Dreaming the Story

J. L. Harland • August 1st, 2021

When, as co-authors, the visualisations are different what can you do? Five rules.

This week a funny thing happened which made us think about how different people visualise characters and plot.

Our usual method of working is to sit, talk, plan and then decide on individual tasks, go away and write. After that we work on different drafts, exchanging and tweaking, until we have the story we had both envisaged. This week something went astray – or at least went more off-piste than usual.

We had two tasks to complete. One was finishing off a story and the other was to complete the plan for a different story. The result: First, the story came back in a different ending than expected or planned leading to some confusion. That was fixable and we can modify and smooth out. Not a massive problem as these things do happen. Secondly, the story went off in a direction fuelled by too much wine and imagination! Oops! That took a bit of engineering, restructuring and replanning. It should be noted that these were both small projects. On bigger projects we spend much more time talking together but we had a short window, in between editing, to complete these tasks.

Memo: Do not go near a computer when intoxicated. What might have seemed a great idea will really annoy your co-author.

Rules of co-authoring.

  1. Plan together and make sure the plan is clear and understood.
  2. Have photographs of what you think your main characters look like, so you are not describing different people.
  3. Ensure that you talk through the back stories of these characters so that you are both, to use a cliché, singing from the same hymn sheet.
  4. Write down the ideas that you both agree are the way forward.
  5. Make an action plan and decide who will do what, when and establish the plot points again before you start writing.

These are generally the unspoken rules we follow. This week’s diversions show that even after working together for several years we can have off-piste moments – some have been very fruitful. Every step is a learning experience, especially when you are a co-author, and trust, humour and compromise are the main components of a good working relationship.

Do you co-author? Do you have any comments on the process? We’d love to hear from you.

Keep writing.