Updated: May 9
Writing is a never-ending journey of learning. Recently, I had the opportunity to co-write a book with someone for the first time! Meet Aina Wang, my fellow writer pal who calls me 'mommy' for some odd reason :/ (Update: It's because she wanted me to sing her free lullabies whenever I live stream lmao)
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Like all ambitious people, I have a long list of things I want to do before I die. My bucket list is a huge mess of dreams and in one particular category, I have my writer's bucket list.
I didn't think it would be possible to cross off anything from my writer's bucket list but I somehow did, with the potential of crossing out one more after covid improves and the borders open globally.
One of my wishes and dreams as a writer is to collaborate with another writer, preferably a friend, on a book. Co-writing isn't new to me. However, there has never been a fiction co-writing project on my writer's professional resume because of conflicts between creators. Every writer has an ego and it isn't easy collaborating on a creative masterpiece.
Long ago, I tried collaborating with a great friend who was an artist to create manga. It failed spectacularly and we never talked for seven years after that because of life. Now, she designs my book covers even if we've put the manga collaboration project on indefinite hiatus. Some of you might already know the name Krustallos if you read Time Cross Academy and Godfather World.
Aina was someone I met through Webnovel's author discord server and she frequents my live streams, adopting me as her mommy for some reason. I didn't really think we would be working on a collaborated work when I first met her because I didn't really know her as a person.
However, I saw that she updated her discord status one day (she's in my discord server) that she was having some difficulty writing a story that she entered in one of Webnovel's Writing Prompt Competition with a Mafia Theme.
For anyone who knew me when I was 15 years old, you'd know that I never grew out of my obsession with crime and mafia. It all started with Hitman Reborn and till today, I've never had the courage to write the crime-themed books I loved so much. I just didn't have the courage to challenge it yet because I'm still inadequate as a writer, my skills are too humbled for such a great masterpiece.
One writer's dilemma is another writer's opportunity. Thus, I slid into her DMs on discord like the suave boss bitch I am and offered to write the Mafia parts of her story. For anyone who stalks my writing profile, you'd know that I'm not a fan of writing romance unless it has no pussy in it.
As a very adored writer idol figure of Aina's, I wasn't rejected (much to my happiness) for a collab project. That was the starting point for everything chaotic.
You know how they say how you don't really know the kind of person you date unless you marry and live with them? Starting the collab project with Aina was similar. I was in for a real culture shock.
Initially, I thought that all writers were kind of nerdy. However, I failed to realise that there was more than one kind of nerd in this world because my geeky friend circle irl were all geeks of OCDness. Aina was a different kind of nerdy species, leaning towards artistic chaos.
Here are some of the more amusing things that I received Aina's permission to share with y'all about behind the scenes of how writers work.
Aina vs Aitsuji #1 - Character Profiles
Any good reader of my works might know the Ball of Nothing Character Profile I make available for all to view. It was meant to be free access information for fans of my work to use for the purpose of creating fan fiction, fan art and fan wiki.
I typically keep it simple for more freedom in detailing later unless it was mentioned in the previous chapters.
Here's something from Aina that really opened my eyes to the world.
When I saw this, I immediately became ashamed at how boring my behind the scenes look like. I had no idea you can use celadon to describe someone's eye colour. I worked in Melissa Zakka before and I sold Merlion Celadon Tea Cups to hotels. Yet, it did not occur to me to paint the world so vividly.
Note: This is not sponsored by Melissa Zakka. I'm just really grateful for the care that Makino-san and his wife showed me while I was a staff. The covid period hit them very badly and I just do what I can to repay that kindness in a way only I know how.
Aina used Google Slides to do her character profile and planning (which honestly is a very smart move) while I stuck to Google Words. No wonder my brother keeps scolding me for abusing computers! After trying to load 300 pages in one manuscript in google drive, my old computer died on me. If I learned Aina's trick, it would have saved me so much trouble back in the years.
Aina vs Aitsuji #2 - Outlining & Concept
We spent the longest at this stage over a discord call of bad internet connection and many "Hello, can you hear me?" moments. However, we eventually sorted out the goal and ideas after a week.
After which, I realised that there was a huge gap in idea delivery and planning execution.
Normal Aitsui's OCD and INTJ style of outlining:
If anyone is interested in my highly efficient 3 level outlining process, I will be covering it in future blogs. Might do a vlog or live stream about this but I don't really know yet.
Meanwhile, this is Aina's style in ppt when we first started (P.S. she's INFJ):
I've never been more impressed by the use of flow charts. I mean honestly, it looks visually appealing but after 10 slides of such things, I gave up trying to understand what was happening. I just consulted Aina again over another call to get what I needed to work on. Sorry, Aina! I was never a very good mindmap kind of person. The only time I used flow charts was for company meetings presenting the new company internal Claim Management System and approval line.
Aina vs Aitsuji #3 - Writing Style & Concept
This has to be the most challenging part. Like every married couple who found out little things about each other after living together, we had to learn to adapt and accept each other's unique style and delivery. Writers who try to restrict or stifle another writer's growth are toxic writers. They're not there to help you, they're there to make your life miserable. Stay away from those kinds of people!
I thought I was being rather harsh with all my inputs but Aina was a dear and looked at everything seriously, taking in my lengthy comments and suggestion to work on many revisions until the chapter was satisfactory for both of us. below is an example of how we worked behind the scenes on a chapter.
For the first time, I felt a sense of assurance when creating a story. With Aina's help and new perspectives, we spent a lot of time bouncing possibilities and what I lacked, Aina helped to tackle. For instance, I was never good with romance or concluding a chapter on a cliffy. Aina was brilliant at those.
On the other hand, Aina looked at my comments as both a beta reader and mentor to learn more technical skills in writing to improve our collab project. For someone who only started writing about a year ago, I'm very happy that Aina came this far without formal education in literature or creative writing.
Not going to lie, writing with Aina with this level of communication to iron out everything down to the finest detail could take us 2-3 days per chapter. However, the end product is satisfactory.
Aina's favourite colour is orange. My favourite colour is purple.
Collaborating on a book could be really fun with the right partner. I had several other collab projects that never took off simply because nobody wanted to put in effort creating or writing. They simply wanted to be the ones with their names on the front cover while offering 'editing' services for something someone else wrote.
Basically, anyone who only plays critique and completely removes or alters what everyone else wrote in a collab project is a terrible co-writer. Never work with them, it's better to write your own book.
Aina is a blessing I'm glad to have around and through the process, I've learned as much as I have given. I don't know when she will be updating the book but I hope that by the time this blog is out, you could see the final product of our efforts. P.S. It might be a paperback so please support Aina and stalk her social media accounts for the latest news!
In my next blog, I will delve into the more technical details about how we work so don't forget to subscribe for email alerts for my latest blogs or join my discord server so you don't miss it!