How are the roles distributed – won’t we have a different style, or will one of the authors simply write the finished text of the other in their own style?
If one only helps with plot ideas – is that co-authorship?
Do you think the blessing of unity can work between two different talents to create a better product?
Thank you so much! We follow you with great interest. :)))
Super good question, Plamen.
I think like any relationship, it’s most important for co-authors to clearly understand and agree to their roles and respective responsibilities in the project. As long as they agree and all of the tasks are covered, those roles could look however they want.
Just for a few examples: Left Behind was written by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. I’m speculating, but I imagine Tim LaHaye, who is a pastor, provided the theological context and some of the major universe elements, and Jerry Jenkins did the actual writing.
I recently read The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Ted Dekker and Rachelle Dekker, who is his daughter. Some sections of the book were told from the female protagonist’s perspective, and seemed to have a different voice and writing style. Again I’m speculating, but it seemed like they split up the sections of the book–Ted wrote the parts from the one perspective, Rachelle wrote the parts from the other.
I’ve done one truly collaborative project like I think you’re referring to. We had four guys on the project, and our model was that we passed the manuscript around and any of us could change anything. We agreed on a general outline ahead of time, but scene by scene, each person could do whatever he wanted, and he could also go back and revise anything written to that point. The only caveat was that if you revised something, you had to go back and make all the changes for consistency. So if you wanted to change a character’s hair color, for instance, you had to go back and change all of the hair color references. I think each person held it for a week, and then passed it on to the next person in order. It went around and around until it was done.
We had a lot of fun writing it. It worked out well, and some roles emerged sort of organically. One guy was a workhorse, he could just crank out word count and move us through the scenes on the outline, even if the writing wasn’t A+. The next guy had a really great sense of fluency to his writing, so he could take it and make it sound nice, and add a little bit. Another guy was really great at dialogue, so that always leveled up when it passed through him, and he would also add to the scenes. I was last in the order, and I would bring the pieces together to smooth it out and regulate a cohesive voice.
In many cases, a co-authorship means that one person has the ideas, the platform, the life story, or the experience in the subject, but the other person actually wrote the words of the book. Almost like a ghostwriter.
For very big names, when you see “Tom Clancy with…” or “Clive Cussler with…” or “James Patterson with…” that often means that the “with” person actually wrote the book, but they’re just publishing it under the brand name of the very well known author. Many of those big name authors rarely write their own books after a certain point, their name is just a brand name for the audience. The “with…” person is actually doing all of the writing.
I’d love to hear from others on this. Have you ever worked in a co-author relationship? How did your roles work? Did it work well?