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:
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: