Meta Monday: Writing with a Co-Author

MetaMondays5Collaborating on a novel? Ack! How would that work? Who would put up with me? Believe it or not, I found someone who would.

Backing up: Every now and then I subject my role-playing group to my questionable skills as a dungeon master, usually for short games that only last three or four sessions. (Someone might assassinate me if I tried anything longer. And I wouldn’t blame them.)

One time I decided to use a fantasy city-state I created for a series of novels as the backdrop to the game. Halcrest has a lot of built in religious and political conflict; I knew the players would run with those. And, yup, they created characters who would maximize the friction. Perfect.

So now I had a setting and a meaty group of characters. But I needed a plot.

No worries. I borrowed one from the current Halcrest novel I was working on: The Third Crown. It was a mystery novel that didn’t quite gel. I liked the characters and the plot seemed tight—so what was missing? I had no idea, but I figured I’d test the story out on my gaming group. (Yes, I experimented on my players. Don’t judge me.)

It worked! I mean, the mystery held together and the players got to the bottom of it by following leads and testing theories—all while navigating the political and religious quagmire that surrounded them. And, most importantly, they breathed life into the story. Somehow they made it real.

I knew I had to capture that in the actual novel. But I couldn’t just write out what happened in the game. The game world was really an AU version of the novel world—the two would never mesh.

But maybe I could borrow just one of the characters for the novel. I wanted Tejain: an outsider from a conquered city-state . . . but an outsider with just enough influence to make his way on the inside, leaving a bit of chaos in his wake.

So I approached David, who created and played Tejain. Why not? I already admired him as an indie author, dungeon master and role-player. I asked how he’d feel about writing Tejain into the novel.

He said yes! After I got over my excitement, we talked logistics. I shared all my notes on Halcrest as a story world. He read the parts of the novel that I had already written and together we figured out what needed to change. Then we came up with an outline and divvied up the scenes.

He created his own locations and historic details as necessary—and I never once worried about losing control. He had a great feel for the world, so I trusted him to come up with ideas and run with them. He also took a minor character that I had scarcely bothered to flesh out and gave her vibrancy and purpose.

With the outline done, it was just a matter of sitting down and writing our scenes, which we could each do separately. Now we’re weaving them together and starting our edits. At some point in the immediate future, we’ll either meet in person or have a long video session on Google Hangouts.

The only complaint I have is the amount of time it’s taken us to reach this point. We both let ourselves get eaten up by other projects. And, hey, that happens. But I hope we’ll be a bit more disciplined the next time we collaborate!

Once we complete our edits—separately and together—it will be time to publish The Third Crown. I’ll do another meta then, in case anyone’s interested in how we handle publishing on Amazon with two different authors. (Amazon doesn’t make it easy as far as royalties go.)

So that’s my experience so far in writing with a co-author. Have you ever tried writing with someone else? If so, how did it go? If not, is it something you’d be interested in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About Jenn Moss

Author * Web Serialist * Virtual Addict
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8 Responses to Meta Monday: Writing with a Co-Author

  1. Well, I never heard of anyone writing a novel with somebody else, but it is quite usual in the screenplay world. Not only two, but even three people working on a screenplay. And it used to work very well. My experience doesn’t come further than a few screenplays for short films and it was exciting worked fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      Good to hear! And, yeah, screen-writing is a different animal in many ways. I’m not surprised to hear there’s a lot more collaboration. (I picture all the writers for any given TV show, sitting around the table, bouncing ideas off of each other for the season . . . .)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. M.L.S.Weech says:

    Sojourn is my first collaborative effort as a whole. I’ve never tried to co-write with anyone. I’d want to make sure I have a plan in place. It seems like you’ve got all the logistics worked out in terms of the creative side. The only times I’ve even talked about it fell apart in opening discussions. Now…using role playing for inspiration, that’s a thing I’ve done. In fact, Caden, from my upcoming novel Caught is in fact based on a character I role-played with. I liked the concept, so I kept it and moved from there. So don’t feel bad, cause creative use of characters is authorized.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jenn Moss says:

      I think you’re right about working out the logistics ahead of time–I think that’s partly why this is working so well so far! I think working out the outline ahead of time made a big difference. I’m not sure how this would have worked if we were pantsing a story! (If we were starting fresh, without the basic novel I had written as a starting point, I think we’d have had to brainstorm an outline first anyway.)

      Glad you agree about RPG characters and that you’ve used that method too! Roleplaying is a form of story telling, after all–and no point letting a meaty character go to waste when that particular game is done! Looking forward to seeing more about Caden on your blog. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Not sure if this counts, but I’m writing in another authors world, but our stories don’t overlap so much as touching on the edges. As the noob, and grateful guest, his opinion on the universe is law but he’s wielded his power judiciously. It has been fun, and it has made me a better author than when we start in August of 2014. Now I’m two novels, a novella and short story in and loving every minute of it. I’d be open to working with the right someone though, but I’m wary of the HS project scenario. You know, you do all the work and the tag along and take the credit too. Never liked group projects. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenn Moss says:

      I love playing in other people’s sandboxes. Really, that’s the whole point of fan fiction–though I don’t think it’s fan fiction in your case, lol, since you’re working with the original author. Very cool!

      As for the HS project scenario–good point. It didn’t come up in this case, but in general I guess you go with someone you know as responsible.

      Liked by 1 person

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