Teacher-authors / tech tips for writers / writers tips

#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Co-authoring a book

Hello and welcome to the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop which meets every third Wednesday of the month to share resources and tips for authors. Thanks to Raimey Gallant for hosting this venture.
Please join to learn more about the craft of writing and to meet bloggers who are dedicated to helping each other become the best writers possible. Click here to visit other blog hop participants.

This month: Co-authoring a Book

Studies show 74% of people think they have a book in them. Thanks to writing programs like Word and Docs, online editors like Grammarly and Autocrit, and automated publishers like Kindle, there’s no reason we all can’t. Look at this list of kids who wrote successful books in their teens–or in one case, before:

  • Alexandra Adornetto–published The Shadow Thief at age 14 and Halo at 18.
  • Christopher Paolini—published Eragon at age 16 (he is now over 30)
  • Steph Bowe–published Girl Saves Boy at age 16.
  • Cayla Kluver–published Legacy at age 16
  • Alec Greven–published How to Talk to Girls at age 9

But writing a novel is daunting. All those pages, rewrites, edits. A good alternative for many is co-authoring, sharing the load with trusted fellow writers. That includes Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President is Missing, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman, and Preston and Child’s Special Agent Pendergast series.

How to Co-author

The most common approach for co-authoring a book is to write alternate chapters but this doesn’t work for everyone. Today, I want to talk about alternative approaches that many authors find work for them:

  1. vignettes
  2. multiple POV
  3. anthologies
  4. comics


A vignette is a verbal sketch, a brief essay, or a carefully crafted short work of fiction or nonfiction based around a setting, an atmosphere, or the same characters. Typically, it is about eight hundred words but can be shorter. In most cases, they are published in collections that are character-driven (rather than plot-driven), are located in the same location but with different story goals, or have another variance that includes the same setting/atmosphere/characters. Well-known vignettes include:

If you want to collaborate on a book of vignettes, here’s how it would work:

  • Gather a group of authors interested in a specific theme, atmosphere, or character. 
  • As a group, write a character study of each character who will be included in the vignettes and decide on setting and atmosphere.
  • Individually write a vignette and then come together to publish them.

Multiple POVs

Multiple Point of Views (POV) make a story more interesting, more personal, and often faster-paced. When each writer takes responsibility for one POV, most commonly in their own chapter or section, it gives each character a distinct voice. Some excellent books written in this way are Holly Robinson’s Same But Different about a child with autism and John Green’s Will Grayson Will Grayson about two boys who share a name but not much else. A different take on multiple POVs is used by A.S. King in her YA novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz where the multiple viewpoints are Vera Dietz at different points in her life.

I just started Book one in a series fellow-blogger Jacquie Biggar is involved with where each author uses the same cast of characters and plots centered around technology uses in fighting crime. I’m only on Book 1, Virtually Lace, by Uvi Poznansky (Jacquie’s is Book 6), and it is wonderful.


Anthologies are probably the most common collaborative approach. Each writer writes a story that is connected to other stories only by the theme.

A few examples: The Insecure Writers Support Group (#IWSG) with their themed anthologies, the latest Voyagers: The Third Ghost. Another edited by Indie author Juneta Keys is Grumpy Old Gods.

A Comic Book

Note: While comic books and graphic novels are different writing forms, for this option, you could substitute Graphic Novels.

Kids and adults love comic books. For some, it’s what first got them excited about reading. For others, comics like Brian Vaughan’s Paper Girls and Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo are why they returned to reading after pages filled with black-and-white text lost their interest.

Co-authoring with comics is the easiest approach to dividing up responsibilities. Here’s how you would do that: As a group,  collaborate on a storyline, characters, setting, rising action, climax, and timeline. Once this is done, writer accepts responsibility for the completion of one task associated with the story such as drawing the frames, inking and coloring the images, adding the dialogue bubbles, lettering the emotion bubbles, and proofing. Comics can be written old school — by hand — or using a digital comic program like Manga Studio Ex.

Writers might select this option because they love comics but also because its a more social form of writing in what traditionally is a solitary exercise. Those who have avoided writing because they prefer spending time with friends may rethink that decision when given the option to write with comics.

Special section for teacher-authors

As a teacher, I recognize that writing a book provides organic practice in writing skills such as descriptive detail, well-structured event sequences, precision in words and phrases, dialogue, pacing, character development, transitions, a conclusion that follows what came before, and research. I’ve taught novel-writing workshop sort of classes to students with varied results. Everyone starts fully committed but by the end, only the outliers on the Bell Curve finish. I’ve found that co-author options such as those listed above are better suited to MS and HS students. 


More on Collaborative Writing

7 Google Apps Tricks Writers Should Know

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

Best. Night. Ever

@JacqBiggar @JunetaKey @IWSG

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 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 NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

91 thoughts on “#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Co-authoring a book

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  5. Jacqui, I love this post! I have wanted to co-write a book for quite some time, but I haven’t tried yet. One of my favorite co-authored books is “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16160079-i-ll-be-seeing-you). It’s written in the epistolary style, which is another way to co-author (and one that intrigues me)!

