A writing partner or co-writer should be an actual writer—and someone you trust, respect, admire, and support, because two heads are better than one.
Writing is a lonely profession, and many times ideas get stuck in our heads. Having someone you can contact who knows you and the project.
Co-writers and/or writing partners are there for early feedback, bouncing ideas, critique, story direction, moral support, and so much more!
Some of the greatest writing, from novels to screenplays, to music, has been done by partners. Why is this so? Collaborative writing is one of the most productive and successful ways to write—If you find the right partner.
A question many writers have asked us is “How exactly does that work?”
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are some strategies that can help, whether you need someone to co-write a project or someone to share a writing career… and maybe even life.
Because writing, like collaboration, is an intimate relationship, it’s best to begin looking at people you know. If you’ve figured out how to be together, you’ll have a better chance of successfully writing together. So, it’s no surprise that most successful writing teams have grown from close personal relationships—friends or family or lovers.
But what if you don’t have a friend, a spouse, sibling or lover who is “partner worthy?” If you can’t find someone you can collaborate with among the people you know, go meet more people. As the circle of writers you know expands, so do your chances of finding a compatible partner for your writing.
If you’re a college student, enroll a writing class, or take a drama class, or join a comedy group. Alternatively, attend writers’ conferences. Join writers’ organizations. It may sound overwhelming, but you have to get out there . . . socialize.
Remember, it’s crucial to find someone with qualities that lend themselves to a good partnership. Look at these for example:
Have the same sense of humor. This is a key factor for a human connection and a good collaboration. You may share inspiration, like what makes you laugh, or what keeps you on the edge of your seat. You can even consider what bores you.
Partners in any creative endeavor should have strengths that help the other, and each should be able to buoy up the other’s weaknesses. You need to understand your own strengths and keep this in mind as you search for a co-writer or writing partner.
Even the most compatible, peace-loving co-writers or writing partners will, on occasion, argue, and that’s not a bad thing. Different points of view are an integral part of collaboration. It is precisely the reason for getting together. Sharing differing views of the same project brings life to the final product.
I’ve emphasized the importance of knowing yourself and your prospective co-writer or writing partner, but it’s equally important to know their work. If you don’t, read something they’ve written. Request a writing sample and offer one of yours. If you don’t have respect for their writing (or vice versa), run don’t walk to the next candidate.
In the end, no one can know if writing together will work until they’ve tried it.
So choose the most promising co-writer or writing partner and see if it clicks. You just never know.
It’s important to develop strong decision-making skills when writing a novel. As a writer we have many decisions to make when writing our stories. For our characters we have to figure out names, color of hair and eyes, and flaws and strengths. We also have to figure out where they live, where they work, who they will clash with and whom they will love. Do they have a large family or small? And what was their family life like?
Many important pieces that, like a puzzle, connect together to create a strong story. And portray characters our readers can relate to. So, it’s very important for us to get it ‘right’.
But what does right, mean?
And what can we do if we get it wrong?
See, in the past, my own fear of getting it wrong, prevented me from moving forward. And I had a hard time making decisions, especially not knowing if they would work or not. And not having answers made it difficult to write my story.
When I first started this novel-writing journey, I would save every word cut and paste it in another file. I was terrified to erase an idea or phrase. What if I couldn’t come up with something better? Or I forgot the idea I originally came up with? I found myself unable to know how to make the right decisions.
And then I couldn’t make up my mind if I wanted my heroine to be sassy or shy. Or what she even should look like.
Part of this was because I had never done this before. Another part of it was my own lack of decision-making skills. I needed to figure out how to become a strong decision maker and fast.
I’ve since learned I just have to make decisions, but that they can change if I need them to. It’s better to have a direction, than no direction at all.
Also taking workshops from other writers has helped me learn a variety of ways to approach the writing process. Yes, some of the decisions are still pulled out of thin air. You have to start somewhere! But I’ve since learned how to think through these points when writing.
