Once you have that co-writing partner, you need to figure out how to divide the work evenly, or your partnership will quickly dissolve. For us, this has all developed organically for the most part.
Dividing the Work
By recognizing our own, and each other’s, strengths and weaknesses, by leaving our egos at the door, we strive to make each other’s writing better, to produce the very best piece we can. Marcy is a I-need-an-outline-for-every-paragraph-planner. Lisa is a who-needs-a-plan-what-fun-is-that-pantser.
Marcy acknowledges that sometimes deviating from the plan makes a piece better, and Lisa admits that planning does save time. There’s an underpinning of respect and grace to each work in our own way. So Marcy plans, and Lisa tries to stick to the plan-mostly. And we both admit when something is, or isn’t working. We’ve never once argued because we both immediately recognize who is right. There’s no gloating or I-told-you-so’s. It can’t work as a competition.
Editing What’s Been Written
The tension in a co-writing relationship isn’t so much in the exciting brainstorming and pitching stage, as in the slow-moving editing stage.
We divide up the work according to the outline. We ruthlessly self-edit, and then turn to the other one to make it even better. Not once has either of us read the other’s first draft and said, “Good to go.” We always have suggestions to make it better. And we like it like that.
But at the end of the day, the sections that Marcy has written, she has final say over, and the same with the sections that Lisa has written. We don’t quibble over word choices very often, because those are subjective choices. We may make a suggestions based on a subjective opinion, but we leave it to the author to make the change or not. There’s never been an argument because we give each other that mutual respect.
Neither do we willy nilly start editing each other’s work. We may add a sentence here or there, but for the most part, we point out the piece’s weakness and leave it to the other to fix it. If they decide to leave it, it stays. End of discussion. Because we trust the other’s abilities, this has never been a problem. There are paragraphs that we have both written that the other one would have written differently – but why co-write if everything has to be written the way you want it?
How disheartening would it be to write something, and forever have the other person change and tweak it without your consent? After a while you’d begin to wonder why you bothered, right? Not many writers are going to stick around in that kind of a situation very long.
Last Minute Details
This is all great if you have the time to bounce things back and forth, right? And it has come up that an editor wants something same day and one of us isn’t available. Because Marcy is a planner, this doesn’t happen very often to us. Because Lisa is a pantser, unexpected things get dealt with in a timely fashion. It’s all good. But if you know this could be a stress point in your co-writing partnership, discuss what the process will be before the situation comes up.
Dealing with Editors
When it comes to corresponding with editors, writing pitches and communicating changes, we divide it up in two ways. Often, whoever came up with the article idea is the one to pitch it, unless one of us already has a relationship with that editor. Regardless, whoever pitches the article maintains all correspondence with the editor. This way the work is evenly divided, the burden of querying, communicating, and submitting doesn’t always fall on one person, and one of us is prepared to have the final say over the finished piece.
Do you have a writing partner? How do you divide up the work?