first draft, we printed it out, and both of us read through the whole thing separately, taking notes on any plot issues, holes, and questions that arose. Then we got together and went through them all.
HEIDI: We created a lovely spreadsheet, going chapter by chapter and listing everything that needed to be fixed, then brainstormed how to fix it all and divided up the work.
KATI: Once we finished that, we printed it out again, and each of us went through and found everything we had missed the first time, plus all the shoddy writing that had managed to sneak through our earlier rewrites. Not to mention some terrible recipes…<glares at Heidi> Salamander stew?
HEIDI: I still maintain that salamander stew is a worthy food item at Mystic Cooking.
KATI: Aside from the fact that it sounds completely disgusting, Lailu owns a high-end restaurant; stew is not high-end.
HEIDI: I like stew…
KATI: You can eat salamander stew on your own time, then. >: (
KATI: So, after we finished making those changes…you guessed it.
HEIDI: We read through the whole manuscript again, did a few final tweaks here, changes there. In order to avoid inconsistencies, I went through and did the next round of edits myself, going through the entire document, before sending it over to Kati to read through and make changes. She sent it to me one final time to polish it up, and then it was time to find us our beta readers and start working on it with our awesome critique group.
KATI: Then it was time for even more edits…
HEIDI: And more polish.
KATI: And then, actually, some serious cutting. We managed to trim a good 20,000 words from our “final” draft, and that’s where we are now, sitting pretty at 92,000 words.
HEIDI: So there you have it.
How about you? Any co-writers out there? What’s your writing process like?
Oh and tune in tomorrow for Part 2: the pros and cons of co-writing a book. See you all then!