    Also, as a fellow teacher, I love that you added a teacher section in this post. My creative writing class participated in NaNoWriMo this past year, but I never thought about them co-authoring books! I have so much to try next year!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve only heard of anthologies and maybe co-writing (2 authors max) writing a novel. So, thanks for the heads up on all these varieties. I love the idea of teaming up with other authors to write a novel or collection. Thanks Jacqui for sharing these tips and links.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Co-authoring isn’t something I’ve thought much about before–I think it would be a challenge for me not to have control of the whole story! It sounds like a good challenge that would help me learn to let that go, I think. Thank you for sharing these ideas–it will be something good to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for offering so many different ways to collaborate on a book. I can see myself joining a group of authors to create an anthology of short stories, but actually writing a novel with another writer could be a headache. On the other hand, it could be an exciting adventure. Hmmmm…never thought of doing it, but you’ve made me curious. Now what victim, I mean author, can I ask to join me? !!!
    JQ Rose

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good idea. This could be my comic/ graphic book saviour since I cannot draw. Collaboration of complementing skill sets could also be an option. How does one create a group of interested collaborators? In the digital world what resources could one leverage?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fascinating post, Jacqui. I read a blogger friend’s post when she wrote her part as one of the six blogger joined together to co-author a book of multiple POV. It looked like working out beautifully. Finding right partners would be a key then.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the mention, Jacqui! I like the idea of multiple POV collaborations. I was supposed to start a co-authored book with a writer friend a while ago, but our responsibilities got in the way. This post makes me want to get in touch with her again, lol

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is such a cool idea, Jacqui. I considered an alternating chapter/alternating pov book with another writer but we didn’t get past the initial conversation. He’s a pantser and I’m a plotter, which presented a challenge. But it sounds like such fun. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Jacqui. Thanks for this inspiration. I remember a novel (actually a series, but I don’t know if the multiple author approach applied to the entire series) by three of the female greats of fantasy. The plot had 3 sisters, and each author wrote one of the sisters. It was amazing to see the combined result. Black Trillium by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, and Andre Norton.
    Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great information here, Jacqui:) I’ve seen great books written by two authors and always wonder how they do it. It reminds me of a great marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes, these days, a famous author just lends his name. I’m reading a western series by W.A. Johnstone and his nephew. Well, W.A. is dead so I’m pretty sure he just attached his more famous name though the notes somewhere said he had outlined a bunch of stories before dying.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Must mention S. E. Hinton who wrote The Outsiders when she was 16. It was published when she was still a teenager.

    I’m working on my 6th adult book (my first sequel) – have completed 5. Now ask how many have been published….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I suppose it depends on your personality and how much of a perfectionist you are. I prefer to do my own thing, for better or worse. I would hate to be tarred with the mistakes from someone else’s brush, just as I would not like to take credit for something good done by my co-author. I’ve read a co-authored book where the one author was enjoyable to read, but the other made several annoying POV errors that took away from the overall quality of the book. I don’t think it would be the right fit for me, but that’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I was recently approached by a friend with a book idea. He wanted me to write the book. When I suggested co-authoring he politely declined. It’s not for everyone, but there have been some great books written this way.

    Liked by 1 person

      • That is true. Over the years, I’ve had a number of ideas told to me – some good, some bad, but none that inspired me with the passion to go work on it. Instead I always encourage these friends to do the work themselves and often to help them. Honestly, I have enough of my own ideas to keep me busy for a long time.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m in many anthologies but do not consider that co-authoring as we all wrote our stories individually and did not collaborate at all. I think co-authoring would be very difficult. I read one book written by two authors, each from a different POV. It was obvious that one author was more skilled than the other and I didn’t find it a satisfying read. Perhaps I should try another one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, technically, if the anthology is published, you are considered a published author of that piece. And, most anthologies do list all contributors. Twere me, I’d call that my book! I agree about the difficulty of co-authoring. Doing it the way Grace and Loren did in Einstein’s Compass–that would be so difficult for me. But these four ways, not so hard.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I’ve written stories for a few anthologies and just wrapped another. I enjoy the format and being part of an author collective. It would be interesting to attempt co-authoring someday. My favorite writers are a team of authors—Preston & Child. Those guys have their system down pat!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. I hadn’t thought about all the different ways of co-authoring books. I have stories in two anthologies so I guess that makes me a co-author. 🙂 I have also co-authored some educational materials, though I would have previously described the writing as collaborative. We probably planned together but I did the writing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Great post! I have a lot of respect for those who can co-author. I don’t believe I’d be able to do it, but you never know what the future holds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so true, Sarah. I never thought I’d install cell phone antenna on water towers, design-build daycare centers, own a dance studio, or be an author. And yet, I did! I wonder what’s next…


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