Posted On November 18, 2013 by Print This Post

8 Tips for a Successful Co-writing Partnership by Kelsey Browning

You’ve heard “Two heads are better than one,” “It takes two to tango” and countless similar sayings in praise of dynamic duos. When it comes to co-authoring a book, though, partnerships are not always made in heaven. Romance University co-founder KELSEY BROWNING offers eight tips to help you co-author successfully.

Earlier this month, Nancy Naigle and I released the first book—In For a Penny—in our co-written The Granny Series. Like most writers, I’ve heard the pros and cons (mostly cons) of co-authoring a book:

“Your voice will be diluted.”

“You’ll disagree over who has final creative say.”

“You won’t make as much money.”

As Lillian Summer Fairview from In For a Penny would say…phooey.

Honey, these are not your momma’s grannies… When Lillian Summer Fairview’s husband up and dies on her, it leaves the last living member of the most prestigious family in Summer Shoals, Georgia, in a hot mess. While Lil was busy being a proper Southern lady, Harlan squandered dang near the whole family fortune on lottery tickets. To keep her financial skeletons in the closet and give him a decent burial, Lil made a deal that has now landed her in prison. Desperate to keep her troubles a secret and the family estate from falling down while she pays her debt to society, Lil entrusts Summer Haven’s care to her best friend, Maggie, who recruits two more over-fifty ladies to live at Summer Haven and help keep it afloat.  But when Maggie discovers that Lil’s restitution is ten times the amount she “borrowed” from the federal government, she’s convinced Lil has taken the fall for someone else’s crime. And these gals will use every trick in their little-old-lady bags to prove it.

Honey, these are not your momma’s grannies…
When Lillian Summer Fairview’s husband up and dies on her, it leaves the last living member of the most prestigious family in Summer Shoals, Georgia, in a hot mess. While Lil was busy being a proper Southern lady, Harlan squandered dang near the whole family fortune on lottery tickets. To keep her financial skeletons in the closet and give him a decent burial, Lil made a deal that has now landed her in prison.
Desperate to keep her troubles a secret and the family estate from falling down while she pays her debt to society, Lil entrusts Summer Haven’s care to her best friend, Maggie, who recruits two more over-fifty ladies to live at Summer Haven and help keep it afloat.
But when Maggie discovers that Lil’s restitution is ten times the amount she “borrowed” from the federal government, she’s convinced Lil has taken the fall for someone else’s crime. And these gals will use every trick in their little-old-lady bags to prove it.

Nancy and I both have Type-A personalities. Neither of us goes along to get along. But we’ve made this co-writing experience not only work, but we’ve created a partnership that provides us both with joy. Today, I want to share with the RU crew 8 reasons our co-writing relationship is a winner.

1. We each have our own areas of expertise and talents. Nan is amazing with description and small town world-building. I’m a dialogue gal. She’s got more marketing and promo ideas than I can shake a stick at. I’m big on consistency, making sure our efforts have a certain look and feel.

2. We agreed on a process from the get-go. We write the books in Scrivener and the files stay in Dropbox. Before we began this project Nancy had never used Scrivener, but she agreed to try it. Turns out, she’s a fan even though she uses the PC version, while I use the all-the-bells-and-whistles Mac version.

3. We write at different times. Nan has a day job, so she tends to write at night. Since I have a son still at home, I’m usually done writing for the day by 3:30 pm. And oh, how I love opening the file in the morning to find a little elf has been in there overnight adding words!

4. We’re professional enough not to let our egos get in the way. We assume if the other person cuts words or moves things around, it’s for the good of the story and the reader. Do some of our babies get whacked? Sure, but we’ve both written enough books that our emotions aren’t involved in what stays and what goes.

5. We meet face-to-face for certain aspects of the process. We normally take a three-day weekend to plot the book. Then, we take another long weekend to put the initial draft framework on the page. One weekend, we wrote 37,000 (yep, that’s thousands) words by doing 20-minute sprints. Those words formed the rough, rough draft of what was to become a 72k-word book. It was a blast because we’d write and then spend five minutes sharing our favorite lines. How often do you get to do that when writing by yourself? (Okay, we all talk to ourselves, but it’s even more fun with a partner!)

6. We communicate almost daily. In addition to being writing partners, we’re also business partners on this series. That doesn’t mean we’re joined at the hip on everything—we each have our own projects. But we understand the importance of continued communication and an ongoing to-do list.

7. We have a shared culture. Although this might not be a requirement for most co-writing partnerships, it was for ours because The Granny Series is set in the South. Nancy’s a native Virginian, while I’m originally from Texas. There’s just enough difference in our southern heritages to make things interesting, but we both get the people, the humor, the cadence of the language.

8. We have mutual respect and trust. This one isn’t negotiable. We have to respect each other’s writing ability and ideas. We have to trust the other will always do what she’s promised to do. But we give each other a break when something small falls through the cracks or one of us needs to pick up the slack for the other. To me, co-writing is much like a marriage. We’re in it for the long-haul (The Granny Series will include at least five books), and so we’re willing to put in the work and effort required to make this partnership last!

