Five years ago, the two of us—both already YA authors—had an idea that would become All of Us Villains, our co-written debut about a magical death tournament filled with celebrations and inversions of all our favorite YA tropes. After the release of All of Our Demise, the second and final book in the duology, it’s exciting to reflect on what we’ve learned about co-writing and working together over the course of this series, and hopefully to offer some insight and advice to those who are interested in trying it out themselves.
Obviously, writing a book with another person requires some logistical coordination. In terms of the actual software, we relied on Google Docs so that we could each write and edit the manuscript in real time, despite the fact that we resided in different cities. We also chose to split up the four points of view into two each; though we’ve both written and edited all over the manuscript, regardless of who initially wrote which chapter, we each originally claimed two of the narrators. This also made it that much easier to keep the four voices distinct. Lastly, we outlined tremendously before writing the manuscript. Not all writers prefer to plot their stories ahead of time, but for us, outlining was essential to ensure that we shared the same vision for the book upfront.
Though ironing out the physical logistics of co-writing was essential, even more essential were the more intangible, emotional logistics of marrying our creative processes. One of the most common questions we receive about co-writing is, essentially, “How did you handle working that closely with another person?” The answer comes down to trust. Writing is often an intense, insular process, and it can be vulnerable to share a draft with a beta reader, agent, or editor—let alone share every step of the process with another creative. We had to get very comfortable very quickly with showing each other messy first drafts and half-formed plot points. But the two of us have found that any potential drawbacks of co-writing creating interpersonal conflict are far outweighed by the benefits of having both our brains working on the same idea and facing every potential plot hole and deadline together.
Over time, we’ve built a level of communication and professional respect that’s resulted in a creatively fulfilling partnership where we bring out the best in each others’ work, cheering each other on and supporting each other through the inevitable creative blocks that arise while writing a book. Honestly, the logistics of scheduling are often the hardest part to juggle—both of us publish separate solo works, so we’re often trading off deadlines or working on multiple projects at the same time.
Though our co-writing process is truly unique to us, for any writerly friends out there who are interested in co-writing, we do feel we can offer a few words of wisdom. First, as you foray into this adventure, accept the fact that it is a new one. You might be a seasoned professional writer already, but even though co-writing requires many of the same skills, it is another endeavor entirely, and it’s okay if you both experience an adjustment as you navigate this new style of process and perspective. Second, we highly suggest that you discuss each other’s editorial styles and preferences upfront, as co-writing requires you to be as much of an editor as you are a writer. And last, make sure to communicate as much as possible. Even though, like us, you may claim certain characters or sections of the manuscript as your own, you’re both in this together, and whatever you’re struggling with working out, your partner is there to help you—and your problems are truly their problems, too.
However, as much as co-writing is a major undertaking that will challenge you as both writers and friends, it is also an absolute blast, full of fun and quirks and silliness. You’ll call each other for a “quick question” and have suddenly spent two hours on the phone. You’ll get a thrill as you finish a piece of writing that you cannot wait for your partner to read. If you use Google Docs, you’ll catch your partner’s cursor creeping on the page as they watch what you write. You’ll become hyper-familiar with the truly trivial differences between your writing styles. And, of course, you will have someone to celebrate with every time you reach an exciting milestone.
Co-writing the All of Us Villains duology was one of the greatest challenges and joys of our careers thus far. It made us better writers and better friends. In fact, we loved it so much that we decided to do it all over again—if you like dramatic star-crossed romances, A Fate So Cold will hit shelves in early 2024.
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