Pairs Writing

Quick shout to my friend and fellow Astraea Press author, Jennifer Comeaux, whose book, Life on the Edge inspired the title for this post!

When Kim Bowman and I set out to write our first collaboration, A Lot Like A Lady,
we weren’t doing anything new. Lots of authors over the years have teamed up to write. Kim and I eventually found a rhythm and a method that worked for us, and it’s a method that is still being refined as we move into book two of the Lady series, Something Like A Lady.

Overall, however, we discovered that for us, writing together is a lot like pairs skating. Sometimes we worked together on the same parts of the story but doing different things. Sometimes we worked on different parts of the story but doing the same things.

I wondered how other writing teams handled pairs writing. Surely we’re not all the same–we must do some things differently. Fortunately, I had at my disposal, two Astraea Press authors, who sometimes write alone and sometimes write together: Leah Sanders and Rachel Van Dyken. And this is what they shared:

LEAH: Back in August, there was a call for submissions for Christmas stories. I had been working on a novel since March, but hadn’t gotten very far. I decided to put it aside for a bit and try to write something for the Christmas deadline. Rachel was hanging out at my house, probably working on The Seduction of Sebastian St. James, and I turned to her and said, “I have this idea for a Christmas story. Want to write it with me?”

The Parting Gift took us about two and a half months to complete. Since it was our first endeavor together, we didn’t split it up in a certain way. I wrote until I got stuck and then I sent it to Rachel to pick up where I left off. Sometimes I would set her up to write a kissing scene, because I don’t really write them…at all. And she would get all happy and clap her hands with joy. She would write, send it back to me. I’d read it and blush then move on to the next part of the story.

RACHEL:  Most of the time you would move to the next part of the story but smile as you read the kissing part and then blush.

LEAH:  The most frustrating part of the process with our first book together was the encroaching deadline. I can’t tell you how many times I would say to Rachel, “We’re never going to get this done!” And she would smile and pat my little head and say, “Of course, we will. All that’s left to do is…” filling in the blank. I would take a deep breath and keep writing. And indeed, we did finish it on time to submit to Astraea Press. It was accepted and subsequently released on Black Friday.

RACHEL:  I think we both panic at different points. When we write stuff together one of us panics and is like oh no it’s not going to get accepted, and when we write our own novels we do the same thing. Writing with a parnter is cool b/c you have that support system.

LEAH:  After that first book, I had more confidence in what I was doing as a writer, so I took it upon myself to answer the call for Valentine’s Day submissions with a solo endeavor (Sacred Ring, a young adult adventure story), while Rachel worked on revising a Valentine’s Day novella she had written (An Unlikely Alliance). Our normal M.O. when working on any writing project (solo or duo) is to brainstorm together, read and critique works in progress, and work as sounding boards for what we are writing. Because we do this on a regular basis, it was a natural progression into co-authoring another story.

I’m pretty sure we were sitting in the exact same places actually, when Rachel stopped working for a minute and looked up at me. “I think we should write another book together.” I agreed immediately. But when she said we were going to do Regency this time, I may or may not have choked on my gum. Regency is Rachel’s strong suit, and while I read and help her revise a lot of her stuff, I did not feel qualified to participate in writing in the genre.

In the end, Waltzing with the Wallflower took a short time to complete—only about two weeks. But for me, it started out a little rocky. I did not want to mess up the story with my ineptitude, so it took me a couple of chapters to get a good handle on it. Once I got over that initial nervousness though, the character I was writing and the story seemed to take off. Rachel was an invaluable source of encouragement and guidance to me as I wrote outside my comfort zone. Granted, I still let her write ALL the kissing scenes. 🙂

RACHEL:  To my utter delight!!! But I will admit Leah can write some killer kissing scenes, she just deletes them as a blush creeps up her cheeks. One of these days though…it will happen!

LEAH:  With this second undertaking, we split up the book by points of view. In the first book, I wrote the hero’s point of view mainly and Rachel wrote the heroine’s point of view. But we did crossover from time to time. In Wallflower we divided it strictly. I wrote the heroine’s point of view; Rachel wrote the hero’s point of view. We switched off every other chapter. It seemed to go so smoothly that way. But again, we were constantly discussing where we want the plot to go and who the characters are, so we were both able to stay true to their personalities (or perceived lack thereof).

Rachel has a thing for the “bad boy”. It’s okay to admit it, Rachel. And she can write arrogance very well. Case in point, Nicholas Devons, Earl of Renwick. It’s kind of our standing joke how much I would like to write his death. My tendencies lean more towards the shy, uncertain guy—Blaine Graham. He is a pilot, so can appear arrogant, but he is all thumbs when it comes to interacting with women.

