Two Writers, One Voice, Ten Tips

WritersEveryone wants to know: How do two writers write one story? We described our journey as collaborating authors in So, How Do Two Writers Write As One? However, there must be a lot of writing partners out there for we still get many requests for more information on how to pull off the two authors/one voice trick.

It is difficult to analyze all the nuances of how we work together. A great deal of our success is personality. We, simply put, are a good fit. We also have been at this for a very long time, so each knows the way the other one thinks and what our strengths and weaknesses are. But for those who wish to have a go at writing a book with another, here are ten tips on how to go about it.

1. Be nice to each other.
The Golden Rule of writing together. If you can’t follow this rule, don’t bother because you will never get anywhere. This doesn’t mean that you must agree all the time. Some of our best story ideas came out of disagreements. Just keep the disagreements respectful. No name calling. And no yelling.

2. Be honest.
About yourself. About whether you can work with  partner. About whether you even like the way they write. About everything. If you do not like something, say so. If you like something, also say so. (It’s amazing how often that simple but wonderful piece of feedback is overlooked!)  So be honest. But don’t be mean.

3. Have weekly meetings.
Even if you are living in the same house, if you have a writing partner, you need to have at least one meeting a week to discuss your work-in-progress, read drafts, ask questions. This helps to keep both writers (if you’ll pardon the pun) on the same page.

4. Know how your book will end.
This is good advice even if you are not writing with a partner. The overall tone of the story should reflect just where the tale is heading. Also, how your characters behave and develop has a direct effect on where they end up. Both writers must be aiming at the same target.

5. Write an outline of the story.
Not every writer works with an outline, but for two writers working on one project an outline is very useful. This doesn’t mean you must rigidly adhere to the script, but having a structure will keep both writers moving in the same general direction.

6. Divide the work...
Discuss beforehand who will write what. Get out the outline (see how useful it is?) and negotiate which sections each writer will tackle. Here it is important to be nice (see tip #1) and to be honest (see tip #2). Know your writing strengths and weaknesses. In our writing, Mary is good at dialogue, Joe at description. We both love action scenes. We keep these things in mind when deciding how to divide the labor.

7.  …but don’t be rigid about it.
Dividing the labor does not necessarily mean one writer per chapter. It may mean one scene in a chapter. It may mean you BOTH write the same chapter. This usually results in a blend, taking a piece of each writer’s version of the chapter and melding it into one piece. Remember that mention above about dialogue and description? We often will take a dialogue-dominated scene by Mary and blend it with a description-rich scene by Joe. Presto! A complete chapter.

8Write separately.
Perhaps there are those who can write comfortably with another writer in the room, but it doesn’t work for us. Invariably, one writer will interrupt the other with a question, idea, or to read a passage from a draft. This can be really annoying. Also, there is nothing more damping to the flow of words than to see someone either typing furiously while you can’t even put together one sentence or to be the one typing furiously while the other is staring our the window not writing at all. (By the way, the old adage is true. A writer IS working when he is staring out the window.) Need to discuss something? See tip #3.

9. Edit each other’s work.
Painful but necessary. A great deal of the merging of two writers into one takes place during the editing process. Remember, positive feedback is just as important as pointing out errors. If your writing partner is particularly good at something or really nailed a scene let him know. And when your partner criticizes your work, try to remain objective. Discuss the critiques, don’t sulk. Use your partner’s suggestions when rewriting. What you rewrite is not set in stone. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t, but give suggestions a fair try.

10. Have fun.
If you are not enjoying the process, then it simply is not for you. We have a lot of fun collaborating on our books, so the inevitable differences of opinion and stumbling blocks are bearable. Most writers we talk with claim they could never write a story with another person. They dislike sharing creative control, they don’t want another writer editing their work, they feel inhibited about plotting aloud with someone else. So perhaps we should add an eleventh tip…

11. KNOW YOURSELF.

About jmdattilo

J.M. Dattilo is our pen name. We are the authors of the Time's Edge sci-fi/fantasy series.

Posted on April 13, 2014, in Authors, Books, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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