This month’s question in our Ask Bethany House series is about the early part of the writing process, often before editors work on a manuscript: “How do authors co-author a book?”
Just like you won’t get the same answer if you ask two different authors how they write a solo novel, the process for co-writing varies widely. To get a comprehensive answer, I chatted with three pairs of collaborators about their recent novels.
Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse usually work together in the brainstorming process, then trade off the manuscript for next stages. To start out, Tracie writes a long, detailed synopsis, then Kim writes a rough first draft. Tracie takes over to add sections and make changes to the plot, and then Kim and Tracie exchange it a few more times for final edits before turning in the completed manuscript.
Of their early brainstorming sessions, Kim says, “In emails we will change the color of our font for each response so we can follow the flow of ideas. Each book, we’ve had about forty pages of notes once I print them all out!” Their latest co-written novel is Beyond the Silence.
Beverly Lewis and her husband Dave approached their co-writing process differently for Child of Mine: while they also brainstormed and edited together, Beverly wrote all of the sections from the point of view of the heroine, and Dave wrote the sections from the point of view of the hero. One of the central characters is an Amish nanny, appealing to Beverly’s fans, but the story overall was more of a family drama with a mystery threaded throughout—and more than a few plot twists, something Beverly credits Dave for adding to the novel.
In 2014, Janette Oke came out of retirement to write a new series, Return to the Canadian West, with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. It follows the characters of the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart, though not the plot of the episodes.
When I asked them what they enjoyed most about working as a mother-daughter team, Janette said, “First of all, it gave me the wonderful excuse to spend more time with Laurel—which I always enjoy. It is always interesting how working together encourages and stimulates creativity. Ideas feed ideas. A dimension of fun is added to the task of writing.”
And from Laurel, “I definitely also enjoyed more visits and phone calls with Mom, but also a chance to work through the creative process with such a successful writer. I particularly like the way she develops her characters.”
There are probably many more processes that could be used for writing a book with another person. In some ways, it’s easier, in others, much more challenging. The end result of a great collaboration is always the same, though: happy readers!
What’s a co-written book (recent or classic) that you loved?