My Co-Writer(s) and Me

“How do you write a book with another person?”

I am often asked this question. Readers (who aren’t writers) tend to just accept it – perhaps they don’t care to think about the process, just the end result. I love them for that – explaining myself is not something I excel at.

  1. I come up with the overall story idea. I will have the start and the end, not always the middle.
  2. I talk it over with Linda. If she likes the idea, she will flesh out the story with me and add a character (or two) that she will write for.
  3. We plot out each chapter.
  4. We assign who writes what chapter (usually the best character’s viewpoint will determine this).
  5. We write our chapters
  6. Whatever chapters we are struggling with or are unsure about will be ‘swapped’ and the other person inserts or deletes at their whim. (Yes, we do save the original)
  7. Self-editing is usually done in bits and pieces.
  8. We both read through the final book to check flow, pace and style. Sometimes we swap around chapters or take them out altogether.
  9. We are finished!
  10. I will go through the final book again with a ruthless editing eye and only when I am happy with it I will send out the manuscript to 5+ beta readers. When it comes back, every comment is addressed. Sometimes we do this together, sometimes it’s just me because Linda has a full-time job as a teacher!
  11. All the pre-production stuff happens.

Co-authoring Fiction Is More Popular Than You Think

There are many co-written books, often marketed under a single name so it’s harder to tell which books have more than a single author.

Off the top of my head:

  • James S A Corey wrote the ‘The Expanse’ science fiction series – very hot on Netflix. The pseudonym belongs to writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.
  • The Red Dwarf books were credited to Grant Naylor, who had creative differences after several books and then released their own Red Dwarf books independent to each other as Rob Grant and Doug Naylor. It made for a couple of interesting parallels with ‘Last Human’ and ‘Backwards’ as both books were #4 in the Red Dwarf storyline.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman wrote many fantasy book series together.
  • Peter Straub and Stephen King share ‘The Talisman’.
  • ‘Good Omens’ was written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
  • Then there’s a tonne of books written by the Self Publishing Podcast authors, Johnny B. Truant, David Wright, and Sean Platt.
  • James Patterson is quite known for his almost factory-like output of co-written novels, but Tom Clancy also has a few lesser-known co-authors writing with him.

There are more, of course. Maybe another time I’ll write a proper list.

Co-writing has benefits and drawbacks

Benefits are:

You only have to write half a book.

If you don’t want to or can’t write a scene, your co-author can either help you write it or write it themselves.

Character types immediately expand with a second mindset and creative viewpoint.

Deep POV for characters will feel dramatically different (this could also be a drawback depending on how it is managed).

You can bounce ideas off your co-writer, which is so much fun!

It’s a wonderful experience to have another writer completely understand a story in all of its complexities that you want to write. If you want to talk about your book or your character to someone who understands, they will ALWAYS get it.

Every move you make feels like you have a supportive player cheering you on. Writing a book doesn’t feel so overwhelming when someone is literally writing it with you.

Obligation and responsibility to write the book are great motivators. Slacking off is fine if it’s just you. When slacking off affects a friend and/or co-writer, that horrible anxiety will keep you honest.

Drawbacks are:

Co-writing is built for outlines. Every scene is best plotted so you don’t go in different directions. Leave wriggle room for creativity in the execution but every scene and chapter should have an objective. A big change in direction or a wrong turn will set back months of writing for you AND your co-writer.

Control must be shared but one writer is best having the last word on the final pass, and that person should be agreed upon at the start. Whoever can assess writing while being emotionally detached from the book is the better candidate.

If the writing style is vastly different, the book won’t feel smooth unless you can combine it into a third style (or make the two styles work with different characters).

If you are friends with your co-writer before you took on the project, your friendship might end up becoming a project friendship.

If you can’t let go of your idea to embrace another writer’s idea AND are unable to assess which idea is better between the both (or more) of you, don’t co-write.

Money. If you and your co-writer are both writing with big dreams about earning an income from your writing, it’s always best to have a written agreement about how that money is split (especially if you’re going the indie published route and only one person is taking on the costs of a publisher). A 50/50 split is usually best.

Inspired By Dodgy Publishers: Or… How To Not Charge A Writer For Writing

Wow, it’s dusty in here.

A quick summary of my time spent away; I’ve written a couple more books towards the Wanderer of Worlds fantasy series. And using my imprint 1231 Publishing, I’ve actually published other writers in my first multiple-author anthology release, last year.

It was way cool! I got such a buzz from the end result.

It’s a quick story, about how and why I got started on doing this.

There is a group local to me who publishes anthologies and charges writers to appear in it. They use a process of submission, and if you’re good enough to get in, you win the rewarding experience of having to pay for a copy of the book your work appears in, when they launch it. It’s a compulsory purchase at full retail price, and–get this–they call it a ‘complimentary copy’. When they sell the books, the writers don’t see royalties.

