Pay It Forward · Writing

Guest Post: Abby L. Vandiver

Coauthoring a Book

by Abby L. Vandiver

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Remember the Biblical story depicting the wisdom of King Solomon? The story goes that two women each laid claim to one child. Solomon using his great wisdom, ferreted out the true mother. He called out for someone to bring him a sword so he could “cut the baby in half,” and each would then have a “part of the child.” The real mother of course protested, saying she’d rather lose the child to the other woman than to see it killed. Most authors call their book, their “baby.” And certainly, like any caring parent, wouldn’t want to see any harm come to it, including copyright infringement, bad reviews or being cut in half. But what happens when two authors can truly lay claim to half of the book being their “baby”?

Coauthoring a book can be fun. It can help make you become a better writer and, make for writing a book that is twice as good. That’s because it draws from two people honed in their craft – it is the sharing of ideas, knowledge, style and creativity. When you decide to coauthor a book, you have to enter it with your eyes wide open because now you have to come out of that secluded room you secret yourself away in to write, and share your thoughts and your writing processes with someone else. And boy did we learn a lot in our experience.

Like the characters, Beanie and Liddie, in our book, At the End of the Line, Kathryn Dionne and I have never met in person. We found each other’s books on Goodreads, they were a similar genre and caught the other’s attention. We started messaging there, moved over to writing emails, then talking on the telephone. And just like the characters in our book, we became friends. Kathryn lives in San Diego, I live in Cleveland, so we just can’t meet for lunch, still we decided to “get together” and write a book. It was Kathryn’s idea. And what a great idea it turned out to be.

Along the way we of course had hiccups. We were always sure about how the story would go, but certainly each one of us had a different opinion on how to get there. For instance, I work better under pressure (doing everything at the last minute). Kathryn, like most normal people, likes to have specified time and a schedule to do things and not feel rushed. She constantly asked me, “Where are your chapters?” She likes colons, semi-colons and exclamation marks, and I think those things have no place in a book. Logic, or lack thereof, is so obvious to me that it smacks me in the face. Kathryn, on the other hand, smacks it away. Who needs logic when the story she’s telling is so compelling and wonderful? We fussed, felt frustrated, and got flippant with each other. But lucky for the two of us, we lived too far away to drive over to the other’s house and give the other a good shaking when one couldn’t see the other was “totally right.”

When writing a book together, authors will naturally have differences in opinions, and conflicting ideas that, if you let them, will slow the progress, or bring it to a grinding halt. When making the decision to write a book with another author you must endeavor to remain open-minded and remember that it’s not just “your” book – the book belongs to both of you, and it you cut it in half, it could be the death of it. Yes, “at the end of the line” everything worked out great for us, and we’re still the best of friends – sisters even. The trick is to keep these things in mind:

  • Choose someone that writes similar to the way you do. Same genres, similar style of writing, and the level of grammar, syntax and punctuation usage are things to consider.
  • Choose an author that has the same goal for the end result as you so that you can continue to work with them even through the disagreements because you still agree on what the book is about.
  • Choose an author who has the same temperament as you. Get to know them as a person first. Pick an author you can get along with because you have the same ideals and sense of compromise.
  • Be flexible. Yes, you want to pick someone with your same temperament, tolerance level, and willingness to comprise, but make sure you check yours and that you check your ego.

Follow these rules and you’ll find that teamwork, the shared discoveries and conversations, and mutual sense of accomplishments will make for a satisfying and exciting writing experience.

Don’t give up too easily. We know how hard it can be to work with others. Even when we work with people who share similar goals, a few arguments or disagreements can still get in the way. (Trust us on this one!) But regardless of how heated things might get, you should try your best to compromise and work it all out. Have your partner brainstorm a few solutions with you and see if you come up with an idea that you both agree on. Your goal here is to successfully collaborate on a story that both of you will be proud of. So if a problem comes up, don’t be too quick to walk away from the opportunity.

Check out the new co-authored book from Kathryn Longino and Abby L. Vandiver

ATEOTL Cover

Blurb:

A wrong number, and a cry of desperation at the end of the line, sparks a long distance friendship between two women who’ve never met. Through fourteen years of trouble and heartache from a stagnant domestic life, the struggle of civil rights, and the stigma of interracial relationships, a bond forms between the two that changes both of their lives forever.

It’s 1958, a time when women and Negros are deemed second-class and are being second-guessed, from there arises the perfect storm for change, and the perfect time for an unlikely friendship.

Beatrice “Beanie” Peterson, forced to marry at fifteen and live with two sister wives, six children, and an abusive husband twenty years her senior, is looking for a way out.

Adeline “Liddie” Garrison, friend of Jack Kennedy, wife of a prominent Boston business man, and resident of Beacon Hill has already found her way in.

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