Guest bloggers / writing

How to Co-author a Book: Two Writers Share Their Story

I am intrigued by the idea of co-authoring a book. I’d tell you I could never do it but I really have no basis for that opinion. When efriend Grace Allison co-authored her amazing new book, Einstein’s Compass (my review here), I decided to dig into this a bit more. Grace and her co-author, Laren Bright, agreed to share their story with me so I can share their experience with you. they make it sound so possible!

Here’s Grace’s co-authoring experience:

Being a modern mystic, I wanted to write a novel that expressed the forty-six years of what I knew of God and the invisible. To me, a mystic is someone how experiences the transcendental love of God.

I have always thought of Einstein as a fascinating person. In reading about him, I discovered Einstein was a spiritual person whose father gave him a compass that sent him on his scientific journey. Since he was on a quest to understand the universe, I wondered, what if he was a modern mystic in his time. Moreover, what if, he had assistance from spiritual beings to understand the universe? 

Through physics, he found his answers. My book of fiction follows his biographical history from age six to twenty-six and adds a new level of mystical spirituality that he had help from mystical beings who assisted him in his heroes’ journey and his miracle theory. Einstein believed that we have to go beyond what we can see and measure in the physical world. My book, “Einstein’s Compass” goes beyond what we know and adds a possible fictional explanation for how he came up with his miracle theory and changed the world.

In 2014, I began to write the first chapters of “Einstein’s Compass, a Novel of What If?” Through email and social media, I shared my rough draft chapters with friends. Laren Bright, a book specialist who has been a friend for many years and lived in Los Angeles, would reply to my chapters with how he loved the story’s premise and offered ideas of how to phrase a sentence or two. I live in Lubbock, Texas and found Laren’s emails little treasures. Our emails went back and forth for about two months when I asked Laren if he would like to join me in writing “Einstein’s Compass.” He said yes. Therefore, began our four-year relationship of co-authoring.

Here’s Laren’s take on it:

Sometime in 2014, my friend Grace Allison contacted me about editing a fiction book she was working on. I’ve known Grace since the early 1970’s and over recent years did some work for her on her self-help/self-awareness books. While my focus lately had been on promotional writing for authors, because of my long-term relationship with Grace, I decided to give it a shot.

After working on a few chapters for her, I realized that I was adding more content than an editor normally would. And I was very impressed with her ideas and where it looked like the story was going. So I suggested that what we were doing was co-writing, and Grace agreed.

I am by nature a collaborative writer. When I was writing television animation scripts on staff at Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Animation, it was common for writers to work together. However, working with Grace was unique.

I quickly saw that we each brought particular strengths to the process that complemented each other very well. Grace was amazingly creative with ideas for the story and was wonderful with researching both the historical material of the times Albert Einstein was growing up and also the information on Atlantis—which came from some very interesting sources. For my part, having written close to a hundred stories for television, maybe more, I had a pretty good sense of storytelling and structure and my work writing promotional materials gave me a solid foundation in the craft of writing and using language. I really enjoy going over and over and over something to make sure the language works well.

Our process, which developed pretty organically and without much discussion among us, was for Grace to write a draft of a chapter and then send it to me. My job was to craft the language and refine or develop the story. I also was on the lookout for inconsistencies in the story and problems with the logic of how things worked. Then I would send it back to Grace for her review. Once we got the whole thing completed, we assembled the individual chapters into a manuscript and it was my job to go through the entire manuscript to smooth out any rough edges and hopefully spot anything that was off track. Then Grace gave it her final review.

The only time we hit a conflict between us was at the end. I find when I write, the story reveals itself in a sort of organic way. When we got to the final confrontation between Albert and Raka, I saw it playing out in a particular way. Grace saw it differently. What ensued was a series of emails exploring how this might be resolved, and, to my surprise, we found a solution that not only satisfied both of us, but also did not require any major revising of the earlier chapters to set it up.

One thing that made our collaboration on this book particularly powerful is that our foundation of meditation and spiritual studies was highly aligned. As a result, the metaphysical/spiritual principles underpinning the story were largely real for us, and we would find ourselves naturally describing the same phenomena. This added to the substantial-ness of some of the material we covered that could have otherwise seemed merely fanciful.   

I found co-writing with Grace to be smooth and easy. I think we both had the same intention of what we wanted the underlying message of the story to be and that made it easy to cooperate with each other. We also trusted each other to do our very best, so we were always supportive of each other.

I think co-writing this way was as much as an adventure as the story itself.

What do you think? It seems if you find the right person, this could really work!

Here’s the link to Grace and Laren’s wonderful book, Einstein’s Compass:

More on writing:

7 Things Writers Can Do No One Else Can (or Wants to)

Creativity, Life, and Writing

Changing Goals as Writers


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

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53 thoughts on “How to Co-author a Book: Two Writers Share Their Story

  1. I’ve been asked to co-write with a few writers but declined. I wasn’t sure how it would work or whether there be too many differences of opinion. Maybe in a few years I’d consider it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always been interested in how writers manage to co-author. I’ve tried twice, once with a group of fanfiction writers (the story fizzled out after the first chapter because no one wrote anything else) and once with a group of writers from Twitter (the time frame for completing things was way too intense for a slower writer like me so I had to bow out). It does seem like it’s a case of finding the right person, who complements your style and works at your pace 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was most interested to read how these two authors collaborated. I co-authored While the Bombs Fell with my mom. She supplied the facts of her early life. I supplied the historical research and the fictionalised element, weaving her facts and the history into a story. My mom did the editing, reading the story and looking for holes and lack of flow, that sort of thing. I did the editing. I see it is a similar approach to Grace and Laren.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think it’s the same. In fact, most of your books are collaborations, aren’t they? And I love that they are with family. I’m looking at doing that with my daughter but I have to confess, my interest is greater than hers!

