We’re going to go out on a limb here. We’re going to advise you to go against conventional wisdom about writing a book. Here’s our suggestion: Find a co-author on the Internet and write 2 books and countless short stories together without ever meeting in person.
What? That sounds crazy.
We know. And we still recommend it because that’s exactly what we’ve done and it has worked perfectly.
We know there are problems with collaboration. We’ve heard them all, and actually, most of them make sense…except not always. Herewith are the problems and how we’ve avoided them. Maybe collaboration can work for you too.
1. The creative process is by definition a solitary one and writing together only leads to a jumble of ideas.
We’re not sure where the concept of the lonely artist stuck in an unheated garret pursuing his talent first was proposed as fact, but it’s only half true. Yes, each of us brings to the table our own concepts and ideas. But that’s a plus, not a drawback. It means we’ve each got someone to bat ideas off; someone to say “you’ve hit a homerun” or alternatively, “no offense, but that makes no sense at all.” You’re less likely to go off on a tangent if someone else is there to either remind you where you were supposed to be headed – or to listen if you truly believe that the new idea will only strengthen the storyline. Since it’s a collaboration, where neither party has veto rights, you’ve got to be able to defend your choices, which can only make you plan and write more clearly.
2. You don’t want to mix plaids and stripes together, or in other words, how can you combine two distinct writing styles?
That’s a little tougher, but practice makes perfect. It works because of the first rule of any writing project, whether it’s a third grade book report or a New York Times bestseller: Revise, Revise, Revise.
As each scene goes back and forth between us, it gets smoothed out. We both write all characters so it’s less likely that the hero sounds like someone from Oklahoma (where Rhonda lives), while the heroine sounds like a New Yorker (where Marian lives). We work hard to make our characters distinct, but the overall voice of each book is Evelyn David, neither Rhonda or Marian.
3. The work load will never be equally distributed between the two collaborators.
Probably true at different points in the writing process. But like any good partnership, you each go in with honest intentions, work hard, and figure it all evens out in the end. No question that Rhonda is the tech genius of this collaboration so she handles all web site issues, including design. Marian tends to handle the business side of being an author (agent contact, bookstore relationships, publisher issues, and planning). We both do the writing, editing, and promotion. Over time we’ve learned each other’s strengths and preferences – we shift tasks accordingly. Rhonda is the keeper of lists and files. Marian is the final word on punctuation and grammar. Rhonda likes working with photos and covers. Marian is wonderful at interviews. Neither of us is good at mingling at receptions and making small talk, but we do it anyway and commiserate with each other later. The bottom line is that we work together to achieve a common goal. Here’s a clue – if you’re keeping close track of the hours you spend or the tasks you handle versus what your co-author does, then you probably haven’t found a partner who you trust enough to write with.
We’ve given a lot of thought to why we think our collaboration works and believe there are three important ingredients.
1. Neither of us has a big ego, so there are never any diva moments.
2. We share a similar work ethic. Do what needs to be done and don’t worry about the credit.
3. And probably most important of all – we share a similar (maybe warped) sense of humor. When life is dark and gloomy, when we are sure we could never compose a shopping list, let alone a book, we tend to crack a joke and laugh. Writing is a tough profession, full of frequent disappointments and frustrations. Laughter is essential.
Collaboration may not be for everyone, but for Evelyn David, it’s been remarkable easy and fun for us. Try it. You might like it.
Murder Drops the Ball (Spring 2011)
Murder Takes the Cake – Paperback – Kindle
Murder Off the Books – Paperback – Kindle
Riley Come Home – Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
Autographed Copies and other e-book formats available through Wolfmont Press at
The Digital_Bookshop – http://tinyurl.com/DigitalBookshop
The Holiday Spirit(s) of Lottawatah
– Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
The Dog Days of Summer in Lottawatah
– Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
I Try Not to Drive Past Cemeteries
– Kindle – Nook – Smashwords
The authors of The Brianna Sullivan Mysteries, Murder Off the Books, Murder Takes the Cake, and the short story Riley Come Home, Evelyn David is the pseudonym for Marian Edelman Borden and Rhonda Dossett.
Marian lives in New York and is the author of 11 nonfiction books on a wide variety of topics ranging from veterans benefits to playgroups for toddlers! For more information on Marian’s books, please visit her web site at http://www.marianedelmanborden.com
Rhonda lives in Muskogee, Oklahoma, is the director of the coal program for the state, and in her spare time enjoys imagining and writing funny, scary mysteries. Marian and Rhonda write their mystery series via the Internet. While many fans who attend mystery conventions have now chatted with both halves of Evelyn David, Marian and Rhonda have yet to meet in person.
Please check out Evelyn’s website at http://www.evelyndavid.com and their blog – The Stiletto Gang – http://www.thestilettogang.blogspot.com/ for information about Evelyn David’s appearance schedule and writing projects.
12 thoughts on “Guest Blog- Evelyn David on Writing as a Team”
Thanks for sharing these insights ladies. Having collaborated myself on several projects, I found your information relevant and helpful. Totally agree about the ego thing. One writing partner and I drew up silly rules for collaboration and the top of the list was “leave the ego at the door.”
Thanks so much Maryann for hosting us today.
Marian and Rhonda, the collective Evelyn David
Great post. Y’all seem to have the perfect partnership. I wrote a book with a friend. It was fun and the book turned out to be fun, as well. Alas, we did not survive the editing process.
Thanks Maryann and Helen,
Editing is a very stressful part of the writing process. I think because we self-edited our first novel so extensively in order to get the word count down to something less than “saga-length,” we moved past protecting our personally “favorite” scenes and figured out what was absolutely necessary to the story. We did a lot of compromising. The result was a much better book. But, [Grin] with two other people, there might have been bloodshed.
Rhonda, aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David
That’s amazing that you’ve never met in person. I write with my sister and co-author. Though we grew up together, I lived in a different state so we did a lot of our writing through the Internet as well before I moved nearer to her. It can be done, but it’s not easy.
I’m afraid collaborating with a good friend on writing a book could ruin a friendship. That’s why I’ve never tried it.
I hope to see one of you at Love is Murder in a few weeks. I’ll be there that Saturday.
This is fascinating. I don’t think I could ever do it successfully. More power to them. I love there’s a way for everyone.
Morgan, I collaborated with good friends before and it can work if you check your ego at the door. Another key is to recognize and really respect the talent that each one brings to the project. I am better at craft and getting a story down on paper, and my writing partners were all better at coming up with great scenes and story ideas. They would contribute more in the plotting stage of a book or screenplay and I would contribute more when it came to putting it all together in the proper sequence, etc.
And one guideline that we always held to was that we could not say something the partner wrote or suggested didn’t work unless we could offer an alternative.
Thanks for sharing the nuts and bolts of your collaborative process – so far I’m a “solo” mystery author but maybe someday I’ll convince my brother – who has worked as a private investigator – to collaborate on a book.
Joyce, that could be a good collaboration. He could provide the stories and the PI expertise and you could provide the writing expertise.
Thanks for sharing! Sounds intriguing and I’ve been offered the opportunity to co-write a book with a national speaker to needs to get one published. I am now seriously considering it.
I could never do it. I’m too much of a control freak.