How Does Co-Authoring Actually Work?



So how does co-authoring books actually work? This may be a noob question but hey, idk. It’s obviously not “you write this chapter I write that chapter” due to the weird writing style changes. So what is it? One person plays scribe and writes the story that the other came up with?


Actually, a lot of co-authors do the “you write this chapter I write that chapter” when working together. I’ve done that multiple times in the past with someone and it worked out pretty good for both of us. But there are a whole lot of different ways that one can co-write with someone else.

There’s also the Ghost Writing, where one person comes up with the plot/characters and the like, and then the other person writes what they want.

You just have to figure out what works for you and the person you want to do it with.


Usually, a general plot direction and story goal will help. Beyond this depends on the mechanisms laid down. Alternating chapters is one avenue for pairs that have similar styles and can adapt. Another might be each person being concerned with one characters scripting.(This would require a good deal f real time collusion and chapter editing though) I put together a sketch outline and first chapter for one specifically crafted for open authoring. It provided for only a setting, a goal, and a motif, against which serial episodes and threads could be mounted. The initial chapter was just to set the tone and direction the novel would take. It also unavoidably detailed a few characters, a male,a female, and an alien, but authors were free to use these either interactively or create their own for particular plot threads. This allowed for multiple hands on any section, or complete episodes or threads to be handled by each author, while acknowledging and using the existing characters as appropriate, and adding some cast or additional backdrops as required. This still requires (for a novel anyway) collaboration with the intent of reaching a conclusion. Which simply means discussion and sometimes compromise is a fact of collaborative effort.

I stll have a couple of such set ups laying around, if anyone is interested.


If you both agree on the storyline and where it will go, then yeah, as long as you trust your co-author completely and are both 50/50. I’ve written with co-authors before (2) and one was my best friend, we were about the same as far as our writing ability so we could mesh scenes up together. I’d write a scene or two and she’d pick up where I left off, and our readers never had any idea of who wrote what. We meshed well and trusted each other.

And then on the flip side, I started writing with a girl and she took the writing and my ideas and started writing it on her page instead of a joint page, without my permission, and then decided it was hers and took my ideas and what I had written already and ran off with it and had the audacity to ask me to promo this story feat my own work that she slapped her name on it.


I once did a co-author project where we wrote the same story but wrote chapters in different perspectives. So they would write one character’s perspective and I would write the other.

Tho we were 13 and we didn’t complete it since we were too young. This method could totally work if the two people are dedicated tho


It depends on the people involved. There is no one way to co-write a story because there is all sorts of way to do it. I’ll go through some of the typical ones that tend to happen:

  1. In real life.

Co-writing isn’t always about writing with someone you’ve never personally met beyond the internet. Many people have co-authored a story in real life. In fact, my first co-writing experience was with a friend from school.

Basically, the writers involved get together and talk about the story. They plan it out, they talk about what’s gonna happen (who might write it—or write specific scenes) or whatnot. The majority of films are co-written, and this is one of the ways how it gets done. In such circumstances, however, there is a group of screenwriters and each will only write specific scenes. One person will only do the action scenes, another with the romance, and another with the drama, and another with the comedy. Each writer is talented in such themes and genres, so they write it based on what they’re best at.

This could be the same for a book if you are interested in a large group of writers.

But if you were to write a story with only yourself and one other person, then you would have to talk to your partner and how things will go down. Is one person going to write it, and the other will just give their input on the story? Are both parties going to write it? If so, how are you going to do that?

So and so forth.

In general, writing it this way is a lot more easier because you’re able to contact the person directly and even if they don’t answer their phone, you can meet them somewhere and communicate better with them. Just like my friend and I: we co-wrote a bunch of poems and we did that over the weekend when I was sleeping over at her house. Her parents’ computer was in the basement, so we sat down there for a while (what felt like hours) and just talked about what would go into the poem.

  1. Over the internet.

The next set of co-writing happens over the internet. This is where you’re writing with someone you don’t even know. The results are very similar: you talk it over with the person, you figure out who will write what and how things are going to go down. The only difference is a lack of communication and a lack of proper knowledge of the person’s capabilities.