      Like

  4. Pingback: How to Co-author a Book: Two Writers Share Their Story — WordDreams… – chiomaoforsblog

  5. Interesting and encouraging post.

    \Many decades ago, a fellow journalist and I were commissioned to co-author a non-fiction book on Red & Green politics’. Sadly, I failed to meet the deadlines so my friend had to complete the book without me – but he was kind enough to acknowledge my initial input. Now, as my health deteriorates I suspect that one day I might need more than an editor to complete my current mystery/police procedural projects.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Jacqui, for sharing the collaborative story of how Laren and I wrote
    “Einstein’s Compass a YA Time Traveler Adventure”. I also thank each person who made a comment in this post. I appreciate Laren’s talent and his contribution. The story was mine but he made it better. I recommend working with someone who shares your vision.
    Its just more fun and exciting as the chapters unfold. When Laren would send back a chapter with revisions he would add, “What is next, I can’t wait to see what you are writing in the next chapter.”

    Liked by 4 people

  7. So interesting. I’ve never been able to comprehend how anyone would manage it, but I guess sometimes it works! It seems to require the right mix of authors, clear roles, and great communication skills. Thanks for sharing, Jacqui. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I won’t say never, but I can’t imagine doing it. Not for a fiction piece anyway. Non-fiction possibly, or maybe for a fiction series (where we write different books in the same series).

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This is a really interesting article, thank you, Jacqui, for hosting and posting. Thanks as well to Grace Allison and Laren Bright who provided detailed descriptions of their writing process and explained how/why it worked. The book is in my Amazon cart for the grands. (I’ll borrow it back when they’ve finished reading.)

    Many careers today require collaborative work and much school work is done the same way, with teams working to create a greater whole than can be achieved by one individual. So co-authoring is a natural outcome of standard practice. However, I’m not sure I could co-author. I am however, open to suggestions from readers and often make changes in my WiP according to their suggestions. As with Allison and Bright, this is a path leading perhaps to co-authorship.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I have read a beautiful historical fiction trilogy, Inca series, signed by Antoine B. Daniel. In truth, the pen name hides 3 friends who wrote it together (and another Palmyra series which I couldn’t read yet): Antoine Audouard, Jean-Daniel Baltassat and Bertrand Houette. So, yes, it is possible in the realm of published books!

    Beyond this, and outside of the realm of publication, I wrote, in my Uni years, several stories together with my deskmate, Mirela (who now is married in the US and she doesn’t write anymore, at all). We had fun writing them together, discussing them and even coming to an agreement on some points we had different views about.

    Seeking the same kind of experiences (I didn’t find exactly the same ones, but close enough) I discovered, a couple of decades later, roleplaying games, which are interactive stories published on internet forums, where each writer has a character or several who interact with the others’ in various stories. For us, it is a coherent story, a sort of a soap opera we are writing since 2010, and we covered for now the period January 1719- September 1720, on several islands on the West Indies. Adventures, romance, work scenes, political intrigues, battles… Most of us do research well the period, but once or another time one lets slip a bigger error, and is notified about it to correct it.

    Liked by 3 people

      • The roleplaying game isn’t a book, it’s published for free on the internet, so that anybody could read it. Every thread is sort of a story chapter, and this is the summary of what happened until the end of July 1720 (as afterwards it was a new volume/ forum). http://beforethemast.b1.jcink.com/index.php?showtopic=8

        What I want to do is to write, alone, in my mother tongue, a sort of AU story only with my characters in a novel series, which will deal with the same setting (West Indies, 1718 though), but won’t be our interactive story. Exactly how I have already written a mercenary character’s life in some short stories collection which will be launched end of February (also an AU from the forum, ie with different characters and ending with his framing for a murder he didn’t commit and his execution, while on the site he changed his profession and is very alive, having retired from life contracts 😉 )

        Liked by 2 people

  11. i like their way of co-authoring. i’ve seen it around, but i think there’s more than one way. i read about two authors once where each wrote in alternative chapters, and another – romance – where one author wrote the female pov and the other the male.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. I love the premise of this book. It sounds fascinating. And I enjoyed reading about the co-authoring process from both points of view. While I haven’t worked on fiction projects with others, I thoroughly enjoyed working collaboratively as part of a team on software packages. The synergy was amazing and the end projects much better than any of us would have produced alone. I can see how it would work with fiction writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I think co-authoring is something we don’t consider enough. After all, it’s commonly done in the film and tv world. It’s good to hear about how that can work in practice, and shows once more how diverse the possibilities are now we’re connected to the WWW. Nice post.

    Liked by 5 people

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