Allow me to introduce myself. I am Jess, a wandering bard. My travels used to take me around the world, seeking stories and bartering with muses for their mercurial favor. One day, I dared to make a dark pact with one such muse and now I am trapped in The Librarium of the Moon and Stars by a distant, stormy sea, doomed to forever write at her command.
The name of my mysterious captor and partner-in-crime is Kendra Corbeau. Hailing from the freezing tundra, she haunts the library late at night with her unholy lanterns of fiery inspiration. To her, sleep is a weakness and the darkness is meant for creation, not slumber.
Kendra and I met several years ago while playing an MMORPG. We wrote several novel length stories together about our characters from this game. Eventually, we had the thought: why not make our own original world so we could publish our stories? Like me, Kendra also enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons while growing up and so worldbuilding was an exciting concept to her because it meant we’d also be able to use it as a roleplaying game setting. And so the world of Trilune was born, and the pact was sealed.
But despair not for me, dear reader. The worldbuilding process was a ton a fun! We created Trilune the same way we would build an original world for a tabletop roleplaying game. We began by brainstorming races, gods, religions, and a magic system. While writing our first Trilune novel, Kendra was the gamemaster for an adventure using it as the setting, and it was absolutely amazing. I think having such a detailed world and history planned out before we began writing really helped make the story and characters feel more real. As we wrote, we also got more ideas for the world, and further refined the setting into something that was our own unique creation, rather than just more generic fantasy.
Co-writing was something I stumbled into on accident, but ended up being just what I needed to finally complete an entire novel length manuscript. It’s hard to feel stuck or intimidated when there’s someone else there to help plot what happens next. It also helped that Kendra and I both were patient with each other’s often hectic schedules, and perfected the art of writing in “sips” – a small paragraph here and then while on break at work, or before bed. We got really good at writing on our phones. With continued dedicated persistence it all came together at the end to form a completed draft.
How do we write together? There’s many methods co-writers can use to collaborate. I remember when I was younger, I read all the Dragonlance novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. At the time I envisioned them sitting side by side and taking turns typing on the same computer – I know now that’s not the way co-writing works!
I’ve learned that some authors assign themselves individual chapters, and alternate. Others, like Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, starts with one person writing several pages until she comes to a stopping point, and then they pass the manuscript back and forth. Another method, which Kendra and I use, is that each writer claims certain characters and go back and forth each paragraph, roleplaying style. Though we started out writing together over Facebook Messenger, we eventually migrated to Google Docs. That served us well for a while, but now we much prefer using Microsoft Word with OneDrive.
My advice is that if you want to try co-writing, find partners that match your voice, style and who also enjoy the same genres as you. Kendra and I both happen to be fond of elves who kiss and have smutty adventures, and so that’s what we write together. It’s also important to work with someone who you know will be willing to compromise with you, and who will talk through concerns and not be easily upset by critique. Kendra was not afraid to tell me that one of my character concepts was basically a Drizzt Do’Urden clone, and she was right (damn her!). At the same time, she isn’t offended when I am nitpicky over certain words and phrases, and she knows any feedback I give is because I love the story we made together and I want to to be the best that it can possibly be.
Right now, our first novel is still undergoing edits. Our end goal is to submit it to a traditional publisher, and so I will be blogging more about how the editing, querying, and submission process goes as it happens!
What are your experiences with co-writing? What questions do you have about it?