Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Secrets of Kidlit: Co-Writing

Sometimes, writing can be a real pain. Am I right? The deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise). The isolation. The lack of ideas.

When I’m feeling this way I could really use a muse. Or a drill sergeant. Or…

A co-writer.

Yes, a co-writer! Having someone who is just as invested in the project as you can be a great motivator!

Dan Lollis and I work together professionally. He’s an 8th grade LA teacher and I’m a school counselor. We also make up our school’s advisement team, scripting, performing, etc. in several productions to teach academic and social skills to our students. So teaming up to write a MG novel seemed like a natural next step.

I’ve invited Dan to Kidliterati today to help make the case for co-writing.

Welcome, Dan!

So what was the best part of co-writing SUMMER BY THE SLICE, besides getting to work with me?

Dan: That was challenging—I mean rewarding. But you’re actually right. The best parts of co-writing all stem from the benefits of collaboration. And co-writing is fun! We were able to bounce ideas back and forth, mold our story and characters, and share ideas. I listen to a lot of podcasts focused on televisions shows. Some of the most insightful ones detail the collaboration that happens in the writers’ room, and how these creative people “break” stories and help each other in every step of the writing process. Our collaboration on SUMMER felt this way. It also provided built-in accountability. On the days I wasn’t motivated, I still had to sit down and write, or revise, or read and provide feedback. You were counting on me to do my part. And vice versa.

Dana: I think the best part of co-writing is having someone to blame. Wait, I mean, having someone to share the ups and downs of the path to publication. It can be brutal. The querying, The waiting. The rejections. But as co-writers, we have an encouraging partnership to revise and do it all over again.

 Do you think co-writing improved your writing in any way? 

Dan: Our co-writing experience absolutely made me a better writer. Obviously, we had to outline and plan SUMMER from start to finish. And I had to be more aware of pacing and voice. But the biggest improvement came in the revising. Not only did I grow and learn to provide better feedback, but I was also able to take your feedback and make meaningful changes—often before I moved on to the next chapter. This immediate critique partner setup helped me focus on adding emotional conflict and strengthen our story.  

Dana: I agree. We had a unique partnership where I would lean on you to add more humor in my chapters, and I helped you add more emotional resonance. You gave me the line, “But when it came to Dad’s get-rich experiments, we were lucky he hadn’t burned down the trailer park or turned us into mutants.” It’s still one of my favorites in the manuscript.

Were there challenges with the co-writing process?

Dan: Because we co-wrote from two different POVs, we had to figure out the best way to mesh our styles and make sure that they fit and worked for the story we wanted to tell. That same accountability that provides benefit can also be a challenge by causing some stress to be sure we didn’t let each other down. Then there’s always doubt. Is my writing as good as yours?

Dana: Aw, now I feel bad about saying I liked blaming you.

Would you do it again?

Dan: I loved writing SUMMER with you. I would absolutely co-write another book with you. The positive aspects and benefits far outweigh the difficulties. I might even change my last name, so it can go first on the title page.

Dana: I'd definitely write with you again, but Dana will always come before Dan. I mean, beauty before brains. Wait!

 SUMMER BY THE SLICE was chosen for Brenda Drake’s PitchWars 2017. It received a few requests and we’re now revising in hopes of having it published someday.

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