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:
- multiple POV
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 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 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
@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