My mom. Also my co-author, and the crafty human who gave me the writing genes. She and I decided that it would be a shame NOT to write a book together, what with our combined literary prowess and DNA-bolstered synergy. We decided the best way to give you a good idea of our experience would be to kind of just...interview ourselves. It's appropriately awkward. Enjoy!
I am in blue.
Mom is in gray.
EILEENSo the above conversation pretty much sums up how we worked together as writers. We instant messaged a lot while we collaborated, and the little bit of lag time in an instant message is just enough to highlight how weirdly in sync our minds could be.
Initially when we decided to write a book together we had the luxury of an unfortunate back surgery to assist us.
ALYSSAYes, you’re welcome. I broke my back, and my mother had to fly out to Idaho to take care of my children and me.
EILEENShe’s a method writer. She likes to really FEEL the pain of a story. So anyway, her disc exploded and I flew out to make sure no one died while she scheduled surgery and recuperated. No one died. I was successful. And we also got to hash out the details.
ALYSSAYou can’t squander a writing opportunity. And initially, Mom came up with this idea. I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t 100% on board at first. I was excited by the idea of writing with her, but paranormal is not a genre I would have picked on my own. Fortunately, we’re awesome, and we picked it up pretty quickly.
EILEENI would like to point out how excruciating I made the whole planning process. But Alyssa knew that for this collaboration to work we couldn’t just do a chapter-by-chapter approach. So she tortured me with poster board, a whiteboard in the BYU library, and other stuff. There were scraps of paper and crayons. I think our next step was playdough. So I could feel creative.
ALYSSAI still have those poster boards.
We’re actually very different writers, and I think that is what made this work. I like to plan things out, and she likes to go by feel. So if I forced her to lay out a framework, she was able to fill it in with her genius. And she came up with the whole idea of the book to begin with.
EILEENShe keeps saying that but it was an equal collaboration. Her voice is truly so much fun to read and it’s so fresh. I loved reading her chapters.
ALYSSAPerk of writing with your mother. You get showered with compliments every time you fart (haha! I should correct you but I’m laughing.) out a few words. It’s brilliant. So okay, there were positives because we like each other. What was hard about co-writing a book?
EILEENWell, the planning. I’ll just keep repeating that. Finding our way through the story. Actually, it was incredibly easy to write off each other. I especially loved the scenes where you would write Morgan and I would write Jack. I loved not having to figure out what she would say. Because I could never voice her the way you did.
ALYSSAThat was really cool. If we had time to write together, the scenes always felt more authentic. Although I will say it took a lot of getting used to because I never had anyone WATCH me write things. That’ll put hair on your writer chest.
EILEENThat is SO true. There was no comfort zone, really. We’ve seen each other’s work in all the stages, from raw to polished to corny to flat to cheesy to anything in-between. Oh, and don’t forget the dreaded “unintentionally humorous.”
ALYSSASo embarrassing! It definitely toughened me up a little bit. And we wrote in Google+ Documents so that we could both have access to the same document at all times. Thank goodness for that.
EILEENWe would read each other’s chapters out loud so we could ferret out all the stuff that needed work.
ALYSSAOh, it was so painful sometimes. Like I’d have to brace myself sometimes before we started reading a chapter out loud. “Please be good, please don’t have something stupid in there…” And this is with my mom, the woman who thinks everything I do should win the Pulitzer. I can’t imagine doing it with someone even more harsh than that. Not that she went easy on me...
EILEENThere is something about hearing your written prose coming out of someone else’s mouth that is terrifying. For some reason we would always start out with a silly conversation and then put on our serious writer’s hats and jump in. Late Night Alyssa is always the best (Oh Late Night Alyssa is not at all productive. But she is fun). After a bunch of LOL-ing we would start a sentence like, “The night deepened as her grief set in.” Or whatever. That’s not a real sentence, but you get the picture. We wouldn’t even be in the mood, just going in cold. Scary.
ALYSSAI was more harsh, I think. COMMA POLICE. But for real, if you want to measure the readability of your work, have someone else read it out loud.
EILEENSpeaking of commas, <cough> we definitely complimented each other’s strengths and weakesses. She’s got this great, young, descriptive voice.
ALYSSAIn other words, I’m very wordy, and she’s more succinct. So she pared me down a lot, which was very useful. And I helped with her comma phobia. (What is it you have against those little guys anyway?)
EILEENWe have to use them sparingly. We might run out. So I’m like the exploding action flick and she’s the rom-com. It turned out to be a great combination.
ALYSSABecause both are good in a Young Adult novel, I think. And as well as we seem to get along NO YOU DID NOT just start writing the same thing I was going to.
We can’t even put this in order because we wrote it simultaneously, but we both came up with the next line of thought at the same time. We’re not making this up.
ALYSSAWe’re really not. So as WE were saying, as well as we get along, there were still lots of arguments. This woman. People, if ever there was one writer obsessed with constantly rewriting things, it is my mother. She was constantly calling or sending me messages like, “I came up with a totally different but still awesome plot!! We need to rewrite EVERYTHING!”
EILEENAnd she would always get really excited and offer to make them immediately (har har!). I just like options. I want to make sure that out of the hundred different paths, we’re on the most epic, awesome one possible. But she would get all angsty, like I had just asked her to clean her room when she wanted to go hang out with her friends or something.
ALYSSADUDE it was like every other day you wanted to change the integrity of the novel we had already written. It may have, if I’m being honest, been laziness that kept me from accepting every plot change she came up with. But still. We had a few disagreements on that issue, but we worked through it in the end.
EILEENI mean, she may not love me enough to clean my dentures when I’m in a nursing home but we made it through. We’re both really stubborn and I’m a little crazy...there must be a better word...I’m uh...a free thinker, fearless, and unafraid of...changing stuff.
ALYSSASo I think this is where we come up with a conclusion to this experience. Go ahead Mom. What’s your conclusion on writing a book with another author?
EILEENI would never write a book with another author unless it was my daughter. We’re bizarrely inside each other’s thoughts at times and then completely at odds but at the core of it all is this squishy love that keeps it all together. And it was incredibly fun and rewarding. It’s been one of my favorite life journeys so far!
Go ahead. Top that.
ALYSSAThat’s not even fair. I should have gone first. I have to agree that I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else...even my husband. We have a brainwave going on that allowed us to collaborate the way we needed to. I can’t imagine how other co-authors do it, but for us, it was all about having similar taste, but different styles. And that came together even better than I thought it would. Plus all the squishy love stuff too.
EILEENOoh. Well said. You win.
ALYSSASo because this is a blog post, we would be happy to take any questions on what it was like to co-author a book. It was a really rewarding, slightly insane endeavor, but in the end it was completely worth it. Because Plane Walker is legit. Seriously.
EILEENReally, that is the best way to describe it. Throw away your useless thesaurus. It’s legit. Good job, honey. You rock.
No, Mom. YOU rock. And I hope that this gave you Auchward readers a glimpse into the experience of co-authoring a book. I'll be doing a part two to this topic, which will be Tips for Co-Authoring a Book. In case you decided you were as nutty as we are and wanted to jump on the dual author train.