Writing With a Partner

Merissa Headshot~ By Merissa McCain

Hi, My name is Merissa McCain.  I wanted to share my experience on writing with a partner today. My friend and sometimes writing partner Margaret Madigan and I just had a book called Hero for Hire published. It’s a book we wrote together, and we’ve had a lot of questions about what its like to write with a partner.

It’s fun. Bouncing ideas off each other, and plotting the story framework is great fun for us to do. We do it over the internet, because I’m currently in Africa, and Margaret lives in one of the Dakotas—North if I remember correctly. We’ll plot for hours, until we have our framework right.  We’ll choose characters. We’ll write, and then we’ll edit.

It can be frustrating as well. Sometimes I don’t write fast enough. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes we disagree on what should happen next. But we always work it out and move forward with the story.  We’ve learned to be open to differing viewpoints, and to set ego aside in favor of getting the story right. And that’s a thing of beauty.

Its productive. Margaret pushes me, and I push her. Together, we balance each other. I tend to write slow and deep. She tends to write quickly, like a sketch. Together we get pacing right, and depth right faster and easier than when we work on our own projects.

Another question we get frequently is “How does it work?” As I said, we choose characters. Sometimes I write the hero, sometimes she does. We use Character Worksheets to develop our characters. These things are long—like 10 pages worth. We have pictures. We have biographical data. We have pages on how the character views the world. By the time we’re done with the sheets, we know our own character inside and out, and we know our partner’s character just as well. Then we write, by switching out scenes and viewpoints. I will write a scene from my character’s point of view. Then Margaret will write a scene from hers.  When we’re done we edit by the chapter, and we edit both our own scenes and our partner’s. By the time we’re done it’s hard to tell who wrote which scene.

Writing with a partner doesn’t work for everyone. To do it successfully, you have to keep an open mind, and have an incredible amount of respect for your writing partner. But it has some incredible rewards as well.

You can find me at  www.merissamccain.com, on twitter as @merissamccain or via email at Merissa.mccain@gmail.com.

Merissa McCain loves to read, write, drink strong coffee and eat dark chocolate–not necessarily in that order and sometimes all at once. She lives in the deep South, with her very own superhero, and her three minions. Together, they attempt to take over the world.

When not otherwise occupied with planning world domination, she’s a voracious reader and adores happy endings. She writes what she loves to read, so she writes romance, and stories with romantic elements to them. 

2 thoughts on “Writing With a Partner”

  1. Nice column — interesting how this works with some folks.
    With my older brother, I was co-author of two non-fiction monographs, a signed encyclopedia article and a signed chapter in a N-F book.
    We would always have a designated ‘leader’ who would compile and correct everything, and we each had assigned chapters [or portions of the smaller project].
    Sometimes it worked relatively smoothly, but sometimes we chafed at having to “give-in” to the other partner.
    Overall, however, I think each of those four projects were a LOT better than any would have been if we’d gone solo.

  2. I’m always curious about how writers collaborate on a project. You’d need to be flexible and as you say, respect your writing partner. Something to think about for the future.

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