That is so, freaking, wrong. The worst of it is the arrogance that the person organising this mind-fuckery actually believes they are helping writers! WTF? How demented is your world perspective that charging a writer for publishing their work is helping them? Don’t even get me started on the exposure BS.

When I challenged them out on it, I was told that they were covering “editing costs”. I asked who their editor was and what they specialised in. I was told that the organiser and his ‘committee’ of cronies (those who ‘judge’ the stories) were the editors. They work on the stories you see, and should be paid for their time.

SHOULD THEY? WHAT ABOUT THE FUCKING WRITERS, YOU DOPE?

So I decided that I would make my own damn anthology. I was limited by a tiny budget so I simply figured out a way where I could break even and set it up so that the writer could actually earn money for their story.

I set the theme (twisty turny stories), sent out word that I was doing this. My idea was:

Open submissions. No charges for submitting. Because, you know, I’m not an asshole.

Accepted stories would be published and the author would receive a complimentary copy of the book as their payment. An ACTUAL complimentary copy, not that weird one that requires a fee.

If they were interested in buying more copies of the book for sale, they would get a massive discount so they earned WAY more than I did for every book they sold. All I did was recuperate printing costs and earn about a dollar per copy for my time and organisation.

Those who didn’t want to sell the book didn’t have to – and for their effort, they received a free book with their story in it.

My requirement was that if they DID buy books for resale, they had to buy a minimum of ten copies. That made my printing requirements achievable and afforded me some breathing room for a launch.

I didn’t get many submissions for the first anthology. I had to hound my writer friends to submit. I took submissions WAY after the deadline just because I didn’t want 5 stories in the book. I worked hard to make sure it didn’t fail.

And I did it, I succeeded. I managed to get enough stories to fill 150 pages without stupid tricks like large font sizes and extra wide margins. 150 pages was my printing requirement to make the book thick enough to have adequate perceived value. I also broke even because the extra dollars I made on the copies I sold all went towards the launch catering (I use the term loosely, I bought stuff at Costco and set it all up myself). Everyone enjoyed themselves and I have the photos to prove it.

It was such a buzz, publishing other people and helping them not only to feel good, but to actually earn something (even if at the very least it would only be a little something) for their writing. I happen to know a few of them have gone on to sell copies, because a $10 book is a good price for market stalls and author events. I also know of writers who earned their money by selling to family and friends. So yeah, they earned a payment for themselves, and I gave them the opportunity to do so. Feeling chuffed about it.

That was Obliquity.

This year I’m doing Futurevision. This time I had more submissions and have ended up with more stories. The word is getting out. I’ve proven myself.

Next year I’ll theme it something else – something a bit darker, I think.

So yeah – if I hadn’t been appalled at the BS from this other mob and thought ‘there has to be something better out there’, then I likely would not have ensured that something better WAS out there.

And for me, it’s win/win… because I’m in the business of helping indie authors build their books for sale, designing covers, formatting e-books, beta-reading… these are things I do charge for… but I won’t charge a writer for writing.

Different Direction

The Strange Writer blog started out as a very personal kind of journey, from writing to publication (initially detailing the production of my debut novel Femme).

But blogs of this kind are everywhere and I don’t feel like I’m making the most of this space. I also feel like I’ve arrived in a different place now, so I’m going to take this blog in a different direction in the new year.

My intention is to make it more useful and more interesting to readers and followers. Let’s see if that happens!

I’ll be back in a couple of months while I figure things out – in the meantime, hope you have a wonderful celebration/holiday.

Watch this space.

 

2Untethered_200x300In the meantime… for those of you who’ve read AXIOM (Book #1) in the Wanderer of Worlds series? UNTETHERED (Book #2) is out now.

Amazon or Smashwords

Paperback will be available soon.

Three… two… one…

I’m falling behind at NaNoWriMo at the moment. There are three reasons why; two of them would be something that would affect every writer, the last… well, see for yourself.

1. I ended up writing myself into a corner because of a flaw in the planned outline… I had to stop and figure out a new course of action. It’s better now but it set me back five days.

2. I stopped forcing myself to put in my dues and write the 1,666 words needed every day to meet the mark. Now I have to write over 3K words a day to meet the 50K goal. Achievable, but naaaaasty.

3. I downloaded my old copy of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, and that shiz is addictive!

After my first success in 2013 NaNoWriMo (with some 53K words towards ‘Femme‘, the rest finishing in December), I began using it as a platform to write my series books… and it hasn’t paid off. I’m a writer that has used the method of outlining (planner) and spontaneity (pantsing). It appears I’m better off NaNoWriMo-ing in the latter style. That’s just what works for me.

Or I could, you know, just delete Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 off Steam… but that ain’t happening.

As a kid I used to watch this old show called 3-2-1 Contact, of which I have fond memories. It was a science show, and the show’s theme music is the grooviest music I have ever heard. Sucked in, Mythbusters.