When you co-write with someone you barely know, there isn’t a good way to talk to them. On here, you, of course, have the Community to talk to them. You also have the private messaging to talk to them. You can do emails, or use social media messaging to talk to them. But overall, these don’t guarantee a good means of communication because the person could easily ignore you or they could instantly fall of the planet (meaning that they stop communicating all together). Now, some people will give out phone numbers or Skype to get a better means of communication, but I honestly don’t recommend this because, like I said, you barely know the person. You could be giving out information to a creeper and, well… you just don’t need that kind of drama in your life.

But this is why I said it was easier to co-write with someone you know in real life. Because if you can’t get a hold of your co-author, you can simply knock on their door.

The lack of knowledge comes from the fact of not understanding how their style fully works. Now, of course, you can audition particular writers. You can have them give you excerpts of their writing and give them challenges for style and editing purposes, but in the end, you still don’t know their writing capabilities. You aren’t familiar with their style, you aren’t familiar with how they write and plan things, so it could definitely be a lot harder to deal with than in real life.

The problem this develops into is if you guys go into the whole “you write this chapter and I write this one,” then someone is going to need to edit the chapters in order for it to sound as if one person wrote it entirely. This could also mean that if your partner isn’t on your level of expertise on writing (meaning that they know less than you do), then you will be the one to edit it.

This was my problem during my second co-writing experience (which was through the internet with a friend of mine that is three years younger than I am). While we were in similar writing levels, there were a lot of things that I knew of that she didn’t. So, when she gave me her chapter, I had to edit it because it was messier than mine was.

  1. The problems.

Now, this isn’t exactly “how it works,” but it leads into other topics. One of the major problems, as I had previously stated, you’re going to run into is the lack of style. This goes for writing with a friend or an online friend because everyone has their own style. If you want to co-write, you have to figure out how the story will be written. If you’re focusing on a single character, then you need to find someone who has a similar style than yours. This is so the style of the story is consistent. However, if you’re using two different main characters, then you can grab anyone to help write the story with you. Having two point of views it the easiest way most people co-write because this way, you don’t need to focus on editing the styles to make it appear as if it’s one person writing it. So yes, it’s mostly the whole “you write this, I write that.” This way, you can focus on what happens with your single character and how they effect the story.

There’s a lot of problems with co-writing, however. Some of them, I have added previously. One of the difficult ones, that I haven’t explained, is the lack of control. When you’re co-writing, everyone has to work as a team. This means that whatever ideas you may have, have to be accepted by the other person (or people, if you’re writing in a group). And that means that an idea you have may not be acknowledged. The other person may be like, “Eh…” and they could try to develop the idea into something else so that way it works for them and you. But you may also not like their new and improved idea, or what they may say. While you have control over the story, you don’t have it all. It’s shared and whatever feelings that are mutual between you and your colleague about specific sections are the only ones that are going to appear in the story.

This could also develop into how your partner (or yourself) may take lead of the story. If someone’s ideas aren’t all that interesting to one or the other, someone might take over the story and, therefore, dismiss most ideas that are placed on the table. This was my problem when I was co-writing with my friend from school. In the beginning, it was fine with how we exchanged our ideas, but then she didn’t like my other ideas and she dismissed them all. Eventually, the poems became mainly hers because I hardly stepped in to give my thoughts. This, honestly, became both of our problems. When you’re co-writing, you have to speak up if you don’t like something. Don’t let the person step all over you. So for me, it was my problem that she took over because I didn’t speak up. I didn’t voice my opinions. However, it’s also her fault because she didn’t think about what I had to say. Like I said, you act as a team. When you’re a team, you act as one—both parties have to balance out the way it’s going to go. This means that you have to have good communication and the ability to stop and think about the other person. What are their opinions on the matter?

The next problem, which may develop from the lack of control, are the arguments. It can be easy to disagree with your co-writer and if the co-writer isn’t being rational, then you may have a fight on your hands. This can lead to the story being deleted, it could lead to you getting a co-writer, or it could lead to something else or worse—they take the story for themselves, and they may not credit you. Or it could be the beginning of a loss friendship. Whichever comes first, really.

Another problem would be the need to rely on someone else. Most of these problems that I’ve announced are things that have made me stop co-writing with people, this one in particular. For me, I want full, creative control. I want to be able to put in my ideas and not need to have them be accepted. I want to be able to write the story however I wish without the need of having to wait for someone to catch up to my level of expertise or whatever. And I honestly want to be able to write and get things done without having to rely on someone to do their job which they may not even do.