I’ve also learned that I don’t have to save the words. Now I can trust myself to come up with new content that still fits my story. I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to start over with a new way of writing a scene. This decision has helped me try different approaches rather than adding patches and bandaids. And the practice has allowed me to apply new techniques I’ve learned in recent classes.
Now I can say with pride that I can rewrite my opening a 7th time and still survive!
A word that comes to mind when I think about this – everything we do in writing our stories is redeemable.
Did you know all the other words linked to redeemable in the thesaurus?
Rectifiable, improvable, restorable, fixable, reparable
Do you know what this means? Our writing is not permanent and frozen with the first things we write. It can evolve and grow and improve.
That’s huge encouragement to me.
So I can decide away, and then redeem what works. I don’t have to make ALL the decisions final each step of the way. There’s room for change and room for me to make strong decisions with each layer of edits I do.
This change in mindset has allowed me to change scenes completely and try them in a new way. Because, if I didn’t like it, I can change it back, or try again. It might mean more work, but that’s okay.
This is because the hard work isn’t what scares me, it’s the fear of not getting it right. There are so many different ways to put a phrase together!
I wrote a post Facing your Fear and I think I need to reread it every once in a while. I’ve come a long way in my writing, but my fears still can get in the way of my goals. And I’m not about to let my fears stop me now.
That’s why I wrote my blog post on Listing out Your Accomplishments. When I track the things I have accomplished, it helps me face my fear. Which in turn helps me make better decisions going forward. It’s like each decision I make, encourages me to make more.
I’ve come a long way from saving every word I cut and not knowing what I want for my characters. Now I sometimes try out a scene a completely different way just to see it from a distinct angle. And then I can redeem the words that work the best from either version.
Do you have areas that are difficult for you to decide on?
By the time you read this it will be the day after Valentine’s Day, and I spent yesterday agonizing about what to write.
This angst over Valentine’s Day and romance is not unfounded. My first book was a romance. In Passion’s Defense was about a defense lawyer falling in love with a prosecutor during a gruesome trial. That should have been my first clue that perhaps mayhem rather than meet ups was my cup of tea. But I was slow on the uptake, and I wrote eight category romances. I think they are pretty darn good and they got better with each one. I wrote my heart out for Harlequin but I couldn’t seem to color in the lines, so I started writing women’s fiction. The editorial freedom, the more intricate plot lines, and the emphasis on plot rather than relationship helped me thrive. Dreams, Seasons, Vanities were just some of my titles. I wrote a lot of women’s fiction, but still I hadn’t hit my comfort zone as a writer. Then two things happened that sealed my fate.
First, the incredible RWA bookseller—Michelle Thorne—delicately informed me that my idea of romance was the hero chucking the heroine on the arm and giving her a smile. She was right. I was not a sexy writer in the years when other authors were pushing the envelope. My editor at Kensington was more direct. He said ‘You have to stop killing people before they get in bed!’. In essence he fired me from romance. I was devastated. Later I realized this was the silver lining in my very dark cloud.
When I started writing thrillers I found my passion and isn’t passion what love is all about? Still, without the learning curve of the romance genre, without the editors and readers, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to break up with women’s fiction as it was defined all those years ago and move on to my literary partner for life.
That doesn’t mean I left romance behind completely. Every book I write is based on relationships, but the emphasis of stories is little different from the classic romance novel. And then there’s my mom. One day she asked if I could write a book-without-bodies. I wrote three. On my mother’s ninetieth birthday, I presented her with a trilogy of sweet, romantic comedies: The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True, The Day Bailey Devlin Picked Up a Penny and the Day Bailey Devlin’s Ship Came in. These books encompassed every thing I love about romance: humor, honesty, confusion, honor, and affection for not just one man but all the men in Bailey’s life. Young or old, they be a lover or father or friend, it was all about love. I will always be most proud of, be in love with, the Bailey Devlin Trilogy because it reflects my definition of romance.
Today I put those three books in a boxed set and I hope when a reader finishes the stories, her (his) heart will be fuller, there might be a tear in her eye, she will have laughed out loud and then will turn around and pass all that feeling on to someone she loves.
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.
