My friend Katie Mahon co-wrote a memoir with two friends. I was curious about their process because while I think co-authoring would be an interesting experience – as well as a viable option for aspiring authors daunted by the thought of writing an entire book on their own – I also think it would be extremely difficult for several reasons (e.g. varied working styles, expectations, personalities, etc.). I posed these concerns to Katie, and here are her thoughts on how they made the process fruitful and enjoyable:
Sounds almost romantic, doesn’t it? She’s your friend, she’s talented and you want to get to know her better. You both have similar ideas for the great American novel, so why not write it together? Half the work and twice the fun! Or maybe not so much, depending on your ability to build a healthy collaboration. I have lived to tell that tale – well, not the great American novel part. In fact, we wrote a spiritual nonfiction book together. There were three of us, and it took 10 years. In the end, here’s how our successful partnership resulted in our memoir, The Miracle Chase, being published:
Communication: Reaching agreement on common goals and vision requires developing trust in each other. Answer “what will the book be” by recognizing that the end result, your collective vision, is bigger than your individual one. That means checking your ego at the door, putting on your listening cap and really listening without distraction or agenda…and without thinking of what you will say next.
Connection: Now that you’ve arrived at a common vision, have collateral in the trust bank and know each other better, figure out how you will go about your task – divide and conquer, or literally write together. What voice will you use? In our case, we used all three voices and wrote the book by handing the narrative over to each other, kind of like a relay race, each one picking up the narrative thread where the last author left off. We also wrote some passages together in order to make transitions more fluid and seamless.
Staying the course: Goethe, the philosopher and poet said: “At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” Staying the course means committing wholeheartedly together and having the confidence to believe in your dreams. Writing a book is hard work, but presumably work you enjoy; seeing it through to publication is something else altogether. Tenacity, never say die, asking for help, picking yourself up after rejection…these are all characteristics that will serve you well and are definitely better experienced with a partner. You’ve made it this far; don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens.
Thanks to Katie for her sage advice! I’m still not sure I could co-author a book because I write fiction and want to have control of the entire manuscript if my name is going on the jacket, but that’s just my personality. As Katie has demonstrated, it’s clearly doable if you and your partners work hard to stay (figuratively) on the same page.
How about you – would you ever co-author a book?
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