PRO: You’re writing a story with your best friend.
CON: You’re writing a story with your best friend.
It’s hard, man. (But can be so, so worth it.)
Story time! My best friend and I met years ago, while we were studying abroad. We got lost together in London and bonded over our early love of Meg Cabot, author extraordinaire, while we unsuccessfully navigated the Tube. (We accidentally happened upon Big Ben, which is an amazing feat seeing how huge it is (above), and had a great conversation with a police officer on the best place to get a pint.) We became friends after I was already pretty involved in our local NaNoWriMo group and had created the writing organization at our university, but she joined in both once we were back home!
Fast forward four years, and it just seemed natural to write a book together. We like to read the same genres, more or less. (I tend to lean more into sci-fi and she leans more into contemporary, but otherwise the same.) I’m not even sure how the conversation came about, but soon enough we were sitting down at our favorite bubble tea haunt and plotting a New Adult novel! (The picture below is actually from our first brainstorming session! The terrible penmanship is mine…)
As of a few weeks ago, we officially finished our first draft! We’ve even received feedback from our lovely first reader (check out his blog here)!
While the overall experience has been nothing short of UH-MAZING, there are still some arguments against (and for, I’ll talk about those, too) co-writing a story with your best friend, such as…
CON: As with co-writing anything, agreeing on direction/character motivations/subplots/etc. can be a challenge. This is harder with your friend, whom you likely haven’t worked as closely with as you will when writing a novel, and whom you may be completely disagreeing on a number of things with for the first time.
SOLUTION: Both writers need to practice give-and-take. If your friend staunchly opposes one character trait for your MC, and you only kinda don’t care, go ahead and go with what your friend wants. And vice versa! As your plotting, make a list of these things and check at the end, so that one friend isn’t being steam-rolled in the decision-making choices.
Another good solution is, depending on the story, splitting the characters each person writes and is responsible for. If you can agree on the plot, then each person has their respective characters to do with what they please (within reason).
CON: Boundaries are difficult and disagreements can ebb into the friendship, even after “story time” is over.
SOLUTION: Just like with any job, create set times for when you can discuss work. Not everyone has to do this, but if you’re finding you and your BFF are having trouble, start enacting strict discussion times. Anything outside of that, and it’s like the story doesn’t exist!
CON: Receiving feedback on your chapter/portion of the story from your friend can feel like a comparison between the work they’ve done and the work you’ve done, and it’s not always positive.
SOLUTION: Everyone should strive to give constructive criticism, or, as I like to call it, “Things I Love” vs. “Things That Could Use Improvement”! Try to balance this list. If both besties are balancing it, beautiful books can be born. (Okay, I’m done with the alliteration, promise.)
CON: Different expectations on how quickly work should be completed, what the editing or revising process should be, and goals for the final outcome. As with the other “cons,” the friendship can add a layer of difficulty in communicating these expectations.
SOLUTION: Before you begin writing at all, ask each other what the expectation is of this work. Fun? Publication? Now come to an agreement. That’s step one! Step two is to create a joint calendar you both have access to. Document when chapters (and character bios or world-building worksheets, if you’re into those sorts of things) are supposed to be completed, and when you hope to have the first, second, third, etc. draft finished.
PRO: No one will care more about your story than your best friend. This is true for when you’re not co-writing, but especially true for when you are. This makes for a wonderful partner who knows you outside of your story and knows how to motivate you even when a scene is getting you down!
PRO: You get to spend even more time with your friend, freaking out about something OF YOUR OWN CREATION. If that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is! You created something. CREATED IT. Together! Out of your own imagination! That’s really beautiful, and something you can share forever.
PRO: No one gets your humor like your best friend and it’s all kinds of fun putting inside jokes into the story no one else will ever understand. It’s like your own little secret!
PRO: If you’re interested in getting published, thinking about how one day you’ll be on Ellen telling the exact story of how this all came to be and how you now get to tour together and talk about books nonstop is basically the best joint daydream ever. (No? Just me and my friend?)
Okay, you get the point.
Collaboration is always hard. But collaborating also takes the best of what everyone brings and creates something greater. This is especially true when you’re working with your best friend.
It’s time that I hear from you! Have you ever tried to co-write a book? What about with your best friend? Would you want to? Let me know!