Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

On Co-Authoring

By Lucy Felthouse

I've been published for a few years now, mainly in the short story arena, though I have novellas available and others contracted, as well as a novel out on submission. I always keep my eye on what's out there, what's coming soon, how people are working, their achievements, and so on. And one thing that's caught my eye several times has been co-authoring. To me, it looked like a brilliant way to work on a project with someone, have fun and then end up with a piece of work at the end of it. But I admit I didn't really understand how it worked, so it just bubbled away in the back of my mind, and I didn't do anything about it.

However, towards the back end of 2012, my good friend and fellow writer Lily Harlem suggested co-authoring something together. I explained I had a few projects on, so I couldn't start right away, but I would definitely be interested. She was busy too, so we said we'd start in the early part of 2013, when all the New Year festivities were over and done with, and life was back to normal.

The writing bug bit Lily, however, and in December she sent me a chapter that had just come to her, so she'd written it down. I managed to read it quickly, but knew I still wouldn't be able to do anything with it until January. I was eager to try out co-authoring, but other commitments had to take priority.

Then 2013 arrived. I'd cleared my commitments and was free to start something new - hurrah! I read the chapter again and then bombarded Lily with a million and one questions about the process of co-authoring, how she thought it would work, our intended publisher, and so on. I was very lucky in that a) Lily had co-authored many times before so knew how it worked b) she was very, very patient with me and answered all my questions c) that our writing styles are quite similar, so that although we wrote from separate character viewpoints, our respective sections would still fit together well and d) we know each other well enough to give constructive and honest feedback that will be truly helpful, rather than trying to sugar coat anything for the sake of being nice.

And so we began. The chapter Lily had written back in December was from the female perspective and I was happy to write from the male perspective. I've done it many times before and enjoy it very much. We'd already agreed that if things didn't work out, we wouldn't worry too much about it, so I opened the document and began to write without thinking too hard. We had no plan, no idea what on earth the book was going to be about, really, just that it would be an erotic romance. Despite this, the words came. Fast.

After writing a chapter of roughly the same length as Lily's, I skim read it and sent it back to her. And thus the mad email exchange began. Prior to this project I'd only written one full-length novel by myself and found it a learning curve, albeit it a fun and very satisfying project, but often I had to force myself to carry on and not procrastinate. With this book, however, it was totally different. It was full of surprises - because we hadn't planned it, the chapters we sent back to one another were a total surprise, and we both had to think on our feet to work out where the plot would go next. We'd agreed not to rush one another for chapters as we both had other things on, too, and although we didn't pressure one another, we still produced the words at lightning speed (for me, anyway!). I grew eager to read Lily's next chapter, to see where the characters - which I'd quickly grown very fond of - would go next, what they would do. There was very, very little procrastination!

The only thing we'd really planned was that the book would be longer than 50,000 words - to make it novel length. We did discuss how it would end, but never made a set decision, we just decided to keep writing and hope it came to a natural conclusion. We agreed that because Lily had written the first chapter, that I would write the last. That was the only time throughout the project that I felt pressure - and it was from myself, not my co-author. I had to write the last chapter, therefore the ending, therefore it had to be good, and satisfying! I put my fingers to the keys of my laptop and hoped that what came out would be good. When I finished the final chapter I read it again and made tweaks, then decided that no benefit would come of me staring at it - so I sent it to Lily. And waited with baited breath for her reply.

She loved it!! She even said that it made her cry. Naturally, I was incredibly relieved that she liked it - and the fact it made her cry was a huge bonus. Poor Lily was suffering with a bad cold at the time so she wasn't feeling her best, but I decided to take the compliment anyway. And voilĂ  - our novel, which had been through what felt like a bazillion title changes throughout the writing process, was finished. We smashed our 50k minimum and ended up with 70,000 words, roughly. In five weeks (with me even doing two chapters in one day - one in the morning, then one in the late afternoon as Lily sent hers back in the early afternoon) we penned a novel that we were both absolutely delighted with, and characters we adored.

Next, we made ourselves leave it alone for a while. We both agreed that jumping in with edits and polishing too soon wouldn't help. We'd made comments on each other's chapters as we went along, asking for clarification of certain points or even just saying parts had made us "LOL" and that helped immensely. So much so that after our waiting period, we didn't change very much at all.

Then came the discussion on submission. We'd had a publisher in mind all along - Ellora's Cave - and we submitted to them. Thankfully, they said yes. Cue much happy dancing from Lily and I! As we waited for news, we had a bit of a debrief and agreed we'd both loved the process and were amazed at how quickly the book had come together - and even discussed making it into a series.

Now we have contracts, a cover and are waiting for edits. As the book is themed around tennis, we're hoping to see our novel - titled Grand Slam - release in August, in time for the US Open. I don't want to say too much more and give the game away (no pun intended), but the novel is an erotic romance with a sports theme and some BDSM and seriously hot sex in there, too.

I totally adored the process of co-authoring with Lily. It was genuinely fun and we just seemed to work really well - and quickly - together. We've already got some time carved out to write another book in the series - and who knows what will happen after that?

So if you've been thinking about co-authoring, I would say go for it. If you know someone that you can work well with, and you will be honest with one another and complement one another, then it's a great way to write a book. You'll have to ask lots of questions to make sure you're both on the right wavelength, but it's worth it in the end.

Keep an eye on my website and social networks for news of my first co-authored novel and a peek at the cover, and I'll see you again next month.

Happy Reading!
Lucy x

*****

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and 2013, and Best Women's Erotica 2013. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies. She owns Erotica For All, and is book editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Lucy,

    From my experience, the best books emerge when you approach them with a sense of play, rather than pressure. I've never co-authored a piece of fiction, but this blog post makes me eager to try.

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  2. Makes me eager to try too! What fun. Can't wait to see the cover.

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  3. I finished my first and only co-authoring project about eight months ago, and it was a good experience. But we ended up with an MS with very distinct voices on the different chapters. It has helped tremendously to use a good editor to give us ideas on making the distinct voices stronger, and really pushing that as part of the reading experience.

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  4. I was worried at first, but now I'm eager to get stuck into our next book together! :)

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