I just got to my office after spending the early morning (1) hacking out the first few words in my part of our new novel; and (2) struggling to understand how to make Scrivener work for two authors long distance. As I have mentioned here before, my next book is a co-authored project with Celeste Perrino-Walker, another author who lives in Vermont, far from the sunny climes (I say in jest, considering our recent weather) of Texas. We are both veteran authors, but I am still an innocent when it comes to using Scrivener. I can truly see that in the long run it will help us stay organized and working from the same page (figuratively, not literally). But there’s a learning curve, and if I had more time on my hands I would appreciate the software more.
I am old school, choosing to write in Word, as I have done for the past humpteen novels. I use the term “old school” loosely, because I still have students who compose all on a yellow pad, then transpose everything to the computer after. But that’s part of the challenge–and the excitement–of team-writing a book.
Here’s a view of the pros and cons of a co-writing project that I see so far:
(1) Writing is a singular labor, and those who are used to working in a particular way will need to compromise along the way. Celeste and I had a discussion the other day about the use of the Oxford comma, something she believes in, and something I regularly discard because of my newswriting background. We had a couple of other grammar issues, and we ended up compromising; me giving up some things and she giving up others.
(2) Being a writer is often like playing God, creating characters and even entire worlds. It’s not easy for a god to share his domain, and so sometimes you have to allow others into your space. Even now, as I write a section about archeologists discovering our famous charger in a crypt in Egypt, I hesitate to share it with my co-author, knowing it’s not yet the way I would like it. At the same time, I realize that she will see it long before the world will, warts and all. So I have to put pride aside and let her help me, just as I am there to help her.
(3) There’s a learning curve, as I mention above. It involves software, yes, but also writing habits and styles. We have been working on planning this book for several months now, much of it going over characterization and overall plotting, but also about writing philosophy, styles and work habits. Like I said, it’s nothing like writing on your own. But that’s not necessarily bad.
AND NOW THE PROS:
(1) I have been stuck in a slump ever since I finished my last book, Chosen. I have had several ideas for books, but just haven’t gotten off square one. Knowing that someone else is working on MY project gives me motivation to get out of my easy chair and get some words on paper. That right there is enough reason for me to participate in this project.
(2) It’s fun. Yes, writing is a singular project, and co-authoring is a challenge, but it can be a fun challenge. It’s easy to fall into a rut with writing, and being challenged to write in conjunction with someone else gets you out of that comfort zone.
(3) You learn a lot. I would have never picked up Scrivener if Celeste hadn’t recommended it. Depending on how this project goes, I might just continue using it on my own.
(4) I am assuming that our joint notoriety will be stronger than each of us independently, and so there’s always the hope that our potential audience of readers will be larger. That’s always a good thing for writers continuing to build a name for themselves.
And so, there you have it. Celeste is writing her part, and I am writing mine, whenever I’m not struggling to learn Scrivener. Writing half a book should go faster than writing a whole one, but the jury’s still out on that one.
In any case, I will keep you posted. Hopefully, we will learn something along the way, and you can learn from our mistakes.