The other day I was musing about muses. This was a rather convoluted process that went something like this:
I want to write but I don’t have an idea. I should write, but I’m bummed because I don’t have an idea. I could write if I had a great idea. I need to get one and until I do, I’ll watch TV. There’s a movie on TV called The Muse. I’ll watch The Muse and get inspired.
This is how the musing went after the movie.
The Muse is awful. She’s demanding, self-centered, and doesn’t care about the writer’s work. Still, the he sees something in her. What does he see in her? I want a muse. I just don’t want a muse like that.
I turned off the TV, obsessed with the idea of getting a muse. I just had to figure out where to get one. Since I’d never actually seen a muse, I decided I better find out exactly what I was looking for.
In the dictionary, the first definition of muse is to be thrown into a deep state of dreamy abstraction. The second is a noun, naming any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology that preside over song, poetry, the arts and sciences. The third definition is the one we think of most often, a human source of inspiration or a guiding genius.
With this information in hand, I analyzed my career and realized that a muse has guided me every step of the way. I have often found myself lost in a dream state inspired by another writer. Their work has more often than not sparked an idea for a book of my own or a shown me a new way of laying a story foundation or become a point of reference for an essential building block.
The second definition – the naming of the goddesses – is a matter of inspirational faith. I have always believed that there is ‘something’ hovering over artists that not only encourages the creative soul, but also gives it the courage needed to present its work to a critical public.
That brings us back to the movie and the third definition of muse: the source of inspiration that we can touch and talk to. For some people this is one person, for me it has been many. I don’t call them muses; I call them friends, lovers, family and colleagues. Each step of my career was inspired and moved forward by the muse of the moment, the one person I needed just then.
There was the high school teacher who told me I wrote well, my husband who rescued by early attempts from the trashcan, my children who proudly said their mom was a writer. As the years went on and the books piled up, there were editors who trained me and readers who cheered me on, inspiring me to be better at my craft. All these people were – as definition three would have us believe – guiding geniuses.
It doesn’t matter if they knew the roll they played in my writing. What matters is that I wrote because of them and never in spite of them. The truth is, all you have to do to find a muse is open your eyes, your mind, and your heart. That muse is there – sometimes where you least expect it.
My go-to program is Power Structure purchased via Write-Brain.com. Since I work in segments: Chapter 1 – 3, etc. rather than scene-by-scene or chapter-by-chapter, this program is adaptable to my thought process. I am able to work in three Acts, Chapters, Scenes, or any structure model of preference.
Conflict, Subplot, plot point. You can also change almost any term used in Power Structure to suit your personal preference. Long ago attended a class held at OCC using a writerâ€™s workbook written by Chris Vogler, a Hollywood screen writer, who uses Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey” as a plotting bible. Since I have followed Joseph Campbell’s works and find the “A Hero’s Journey” the best way for me to write a story.
Beverly also mentioned Dramatica Pro. Pricey, yes. I believe for characterization, especially for detailed historical novels, or when writing a continuing series, this program was a good investment.
A Plot Progression Window allows me to examine where to place a pivotal point. There is also a Spin-the-Model Brainstorming option. This helps when, heaven forbid, I have writer’s block–and much, much less painful than pounding my forehead on mt desk until my muse comes up with a plan.
On my iPad I have several program: My Writing (which I seldom open), A Novel Idea (where I have grains of thoughts/names of future novels) this takes the place of scribbles from my lip liner on discarded pieces of paper I’d find in the depths of my tote bag. I Do Notepad & I Do Notepad Pro that I will use but it have a devil of a time retrieving what I have saved.
The Journal app is good for free-flowing thought/plotting etc. and also for using as a writer’s journal. You can create labels, change the font and even add a background picture. This is where I many place the notes from my character interviews.
When a romantic rival opens a competing restaurant in small-town Wheaton, Alabama, Sarah Blair discovers murder is the specialty of the house . . .More info →
It's a warm August morning in 1926 Los Angles . . .More info →
He doesn’t need a minor goddess getting in his way—no matter how much the redhead tempts him.More info →