Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How Do Two People Write a Book?


Since Kay is dreaming about this, I figured we'd better address this topic. How do two people write a book?

Every situation is different. And experience has taught me a few things over the years. Plus, fiction is different from nonfiction.

I've written three novels with a non-writing partner. He was a perfect gentleman, and he did provide ideas and research material for the plot. But when you're sitting in your room alone, sweating over each word and pushing to get the third draft in by a deadline, writing with a non-writing partner begins to feel . . . not fun. Because I didn't like the way such projects made me feel, I have decided that if I ever write another novel with someone else, the other person has to actually WRITE half of the book. My personal conviction.

Bill Myers and I wrote a novella called "Then Comes Marriage." It's a look back at a couple's first year together, and the chapters alternate-- the man's POV, then the wife's, etc. Bill wrote all the man chapters, I wrote the woman chapters. A true partnership. And lots of fun to write.

Lori Copeland and I wrote the five books of the Heavenly Daze series together. Since she lives in Missouri and I live in Florida, we knew we needed an organized method that wouldn't require constant "checking-in" with each other. So in each book, each of us took one house and its inhabitants, then wrote one story each. We were careful to tag scenes with dates and times so that our stories could be slotted together. When each of us were finished with our stories, we put them together. Lori would either come to my house or I'd go to hers, and we'd go through the book together one more time, adding funny lines as they came to us. A lot of lovely serendipity going on there. :-) Two heads can be better than one.

Now . . . when it comes to nonfiction, like my books with Heather Whitestone McCallum, Mandisa, or Deanna Favre, what I usually do is write up the "celebrity's" story. Often I have to add materials or write scenes using fiction techniques. Of course, I send what I've written to my partner, asking them to correct details I may have gotten wrong (since I wasn't there), and asking questions like, "Who else was present? What were you thinking? What were you feeling?"

Finally, we put the book together, and when we're both happy with it, we send it in to our editor. How much I have to add depends entirely on the other person, but I often add quite a bit in reference or supporting materials. Anything that's footnoted usually comes from my library. :-)

I usually try to remain "invisible" so I don't detract from the story being told, but sometimes I need to reveal myself. For instance, I thought it was important to talk about unanswered prayers for healing in Deanna's book on breast cancer, but Deanna didn't feel comfortable talking about heavy theological issues. So in those places, I wrote something like, "My co-writer, Angela Hunt, points out that . . . etc." But those situations are the exception, not the rule.

I used to do ghostwriting . . . until I decided that the practice wasn't really ethical. You would probably be amazed to learn how many celebrities don't write their own books. But what does it cost anyone to admit they had help writing a book? If a laborer is worthy of his hire, he's also worthy of a byline. To ignore the writer demeans the hard work so many writers do.

And, as Dr. Mabry said, I'm getting a nosebleed from the height of this soapbox! (Loved that line!)

Hope that answers your questions and eases your nightmares, Kay.

And I have to confess--my gadget lust has induced me to get an iPhone. The little darling is sitting here, all hooked up to my computer . . . it's a Total Toy.

~~Angie

6 comments:

mrseagen said...

I have a friend that is an author and I've often joked with her that my life and her writing skills would go well together, I can tell it I just am clueless about how to write it.

I'm a few chapters into Idol Eyes and I love Mandisa, this book is just filling in the blanks on why I love her :)

Richard Mabry said...

Angie,
First, I'm glad you liked my "nosebleed" line when I got on my soapbox about praise songs. Secondly, what was your source for that absolutely wonderful sign? We need those in Texas, where most freeways remain under permanent and eternal repair.

As for writing with a co-author, the only book I've truly co-written was a textbook I did with my late wife, Cynthia, and even that tested the strength of our marriage. I can't imagine writing fiction with a co-author.

Thanks, as always, for your posts.

Patti Goldbach said...

Just got your Summer Update. I agree with your anomynous reader, Elevator was so-o-o good. Have since read a couple books by other Christian authors and while their books were good, they just didn't have the "meat" that yours do. Your books just make me feel I'm a part of the story. I like for my husband to be out of town when I start because nothing gets done until the book is finished. While I can survive on a tube of Ritz and a diet Pepsi, that's not his idea of dinner.

Also, I've preordered the two books and was so hoping they would arrive before our October trip to Maui but even with 2-day, Amazon says it will be Oct 31. Guess I'll have to find something else to read on those long flights. :-(

Kay said...

I haven't read any of the Heavenly Daze books yet. I'll have to now, and see if I can tell which parts you wrote.
Thanks for answering my questions! I can sleep peacefully now. Maybe.

Just the mention of Flowers for Algernon brings a tear to me eye.

Kathy said...

I just started Elevator last night--it was dark and stormy--a perfect atmostphere, but then my kids all showed up because their events had been cancelled. I can tell you are really going to get these three women in trouble : )

aviatrix???? funny. i never would have thot of this word.

Linda G said...

At the October 2005 Dazer Reunion in Branson, Lori talked about how the two of you wrote the Heavenly Daze books together. Many of us were very surprised to find out that you had written most of the funny sections that we asked about.
I remember asking about Olympia's
"detour" to her funeral. I was sure that Lori had written it, but no, it was Angie!