Updated: May 9, 2022
So I did an announcement and a blog last week about co-writing with Aina and the chapters are out now. You can read the promo.
As someone very new to co-writing, I don't know how other authors do it. However, Aina and I are writers of very different writing backgrounds and experiences. It took us a while to bridge that gap.
This is no means a guide for every other co-author enthusiast but it's a working system for Aina and myself that we found, grew with and adapted accordingly. Do not take my word for it but consider if some of what worked for us could work for you too.
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This process is a little of a mixture between mentor-student and editor-writer. Here's how the duties were segregated. By the way, Aina is the main writer and I am the co-writer. No confusion here about who is the originator of the book's direction.
#1: Overall Outlining of Plot & Pacing
This is the stage where we brainstorm the world setting, character dynamics, names, roles, and the 3 level outlining process that Aitsuji taught Aina.
At this stage, the main writer should form a direction of the story to set the conclusion and dynamics. The character files, world-building notes and arc plots should be finalised and clearly communicated here by the main author to the co-author.
Aina and I took about 2 weeks to finalise things and tossed away many drafts, scraping many theories and pouring through many google images as part of our research during work lunch breaks. Yes, both of us are working adults so it took us longer to finalise shit.
In this stage, I would describe this more like a mentor-student dynamic because Aina was hearing a lot from me and learning my method of doing the planning from the start of a book to its end including things like character chemistry, consistency, pacing and plot development complexity.
If your co-writer is experienced, this step need not take too long. Never work with a co-writer who tells you they will wing it. From experience, any project with co-writers like this will flop because there is no commitment and clear understanding. Differences between writers tend to appear in between and if your co-writing partner cannot agree with your story direction, it's best not to start that project.
Aina and I did not agree at the very beginning and it was hard. We eventually found a middle ground and afterwards, I'd say things were manageable.
#2: Part Splitting
While it might not be completely necessary for some co-authors, especially books doing double POVs, Aina and I used different colours to mark out the parts that we are in charge of writing out the first draft. I used purple and Aina used orange so that we know who should start the new document after a chapter was finalised.
For us, we use red to mark out completed chapters in the outline file but you can choose to omit this if you have a better tracking system. Also, we use google drive to work on everything so that it is easily accessible. No, we do not use track changes. It was too painful on the eyes so we agreed to write in a different colour on the changes we made and leave comments as a marker.
For [The Mafia Boss is my Web Novel Fan!] Aina's role is mostly the romance development and main story flow. I am in put charge of writing the action scenes and bedroom scenes because that's how we can cover each other's back. Aina is in charge of titling everything and writing a chapter conclusion because I'm absolutely terrible at those. I'm in charge of smoothing things out and pacing them accordingly because Aina has difficulty in writing full scenes and her chapters usually never pass 1k without my heavy edits.
#3: First Drafting
So you've finished splitting parts and everyone is satisfied with their roles? Great! Now you can follow the plan and get to the first drafting.
In this stage, Aina and I did it chapter by chapter or scene by scene according to the level 3 plot outline. Sometimes a chapter had to be split into two and sometimes parts must be shifted to match the story's chronology.
My advice here? Don't speed write all your parts without waiting for your partner to write theirs because chances are, nothing you wrote before is going to be used as the both of you develop the story.
I know you might be eager to move on to the next chapter while inspiration is still flowing but please remember, you're not writing alone. This is a team effort and the team should only move as fast as the last man can run. If you're not a patient person, don't start a co-authoring project. If you're a person who struggles to keep up with deadlines, don't start a co-authoring project.
For Aina and I, we decided to finish 1 chapter each week. It's commitment and a decent pace for us working gals. Gotta bring in the money, you know?
#4: Content Feedback & Beta Reading
At this stage, Aina and I share a more editor-writer relationship. Normally, Aina will start the first draft as the majority of the story is her part with the exception of several arcs and scenes that I start off first.
The first thing I do when Aina tells me a new chapter is ready for my feedback, I put on my anti-glare glasses and read it as a reader, eager to enjoy the newest update from a writer I love. I leave comments at the side for Aina as a reader.
Then, I remove those glasses and start highlighting paragraphs at a time to leave professional comments as a more experienced writer offering pointers and my thoughts about how she could pace better or develop certain characters more to engage the reader. I'd send Aina a discord private message like 15 minutes later and let her know that there are changes to be made then give her a virtual hug of encouragement if there is a lot of rewriting to be done. Afterwhich, I leave it up to Aina to talk to the trees and listen to her cats for advice to rewrite the parts I marked out.
Sometimes, we get stuck because comments alone aren't enough to convey my thoughts to her understanding. Hence, we arrange a time over the weekends for a voice call to hash everything out before plotting the points to be written again. This process of content editing and rewriting may take anywhere from two times to eight times (till date I counted).
Remember to take a step back and breathe when you find it tiring. Aina often lets me know if she requires more time and I understand that. The 1 chapter a week deadline is a guideline. It isn't set in stone when things like this happen (and it can happen quite often enough if you're co-authoring with someone you've never worked with before).
#5: Line Editing & Proofreading
After everything in the content looks smooth to go, as the co-author (or the author who is not in charge of first drafting) I will help Aina to line edit and proofread as I go along the chapter, changing my text colour to purple where I sprinkle spices to her draft.
Then, I tell Aina to eyeball the garnished chapter from top to bottom one last time. If she's satisfied, it goes to the "Ready for Publishing" folder. If not, Aina comes back to me with comments at the side for more action, repeating steps 4 and 5 until we're both happy to pass it to our readers.
#6: Updating Character Profile & Master File
This section is optional. I know that sometimes Aina doesn't do this so I would add those details from the chapters we confirmed for her in her character profile master file. This is important for both authors in the future for easy reference. I also like to copy the individual confirmed chapter into a master manuscript folder so that I can use Ctrl + F to look for a particular event from memory that I foreshadowed maybe twenty chapters earlier.
#7: Marketing & Publishing
The battle isn't over once the chapter is written. You still have to publish it and advertise it to your readers. Aina and I split this simply. I don't want to interact with the Webnovel Community too much so Aina publishes it under her name.
At the same time, Aina is in charge of the contracts and book cover commissioning as the main author. She did run the design through with me and we discussed the best type of cover we wanted and the platforms to publish the book on.
Where Aina's work ends with publishing, my work begins on marketing. This blog you're reading, the Youtube channel featuring Aina and my co-authoring in the future, those social media posts, cross-posting of promo chapters on all my publishing platforms (the ones that I tested mentioned in the E-Fiction Platforms Review blog and formatting for a future kindle & paperback plus early Patreon reading? Yes, I do them all - advertising/marketing.
Co-authoring can be a lengthy process but like in a relationship, communication, chemistry and commitment are very important factors when choosing who you work with. I'm very happy to be writing with Aina and I hope after covid is over we can go on a writer's retreat together.