Monday, October 07, 2013


On and off, my wife and I have talked about co-writing a story. We're both published writers, but we have noticeably different strengths and weaknesses. It seems like a co-written story might be able to combine our strengths and cover our weaknesses. And hopefully not the other way around. One problem I'm running into is figuring out how. How do two authors write a story together? I have a few ideas, but nothing's really seemed like it's the right way. Then again, there may not be a right way.

Here are the ideas:

1. Alternating revisions. What if just one person wrote the first draft, and the next person revised it? "How's that different than editing?" you ask. Complete creative freedom. The reviser isn't limited to line edits. They can make whatever changes they see fit. Deleting scenes, writing new ones, changing the entire course of the story. Of course, at that point, the story is returned to the first author, and he's free to make whatever changes he wants. At some point the two authors are going to have to negotiate, but at least at the beginning they're free to do whatever they want.

2. Alternating writing.  A lot of writing groups have done the exercise where the first person writes a paragraph, then hands it to the next person, who reads the first paragraph and then writes the next one. If you've done it, you've probably seen how quickly the exercise goes off the rails. Someone will write something the next person finds absurd, and soon everything up to that point becomes a dream or a daydream. So first, you probably shouldn't do it by paragraph. It would work better if you do it by scene. You also have to set some ground rules.  Like what type of story it should be,  no retconning without permission, that sort of thing. In theory it could work.

3. Joint Outlining. I have a feeling that this is the most common way of co-writing.  Two people sit down and come up with a story: the characters, the plot, the setting, etc. And then once it's planned out, they split up the work between them. This is probably the most effective way to do it.

4. Backseat writing. You literally write it together. One person looks over the other's shoulder as they type into the computer. I've done that, usually for work, and it's really slow and not much fun. It generally means debating word choice for every little thing. I can imagine that many projects will require some of this, but I can't imagine writing a whole story this way.

Any other ideas?


  1. I would advise against it completely unless you're just looking for a divorce reason. You have different styles and should keep them separate. I'm not saying you shouldn't help each other out, and I sure you both have opinions or suggestions for each others work but together on the same work? Why? I thought you two had it so great already.

  2. Our different styles is one of the reasons I thought it would be interesting to try. I doubt we'd do it much, but I'd still like to try it someday.

  3. My sister and I used to make up stories in the same way we made up our club rules: "What about this and then what if that happened. No. No. Maybe this way." Back and forth until we had the general idea. Then one of us would write it down and we'd back and forth again. That method works pretty well for developing a setting, language, etc. Then each one develops their own character(s) within that setting. More like screen-writing, I'd think.


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