Co-writing becomes a huge, stressful pain when the author isn’t doing their side of the bargain. This mainly has to come with the whole “writing with someone on the internet” thing, because that’s what happened with me and what I often see as well. Co-writers can only go so far if they end up getting bored with the story or busy with their lives. If something like this happens, they may not write and or, they may say they need to stop writing it.

My co-writer from the internet had to drop the story we were writing (and were only three chapters in) because she didn’t have the time for it. She actually took longer (a few weeks) to actually tell me that she can’t keep working on the story. This annoyed me because if you want to co-write with someone, you need to be dedicated and determined to finish it. It doesn’t matter if you have a busy life or whatnot. Everyone does. So you need to make time to write, and be a part of the team instead of disappearing for a while, and then being like, “Nope.”

The other reason why this also annoyed me was because I had the ability to write the story myself, get another co-writer, or to drop it entirely. When you’re given that choice, it could be simple or it could make you stressed out because you’re unsure of how the other person feels. If you continue it, are they going to argue and say that you should credit them even though you took full responsibility to the story and may have changed it? If you get another co-writer, are you going to have trust issues in them completing their side of the bargain? And are they going to have the same capabilities as your previous co-writer? And if you drop it entirely, then do you think all that planning, all that writing was a waste?

These were the problems I faced when I was writing with my internet co-writer and I eventually decided to drop it because there wasn’t a need to continue when, at the time, I didn’t feel as motivated to finish it.

In a nutshell: I find that co-writing is harder than writing by yourself, and that everything that goes into the story is dependent on how the authors make it work as it’s their job to figure things out.


I think it might work in a way where the authors complement each other. For example if the genre was action and romance; one author would mostly write the action parts while the other would write the romance parts. If that makes any sense at all. My friend and I thought about writing a book together and ended up killing off the main character…so yea.


I have participated and/or had seen either chapter by chapter, particularly with POV switches, and I also saw one writer doing dialogues, and the other - the rest of the text.


I"ll point out one other thing before I leave the subject be. Collaborations require the skill, eh, to collaborate; agree in principle on the story-line, and be willing to work for the tales benefit, as well as have general authoring skills. If you see a collab as a contest, or cannot both provide direction and work at the direction of others in a general sort of way, it will fail to complete. The story is a thing. A work. IT has a direction to travel. IT has a conclusion and denouement to reach. Perhaps ideas occur to you that sound like great guns to try. And, perhaps you will, in another story or a further collab. One Robin does not a spring make. The thing is not your last will and testament. Usually one person or another will steer a collabrative ship. Usually another will stoke the boilers, One or another will .largely add color, or action ,or editorial and preening services. If there is more than one thread or volume, these functions might change from one person to another. The goal is to shoot the engineer and put the damn thing into production. It will end the best it could as a finished project. Then later maybe some revision., and critique, and betareads. Who knows. By then there are other projects, possibly of even more interest to you personally. EOF

Thing is, Its an important and lucrative skill to have under your belt. Most show writers collaborate daily. Most script writers see revision as the air they breathe nine to five. Working as an in house, or stable writer IS getting a set of ideas from on high and turning them into printed work. It may end a skill you do not use daily, but the principal ability becomes your own.


Well actually, we are two best friends who have been writing for two years now, and things are great! We divide each chapter into parts, and decide who gets which, and work writing them. Then we check each other’s parts and discuss them, before one of them uploads the whole chapter on wattpad, making sure that no differences in writing styles are figured!
And that’s how we do it:blush:


Yup. Collaboration. People either can, or do not.


Yes exactly! It just takes a bit of respect and trust towards each other’s ideas.


how do you find a co author? i have 0 followers…


We are best friends in real life. We went to the same school


oh… O_O


I’m coauthoring a trilogy with a friend of mine (we’re on the last book). For the first book, we alternated chapters and for the second we alternated scenes or even wrote scenes together. We write it all in Google Docs, making it easy to edit each other’s work and add stuff in if we think it’s lacking. No one has mentioned that it sounds wildly different in different scenes/chapters, so we must have done okay.