Partnering with Nancy on The Granny Series has been one of the highlights of my writing career so far. I hope she’d say the same.:-)

Kelsey is giving away an ebook of PERSONAL ASSETS to one lucky commenter.

Book one of the Texas Nights series “A hot man, a headstrong woman, and sizzling chemistry set against a homey Texas backdrop—Browning’s contemporary debut has all the assets that count!”

Book one of the Texas Nights series
“A hot man, a headstrong woman, and sizzling chemistry set against a homey Texas backdrop—Browning’s contemporary debut has all the assets that count!”

***

Have you written with a partner? If so, how did it work for you? If not, would you consider it in the future?

Wednesday’s guest is author and agent, LOIS WINSTON.

***

Bios:
Kelsey_Browning_-_Headshot (1)
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ love stories and Southern cozy suspense. Originally from a small Texas town, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. She’s currently at work on the next book in her Texas Nights contemporary romance series and The Granny Series. For info on her upcoming single title releases, drop by www.KelseyBrowning.com.

nancy1
Nancy Naigle writes love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, Nancy now calls a small farm in southern Virginia home. She’s currently at work on the next book in her Adams Grove series and The Granny Series. Stay in touch with Nancy on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to her newsletter on her website ~ www.NancyNaigle.com.

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30 Responses to “8 Tips for a Successful Co-writing Partnership by Kelsey Browning”

  1. Hey, y’all – so glad to be on my “home turf” today chatting about co-writing a series. Feel free to ask me questions about our process.

    Happy Monday!
    Kels

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 7:37 am
  2. Good morning, Kels! Love the Grannies. And all I’m saying is there’s a toilet bowl scene that’s priceless!

    I agree with you on writing with a partner. I’m co-writing a series with Misty Evans and I have loved the experience.

    I do think people need to choose their writing partners wisely. Thankfully, Misty and I work really well together so it’s made life much easier. Communication is key. It’s a partnership and if one of the partners is not in agreement, I could see where things would get tough.

    Great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 18, 2013, 7:57 am
    • Yeah, Adrienne. I think you either know if you click or if you don’t. I would say if you’re co-writing with someone and it starts to chafe early on, you might as well get out because it’s probably not going to get better.

      But if you find the right partner? Goldmine!

      Thanks for popping in,
      K-

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 9:30 am
  3. Morning Kelsey!

    Happy to see you! =) And I’m glad to hear your writing is going so well! Congrats!

    37K words in one weekend? That’s amazing….

    Best of luck with your granny series – it looks like a blast!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 18, 2013, 8:53 am
    • Thanks, Carrie. We’ve had a ton of fun with it, and readers are already asking for #2 :-). We’ve enjoyed finding out which bits are readers’ favorites – seems like the “toilet flume” one is a hit.

      Thanks for having me today!
      K-

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 9:31 am
  4. Thanks for this great post, Kelsey! I read IN FOR A PENNY over the weekend, and I’m hooked! I know my mom will like it, too. (She loves mysteries, but nothing too scary.) Do you have approximate release dates for the next book(s) in the series? Count me in!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 18, 2013, 9:47 am
    • Thanks, Becke! All I can tell you right now is sometime in 2014 for book #2. Nan and I are discussing timing now. I have three single title releases in 2014, so it’s gonna be a fabulous and crazy year!

      So hope your mom enjoys the story too!

      As for Maggie, you’ll definitely see more of her in book 2. I think one reason I love this series so much is that we’ll continue to see growth from all the grannies in each book, even if it’s just incremental!

      K-

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 11:52 am
  5. Hi Kelsey and Nancy,

    I’ve read Personal Assets and Sweet Tea and Secrets. Loved them! Looking forward to the Grannies!

    Good luck,

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 18, 2013, 9:49 am
  6. Favorite parts? I think my favorite is the way Lillian adapts to her new environment at “camp.”

    And the scene with the nasty, smelly coins in the tub (and the carpet mites) is another winner.

    Will we get more of Maggie’s story in book 2?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 18, 2013, 9:52 am
  7. What a fascinating post about co-writing! It has seemed rather challenging to try to match ‘culture’, values, styles… You make it sound very do-able. And I haven’t read any of your books yet (smacks wrist), so I’m off to go get me a copy! Cheers.

    Posted by Celia Lewis | November 18, 2013, 11:38 am
    • Celia -

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree that finding that shared culture and values can be a challenge. That being said, I found a core support group early on. When I meet other people through them (as I did Nancy), it makes everything a little more organic.

      Nan & I don’t mesh completely in style, which is why these books are a little different from either of our single titles. But that’s also the benefit of it–going outside our zones a little.

      Hope you enjoy whichever of the books you decide to pick up.

      Best,
      Kelsey

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 11:56 am
  8. Hi Kelsey,

    Love the title “In For a Penny”!

