Readers have often asked me and my frequent co-author, Sue Viders, how we work as co-authors, since we have written so many books together. For years, we taught writing classes individually and jointly as well as writing several books on the writing process. But that work was all in nonfiction. Several years ago, Sue and I decided we wanted to try writing a fiction book as co-authors--something neither one of us had ever done. Over the years, writing non-fiction had become fairly easy for us as we worked together. We both had our own ideas of what we wanted to say to help readers, and Sue had been teaching writing classes for much longer than I had. We both had attended conferences together and separately to teach writing classes. We also both individually taught classes online.Each of us enjoyed writing fiction books as well as non-fiction, so we decided to work on a fiction project together. The first decision of genre was easy for both of us. We enjoyed writing suspense fiction with some romance thrown in for good measure. As we discussed the project and what we wanted to write, a cozy mystery novel set in a small town seemed like a natural fit. As a great planner, Sue immediately began making up character charts and charts of the story location. When I am writing, I more often see the scenes as I put the story on the written page. Sue put together the location ideas and began developing the characters while I began determining the various scenes we were going to need.
Unfortunately, before we could get very far, Covid hit. Our weekly breakfast meetings came to an abrupt stop and suddenly we were thrown into writing individually just at the time we needed to sit down together and devise a plot and develop our ideas into scenes. We didn’t let the interruption end our plans. We came up with our scenes over the phone and Sue took the first pass at writing a few scenes. Using our character charts, I brought in more of the development of the scenes and the characters themselves. We both enjoy writing dialogue so we worked on that together. We were off and running. We were working as a team again!
Sue most often took the first pass at writing a scene, and I developed it as well as playing first editor. She is more of the planner, while I used my years of television newsroom editing experience to check our story for correct punctuation and proper language usage. We both worked together on the overall story flow and developing characters and scenes. Over the years we have found we play off each other’s ideas very well. One person will come up with a thought and the other person then follows with more ideas. The process works very well for both of us. We have been able to fully develop our characters and our scenes without having to be together while writing. I think it probably improved the project because we each got to utilize our strengths while shoring up the other’s weaknesses. Sue is much better at planning. I am better at grammar and spelling and improvising when we need it.
That is the key to working with a co-author--working as a team. What I’ve seen in working with writers for many years as a news producer, everyone brings something different to the table. When I assigned stories back in the newsroom to writers, I always tried to give each story to the person I thought would do the best job. Some preferred political stories, others were great on fast moving stories, while others excelled at taking a long boring subject and making it interesting.
One of the keys to working with a co-author is to determine individual strengths and weaknesses and then play to those strengths. Some fiction writers are better at grammar, some at dialogue and others at developing scenes or the plot. If you’re going to work with a co-author, think about how to play to the other’s strengths and then use your own wisdom and vision to add to the partnership.
The other key to working with a co-author has to be that you must be ready to shove down that ego every so often. Your way is not always going to be the best way and you have to be ready to let the other person win some of the differences in opinion for the good of the work. In the end, you both want the same outcome – a marketable book that draws in readers and makes them want to read more of your joint work.
Using these basic principles was how Sue and I have managed to work together for so long and to continue to want to work together, but does writing with a co-author work for everyone? Probably not, and many writers find that working alone is very satisfying and prefer to work solo. Sue and I like working alone too. We have both retained our personal fiction writing as well as working on our co-authored books together. We began as critique partners and we still regularly critique each other’s individual fiction works. Because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so well, it allows us to look for problem areas in the other’s work as well as help each other through any plotting difficulties.
We have decided that whether writing alone or writing with a partner, the key to output is to take what you’re doing as a writer seriously. Daily writing is not always necessary, but being a writer every day is. Thinking like a writer is to be constantly looking for ideas and constantly thinking of new dilemmas or ways out of those dilemmas. We are always coming up with plots even when we’re not working on a particular story. We’re also constantly coming up with new ideas for characters since we both agree that great characters are the key to any story.
Good luck with your writing, and if you find yourself stuck, why not try writing with a friend or with several others? It might improve your own writing and it might result in seeing your name in print!
Here’s the blurb on our latest book, Secrets and Swindles, which is now available from Amazon.com. It’s a cozy mystery about two aging sisters trying to solve a crime in their small Colorado mountain town and it’s the beginning of a series starring the two sisters. We’ve already started planning the second story.
When artist Jo finds that her paintings are being copied and sold as postcards, she goes on a search to find the culprit. Shop owner Olivia has problems of her own when her clerk’s husband dies in a mysterious accident, and then someone breaks into her store. Both sisters want answers, but now they are both being threatened. Are all the strange events related and is someone watching the sisters’ every move?
About the authors
Sue Viders, an artist with a B.F.A degree, began writing marketing columns in national art magazines for her fellow artists, but switched to teaching writers around the world on how to write more effectively so their books would sell better. Her nonfiction book, The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroines and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes, a best seller, is used by writers throughout the world. She has taught numerous classes, both online and onsite, written over fifteen books for writers including Writing a Novel (workbook) and co-authored several books on writing with Becky Martinez including Creating a Villain and Writing Tips for all types of Fiction Writers. She has also written Out of the Box a collection of humorous essays. Her current work-in-progress book is Elsie's Earrings, a paranormal cozy mystery
Becky Martinez is an Emmy award-winning former broadcast journalist who took up fiction writing after spending 30 years working in television newsrooms from Denver to Seattle to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. As Rebecca Grace, she writes romance, as well as romantic suspense and mystery. Her most recent individual work is a romantic suspense novel, Dead Man’s Treasure. Her previous book, Secrets of Sara, was published in early 2022 and has received excellent reviews.
Here are our buy links and social contact information:
Buy Secrets and Swindles at Amazon
Co-author Web site: Writethatnovel.net
Amazon: Sue Viders
Amazon: Rebecca Grace
Fiction Website: RebeccaGrace.com
Non-fiction Website: Writethatnovel.com
Any questions? Sue and I both love to answer writing questions!