We have been writing together since 1998 when we wrote and published our first book. Since then we’ve written several business parables, screenplays, and now our long running fictional series, Onyx Webb. People ask us all the time how we manage to work together.
And how do we not kill each other? Here’s my advice on how to write together and stay married.
Have the same vision for the story.
If you have two writers who have different visions for a story, it’s probably time to split up – the story I mean, not the relationship! Maybe you both could take your visions in different directions and write two different books. But if you have the same vision for the story and the characters, then it will be far easier to collaborate. Since we have had exactly the same vision for Onyx Webb – through countless hours of discussion – we are all good here.
Someone has to take the lead.
We’ve tried it both ways and at least for us, it was far easier for someone to finally sit down at the computer and start the actual writing so that the voice stays the same. If you can go back and forth and each write a chapter then you have hit the co-writing jackpot. For us, we plot, talk through, and collaborate on every aspect of the scene but when words begin, Richard is the one to type. Then I get the red pen and edit everything he turns back to me on paper.
Respect each other’s ideas.
When you’re married this can be challenging because you have lost that polite phrasing you tend to use with friends. For example, there was the time I said, “There is no way in hell that we are doing that… ever.” I learned pretty quickly, this doesn’t engender happiness in your writing spouse. So we’ve gotten good at talking things out. How? For me, I learned to keep an open mind, truly listen and consider his ideas. Sometimes we do what we call, “marinate.” If there is an idea on the table and we aren’t sure what to do – we’ll put it aside for a couple days to see how we feel about it later. Marinating gives us the time and clarity we need to make a decision. Richard also has learned to accept my edits. There have been several times where I have slashed a scene to the bone – but he accepts 95% of it and we talk through the 5%.
So that’s my advice surviving writing together. Oh, and since Richard is the main writer, I make sure I feed him on regularly scheduled intervals and let him out to see the sun at least 30 minutes a day.