The Perfect Sentence AKA The Ramblings Of A Lunatic

Words should be spritely upon the page. They should dance, cajole, shout and mourn, festering in the emotions and ambience of the setting and scene around them. Why is it then, that even if I intimately know what I wish to capture–what I dream, what I feel, what I see in front of my eyes, the words themselves not the action!–they never appear on paper the way I expect? What is this elusive craft that forces its makers to question themselves, their skill, their talent, their ability? Is that what they mean by the tortured artist, the one that suffers? That a writer who is in pain from their words not being good enough… the one that constantly challenges themselves…?

When do you know if you should give up? Yes, yes, one should never give up–but let’s be sensible. Some writers cannot evoke the emotion within or without. Some writers will never ‘get it’. Some writers, with lots of training, will end up acceptable or competent, lost in a world of mediocrity. (Some of them are or become best-sellers). Nobody wants to be that (except the best-seller part, almost all of us want that), nobody wants to be mired and stagnant. We all want to move forward, to improve, to be the person who wrote the book that moves a person to tears (or to laughter, if that’s your thing, but damnit, I want to world to cry).

Sometimes I look at my work and know that it is good and at the same time know where it could be exceptionally better. Like a double negative, I see both of these things… the actual and the potential. I look at Femme and I see a soft-serve of romantic idealism coupled with naivete, I see a character who looks away from the dark, I see a digestible marshmallow that doesn’t really challenge anything or anyone, it’s pure entertainment. I am not ashamed to produce something like this but if I had explored the story that was lurking beneath the surface… I could’ve been proud. I am genuinely considering rewriting a different version of the same story, without the shiny.

But let’s get back to business, why I’m here, why I’m even writing this monstrous blog post. The ramblings of a lunatic. If I could write the perfect sentence, the sentence that encapsulates the emotion perfectly for a character, the one that describes the action most deftly, the one that implies more than what is said… if I could do that, then I would do it over and over. One perfect sentence is not enough.

And in saying that, would one perfect book be enough? Imagine the horror of producing the most brilliant piece of literature that has been set upon the world and then being set with the task of following it up. As terrifying as that would be, as insane as I would likely become with the impossible errand before me, I would want that for myself. I would want at least one, infinite thing that proves to me, myself, that I did capture the words exactly as I imagined, that it is possible to recreate the kaleidoscopic and animated vision of the written story in my brain. The one that I can see and smell, that imaginary fingers can touch and feel, flavours and emotions that I can taste, and those other senses, the ones that are lesser known and the ones that have yet to be named. Anticipation is a sense, is it not? Doesn’t it tingle in your body? Doesn’t it make muscles clench or flinch?

I anticipate that one day, I will finally write a perfect sentence… and when that happens, I might truly go mad.

5 Essential Rules for Font Pairing | PicMonkey Blog

I’ve seen some pretty crappy fonts on some otherwise fantastic book covers… so for those who design your own covers, check this out for a quick and dirty tips list on font mixing. –D.

Font pairing can be tricky, unless you’ve got our expert tips for picking the perfect font combinations.

Source: 5 Essential Rules for Font Pairing | PicMonkey Blog

Free Book Day Results

The second book in the Wanderer of Worlds series is due out in November, so I ran a free e-book promotion in the final days of October (29 and 30), to boost readership and exposure.

I wanted to only advertise on Bookbub but they knocked me back with suggestions how I might be allowed to give them my money. Sidenote: I understand that they want to keep their download numbers high, but if I was running the Bookbub newsletter, I would introduce a ‘wildcard’ section at the bottom of their newsletters, that expressly wouldn’t count towards their statistics, and the books there wouldn’t receive any statistics or guarantees either. I would still advertise with them.

So I had to look elsewhere.

There are a lot of free places to advertise your books, which I blogged a resource list for here.

I also paid for some newsletter promotions, namely:

Freebooksy, Booktastik, Sweet Free Books and Booksends.

Collectively, they cost $190 USD to advertise in their Fantasy genres. (Different genres have different advertising fees, depending on the genres their subscribers have selected – the great thing about this is that you’re putting your book in front of readers who specifically check-boxed your genre). Because of Kickstarter funding, I still have more dosh for other advertising campaigns.

For that money (plus the extra few I would’ve picked up from all the free promo sites), I got 2,795 downloads. I also sold 20 e-books at full price once the promotion ended, which is about 18 more than I anticipated, so that’s a bit of alright.

Realistically speaking, probably only 10% will get around to reading the book straight away: 279 readers. I’m confident enough to believe that most of them will like the story, though the book will have to stand up for itself. Axiom being book one of a series, (I was very clear about that) hopefully means that I’ll have some 200 people interested in supporting two authors working their hardest to complete the next part of the story.

It’s my full time job. Doesn’t pay too well right now, but I’m playing the long game.