Five Questions to Consider Before Co-Writing
by Jennifer Slattery
Why would an opinionated, bullheaded, self-isolating author initiate a collaboration project? How does that even work? Especially considering she and her partner have strong yet vastly different voices?
These are the questions I’ve been asked on numerous occasions, and I suspect ones you, yourself have contemplated if you’ve ever considered working with another author. And yet as one who’s done this not once but thrice, I can tell you, it is possible, and I believe, even beneficial. But it’s not easy. In order to avoid computer-smashing fall-out and mid-project break-downs, there are things writers must consider pre-collaboration.
Are you theologically compatible?
First and most important, do you agree doctrinally. This is perhaps the most important piece of any collaborating relationship, whether you’re writing fiction or non. Because our worldview always leaks out, and what we write speaks loudly of us and our faith. Unfortunately, many doctrinal differences aren’t readily apparent. Because of this, it’s important to discuss faith matters thoroughly, determining what issues are nonnegotiable.
Even then, unforeseen issues may arise later. This will be less likely if the collaboration grew out of a strong relationship. That’s what happened with author Eileen Rife and I, a writer I’ve worked with on two projects now, the first initiated by her, the latter by me. We’d been critique partners for some time, which allowed me to see her heart and faith. With each novel I critiqued, our relationship grew and our similarities became more apparent.
Do you share similar passions?
More than that, we appeared to share a very similar calling—revealing God’s love and truth with a broken world. Though we can enjoy light-hearted novels, neither of us feel called to write them. Rather, we prefer to write “issue-driven” fiction, fueled by our passions for the impoverished, orphan, spiritually lost, and the broken. We also share a strong belief that only Christ can heal and transform a heart.
These similarities unite us in purpose and passion and help ensure a cohesive manuscript we can both feel good about.
Are your work ethics similar?
Deuteronomy 22:10 says, “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together” (NLT).
Both of these beasts had a place in ancient agriculture and performed their job well. United, however, they were completely incompatible, varying in strength and size. One would be continuously striving to faster and harder, held back by the smaller creature, while the donkey would be dragged along. Similarly, when a faster or more diligent writer pairs with a slower or less motivated one, there’s bound to be frustration and hurt feelings. The faster writer may feel held back, or, pushing ahead, as if they are doing the brunt of the work. Meanwhile, his slower partner could begin to feel unappreciated and insecure. Guaranteed, both will feel frustrated; maybe even frustrated enough to bail.
Can you share openly?
If you butt heads while critiquing, you’ll do so even more while collaborating. There will be times when you and your co-author feel strongly about something your partner vehemently disagrees with. You may even hate-hate-hate a portion they wrote, and they may hate yours. You’ll need to be able to hash these things out in an open yet loving way.
Can you bend?
This is an area I struggle with most as I can be insanely, jaw-clenching stubborn, especially when it comes to writing. Sometimes this is a heart issue, and God has to whack the back side of my head, reminding me to surrender the project to Him. Most often, however, my stubborn arises out of insecurities. It’s always easier to write something that originated in our brain than someone else’s.
But when I remember God’s in control of our partnership, our writing, and the finished product, it becomes easier. I remember my partner has strengths I lack, and vice versa, and that God paired us for a reason. The best results come when we maximize one another’s strengths while remaining united from brainstorm to final draft.
Collaborating isn’t for everyone, and it’s not a partnership to start lightly, but with ample prayer, relationship building, and forethought, authors can develop strong collaboration projects.
Beyond I Do:
Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more. Ainsley Meadow’s encounter with a woman, her child, and their abuser sparks a passion that threatens her engagement. Will seeing beyond the present unite her and her fiancé or tear them apart? Raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.
Jennifer Slattery writes Missional Romance for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available for preorder at a 26% off discount. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-I-Do-Jennifer-Slattery/dp/1596694173/Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.