Home » General » Is Co-authorship Worth It?

Is Co-authorship Worth It?

Perhaps this is a naïve blog post, but I’m curious to know how both readers and writers approach multi-authored novels. A co-authored novel is, as the name suggests, a novel with two authors (multi-authored would thus be greater than two). I’ve seen them in just about every genre. I’ve read a couple, too. They were generally laid-back, rather simple stories to begin with, but I’m not sure if that was due to co-authorship, genre, or just overall mediocre writing. I suppose there are two sides to this coin: from the writing perspective and from the reading perspective, so I’d like to delve into that here.

Writing a Collaborative Novel:


Image: Morguefile

It seems I really have more questions than answers when it comes to co-authorship. I’m a soloist for just about everything, so when I start considering the prospect of a collaborative writing project, I tend to focus on the future consequences rather than the immediate idea of the story. Admittedly, it makes me more than a little wary, and from the writing perspective, I fail to see how it works. Do two authors endeavor to take on certain characters? Do they individually write certain scenes and then combine them? Do they pass the manuscript back and forth and simply add to the ongoing, already existent writing? I suppose it would depend on the writers themselves—their individual writing style, their ability to combine their varying interpretations into one solid novel, and so on and so forth.

Personally, I would find it difficult to work with another writer on one novel. I don’t like deviation from my particular style, and I’ve yet to meet someone who writes similarly enough to mesh well with the way I approach my work. I am not much of a “group project” type person to begin with, and I’m often stubborn, especially when I have a direction in mind for a story. Plus, as stated above, I prefer to work alone—that way I don’t have to rely on the work ethic of the other writer, whether or not he/she will hold his/her own weight or vice versa (because I’m often lazy and like to procrastinate).

So what kind of discipline do co-authors have? What kind of work ethic and compatibility to be successful? And how much of the work load is equally divided? And most importantly, how do they make the differences in style flow?


Reading a Co-Authored Novel

I don’t have a plethora of experience with reading novels written by more than one author (unless you count academics, but that’s normal enough). I’ve read a couple co-authored YA novels that I thought were sub-par and a few others here and there in the past decade or so, but overall I can’t claim to know whether there is a noticeable difference when reading. Do the styles seem to flow? Can you tell who wrote which parts based on differences in the writing? Is one voice stronger than the other?

And, even more importantly, are people less likely to buy novels with two names on the cover? In this case, we’re relying on the storytelling power of two novelists rather than just one, and we’re banking on their ability to combine their individual strengths and weaknesses to ensure the best possible publication of their work. But that’s a lot to count on in today’s market. I’m not sure I’m biased against collaborative projects, but I think I would take a harder look at the novel before purchasing it.

What are your thoughts about collaborative work?


Some more reading about co-authoring:

Co-authoring: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Should You Write a Novel with a Coauthor?

7 thoughts on “Is Co-authorship Worth It?

  1. I am a co-author! I’m currently co-writing an ongoing series and we have quite a strict writing ethic. I wrote about how we make things flow in a post over here, if you’re really interested: http://lemoncity.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/how-to-collaboratively-write-a-book-series/

    We wanted to be sure our story flowed and that the plotting wasn’t mediocre, so the first step we take is planning. We plot everything and every chapter has a purpose. Nothing happens just to fill space. Because we have to write to fit a certain format as well, we write every thirteen chapters as one mini-arc of the overall story. The plotting part, I think, is what can make or break the quality of a co-authored story.

    It involves a lot of discussion. We’re very lucky in that we are practically symbiotic and can bounce ideas and solutions off of each other with ease. We also write to each other’s strengths. This can mean I’ll write more than my partner, but in the end, it doesn’t matter who has the bigger writing load per season so long as the story is done justice.

    We do tend to have character perspectives who we prefer to write from, but neither of us cling to the characters either. If she knows how to handle the next scene, I’ll gladly step back. It’s simply a case of BOTH owning the project. If one of us were to feel controlling over the project, then it wouldn’t work.

    We do tend to delegate specific chapters depending on who will write it best, but we sometimes swap in between. When this happens, we often can’t tell who wrote which bit afterwards! Each character has a distinctive voice anyway, so we’re not writing with one consistent narrative, we’re writing to portray different people depending on who’s perspective is telling the story. So, our individual writer voices, while still there, aren’t as prominent as in our solo novels.

    As for how well co-authored stories sell, I couldn’t say. I hope this helps a little bit! 🙂

    • EEEEEP!!! I feel like the worst blogger in the history of bloggers everywhere for not having responded to your detailed, very helpful comment to this post. I remember reading it, then putting it to the side because I didn’t have time at that moment to write a response as in depth and thought-provoking as the one you had taken the time to write for me. And I had wanted to write you back when I could give you the proper amount of consideration and then . . . I forgot. Sheesh. Excuses aside, I’ll take the time to write to you now — to let you know that I did read your comment. A couple times, in fact.

      I went and read through your wonderfully written post about collaborative writing. It’s great to read how the process works for you, and to read that it works so well! Having an open mind and an ability to communicate with your partner is definitely an important part of any relationship, so I can see where it’s equally important when one is working with someone else in an area as highly personalized and creative as writing. One of the bullet points you had was: Don’t be controlling. I figure that would be one of the hardest things for me to get past — as I like to have the control over my own work, but logically there would have to be give and take.

      I imagine that there are always going to be those people (writers) who just “connect” on that level — symbiotic, as you said — where the words between them seem to easily flow together. That’s pretty cool that you’ve found someone like that.

      Recently, Robyn (another writer on this blog) has brought up a pair of writers who also do collaborative writing. They self-publish and have been quite successful, and it seems they are rather prolific. They do a podcast, and she’s been listening in on it. She actually described the other day (which reminded me about this post and your comment, in fact) how they manage to do it. One writer does the beats for each chapter — writes down the things that should happen, what’s going on with the characters, etc. The other does the actual writing. I thought that was an interesting way to do it.

      Either way, thank you so much for the time you took to share your process. The more the idea of collaborative writing comes up, the more I seem to like it. I can’t say that I’m bent on trying it anytime soon — I’ve got to prove I can finish things first — but I can see where there are advantages!

      • Hahaha, it’s no problem! Thank you for reading my long comment and wanting to offer an in-depth reply. That’s really sweet of you, and your answer is an insightful one!

        I think collaborative writing, with the right partner, can be a liberating writing experience – partly because getting things done feels less daunting! You can ask for help, you can get someone else to write a bit you don’t know how to do (I love that the most, haha).

        I’m glad it’s something you like the sound of but, of course, there’s no shame in being the kind of writer who works best on their own. Good luck on your current projects. Keep going!

        • Thanks for forgiving me for my prolonged absence! Your insights into collaborative writing have given me food for thought. Best of luck to you on your current writing endeavors as well! 🙂

  2. Interesting post, Michelle. I don’t think I could write a co-authored novel, for pretty much the reasons you give. Having said that, I know of a pair of identical twins who collaborate on all their writing projects. From what I’ve read of their work, I think it works quite well in their case. But then again, being identical twins they’re probably very much in synch with each other!

  3. Pingback: Two Heads: A Guide to Working Collaboratively | The Sarcastic Muse

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