    I haven’t collaborated with anyone. I think I’m too much of a control freak. But I appreciate how having a co-writer could keep me motivated and inspired.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 18, 2013, 2:41 pm
  9. This is my second co-writing experience. My first was with Phyllis Johnson on a young adult suspense called inkBLOT. That was a real joy, too, which made it easy for me to jump in on the chance to be a part of another co-authoring endeavor.

    I echo Kelsey’s feelings about our partnership. It’s a match made in southern writer-girl heaven!

    The one thing I can say that was an element in both of my co-written projects was a passion for the story.

    inkBLOT was Phyllis Johnson’s brainchild. She’d told me about the idea of a story based on an internet inkblot quiz gone bad and I fell in love with the idea. For five years I hounded her. “Have you written it yet?” Until finally, she said, “Want to do this together?” I pounced on the idea. A year later we had a novel, and it’s been selling ever since.

    Kelsey and I came up with our idea for THE GRANNY SERIES while rooming together at a conference a couple years ago. I was SO in love with the concept that there was no way I could shake it from my brain. The cool thing is that even as we got through the process and into the multiple edits and reviews — whenever we talk about the grannies and future projects i still get just as charged up as I was that first day.

    I hope you’ll stick with us through the whole series, because we have some great stories to tell on “the grannies” behalf!

    Hugs and happy reading~
    Nancy

    Posted by Nancy Naigle | November 18, 2013, 3:14 pm
    • Nan, the truth is…you just get around ;-).

      Seriously, I think some people are able to collaborate with other people easily (you) and then some (me) just happen to find the right person and the right idea.

      I could probably collaborate with any of my CPs because I know they respect my writing and I respect theirs. Then again, I’d like them to stay my friends… :-)

      K-

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 5:07 pm
  10. Enjoyed that post. It is fun learning the “behind the scenes” of authors and writing. You guys both seemed organized and great personalities that you can make it work. What I want to know is how did you guys come up with the idea for the series but to work together? Why this match instead of working with another author (depending on how the idea came about)?

    Posted by Amy R | November 18, 2013, 3:57 pm
    • Amy –

      Thanks for popping in! Well, this whole thing started with a good ole bout of Southern storytelling. We weren’t really brainstorming a story idea at the time. We were just telling stories and making each other laugh. But this concept of a 60 or 70-something year old woman in prison stuck with us.

      So really, there was never a chance of writing the series with someone else because it all fell together over a late night conversation in Chicago!

      K-

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 18, 2013, 5:09 pm
  11. Like Nancy Naigle said, we had a blast writing inkBLOT together. (pen name- Johnson Naigle) We emailed it back and forth for a year and a half. It was always fun to get it back and see what new and clever things Nancy had added. Her strength was dialogue and detail. Mine was editing, tightening up, story ideas and concepts. Writing a book together was one of the most fun things I’ve done as a writer and I’ve written for newspapers, magazines, done food pieces and human interest stories as well as the six books I have written. I have to say that co-writing was the most enjoyable venture to date. I’m sure Kelsey has enjoyed working with Nancy as much as I did. Hopefully one day inkBLOT will have a sequel. Readers have been asking for one. Time will tell. Looking forward to the Granny series.

    Posted by Phyllis Johnson | November 18, 2013, 8:57 pm
    • Thanks for stopping by, Phyllis!

      Nancy just has a knack for this co-writing thing, doesn’t she? Probably because she’s so patient and kind (and take charge :-) ). I bet she’ll have a few more co-writing experiences over her career.

      Me? It would take the right person again!

      Kelsey

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | November 19, 2013, 6:48 am
  12. Kels, this is great work…an inspiration to some of us. We need to learn to work as a team. By accepting other people’s styles, we can learn to respect one another.

    Writing cannot be learnt within a short time. It requires a life-long time. It is a process and one is never satisfied. So we learn better from a diversity of experiences.Ideas from different people can help advance success.

    Co-working on a piece of writing can bring about overwhelming results. It is extremely good to learn different cultures.

    I have enjoyed post!

    Posted by Benson Masambah | November 20, 2013, 7:43 am
  13. Having collaborated on some books, I’d say the biggest thing is trust. Especially each other’s expertise. You can’t question the other person too far in their area. Trust that they will deliver.

    Posted by Bob Mayer | November 25, 2013, 3:50 pm
  14. This is a FANTASTIC list, ladies. I’ve been playing with the possibility of a couple collaborations and you’ve got me thinking in much more concrete, specific terms.

    RU for the win! :)

    Posted by Damon Suede | November 27, 2013, 10:17 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] “You’ve heard “Two heads are better than one,” “It takes two to tango” and countless similar sayings in praise of dynamic duos. When it comes to co-authoring a book, though, partnerships are not always made in heaven.”  […]

  2. […] book, right? K.M. Weiland shares the top 25 ways to write an awesome book; Kelsey Browning lists 8 tips for s successful co-writing partnership; and Jill Kemerer tells us how to stay motivated to hit your word […]

  3. […] Kelsey Browning, co-author of the book In for a Penny written with Nancy Naigle, talks about the collaborative process here. […]

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