Writing as a Team

A couple weeks ago, someone in one of my Facebook writing groups posted a question about writing a manuscript with more than one person. I’m paraphrasing, but they were asking if it was possible and how it even worked.

To the first, I say “absolutely.” To the second, well, that depends on the two people. I don’t believe there is any one formula for writing successfully as a team, just as there’s no single answer for how to do so as an individual.

It took a couple years for Michael and me to really develop our process and rhythm. It’s still developing every day. Thanks to changes in our personal schedules or even the seasons or our moods, our rhythm as writing partners changes as well.

We’re currently in the midst of a first draft, so our rhythm runs something like this: Brainstorm together, sometimes even coming up with multiple possibilities, and create a cursory outline. I write the first draft. Michael reads, makes notes. We tweak and move on to the next section of the story, starting over again.

The process becomes far more involved with a lot of back-and-forth as we move into additional drafts until finally, we go through the last pre-editor draft together, hashing out exact phrasing and word choices.

It sounds smooth, but anyone who writes knows that writing is rarely smooth, and adding a second person tosses in even more bumps, including small arguments and the occasional general huffiness. Those challenges, though, are what makes the manuscript really come alive.

I see writing as a team not as a hassle, but as a huge bonus. When I run dry, I simply bother Michael. We often find problems in each other’s ideas before they become items to be reworked. (Rework sucks – you’ve already written a first draft and now you have to trash it and write another? Ugh!) We’re able to provide reasonable arguments to help one another kill our proverbial darlings when necessary. (And it is necessary.) We bring different perspectives to both the story and the characters’ development. In our stories, there are characters who are more “Amanda’s” or “Michael’s,” whose motivations, speech patterns and behaviors one of us understands better than the other.

Writing as a duo has brought to our storytelling a better level of character development and clarity than I’d known writing solo. It’s not for everyone, but it certainly has worked for us.