We are currently working on a follow-up story to Waltzing with the Wallflower that takes up Anthony’s story. The prologue and the first chapter are done. If things go well, it should be done by the end of the month.

As far as I’m concerned, writing with a partner—well, writing with Rachel— is not much different than writing alone. Regardless of what I’m working on, I rely heavily on her as a trusted critiquing partner. The main difference is the speed with which I write.


Find more of Leah and Rachel on Amazon:  Leah, Rachel.  Or find them on Barnes & Noble: Leah, Rachel.  If you leave a comment by Thursday, 04/12/2012, you may win Kindle/Nook/PDF versions of both Waltzing With the Wallflower and A Lot Like A Lady!




Waiting on the next one!




15 thoughts on “Pairs Writing

  1. Jennifer Comeaux says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Kay! Love the photo 🙂

    Leah, I admire you for going out of your comfort zone and taking on Regency. It’s so different from contemporary writing! I can’t believe you all wrote Waltzing With the Wallflower in two weeks!!!!! Is there something in the water in Idaho? 🙂 Was your first draft your final draft? How do you get your first draft so complete with all the necessary layers of detail and emotion? This question goes for Rachel’s other books, too, which seem to come together so quickly. Is there an effective method for editing while you write without interrupting your flow of thoughts?

    • Rachel Van Dyken says:

      Those are great questions. 🙂 The first draft ended up being our final draft. What we usually do and what I personally do with my writing, is write the entire story and then go back and comb through, beef up parts that need it, add more emotion where it’s needed and go from there. Usually, Leah will look at my final draft and go through and comment on what needs to be fixed. I do the same for her. It’s nice because she is not only an editor but a writer so she understands mechanical errors as well as what the audience will be looking for. It sounds like a crazy formula and I know every writer is different. I’m sure my editors personally want to strangle me because I don’t edit ANYTHING at all, ever. I write as fast as my fingers let me and then hand it off. If I go back and edit or fix even the simplest of things it messes with my flow. I just want to get the story out, editing always has to come anyways, so it can come later 🙂 I hope thats helpful!

    • Leah Sanders says:

      Ha ha! What Rachel says is true. She doesn’t edit while she writes. But she is amazingly fast at putting together a first draft.

      I edit as I write. So I am a lot slower than she is. In fact, I have a novel I just finished that took me a year, and I’m still not happy with it.

      When we write together I can’t help but edit as we go, but it doesn’t seem to interrupt Rachel’s flow. On Wallflower, she would write a chapter on the main file and send it to me. I would edit it, write my chapter, edit it, and then send it back to her. So, I don’t know if we can honestly say it was our “first” draft. It just felt like it.

      For my part, when I wrote Cordelia’s point of view, I just dug into how I would have felt and responded in her situation. I have a little experience with “shy”. 🙂

      • Jennifer Comeaux says:

        Thanks for the replies, Leah and Rachel! I’m trying something new, writing without constantly self-editing, and there’s no way I could submit this anywhere, lol. I find it very hard to express the emotions deeply enough on the first pass. I always have to go back and dig deeper into my MC’s head. How anyone can spit out a decently complete draft on the first go-round is totally mystifying to me!

        Oh, and Leah, I like my guys shy and uncertain, too 🙂

  2. Tressa S says:

    This was a very interesting interview. It’s the first I’ve read about co-authoring and I was really curious how they worked it out. I’ve read a couple books that were co-authored and I have always wondered if they each write a character or how they decide who writes what. It seems that if you aren’t careful you could have issues with a character’s voice being consistent. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway!

    • Kay Springsteen says:

      Tressa, speaking from my experiences with Kim Bowman, our voices are similar and we had a specific plot plan we followed. Then we edited what each other had written until it became a blend. After that, our wonderful editor, J. Gunnar Grey helped smooth things.

  3. Crystal says:

    Thank you Kay for the interview and the giveaway! It is an interesting process you guys go through when you write a book together 🙂 I have read your Operation Christmas Hearts book and now I want to read A Lot Like A Lady! And I love how you tied Jennifer Comeaux into your post, I want to read her book too 🙂

  4. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed this post! It’s always interesting to read about a writers process and collaborations I find quite interesting. Thank you!


  5. Lu Ann Worley says:

    O think it is great that you accomplished this feat. (Mars and Venus, heehee) I am lookinf forward to reading it.

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