Writing in collaboration – Nicola Kraus
By Nicola Kraus
Over the fifteen years that my partner, Emma McLaughlin, and I have been collaborating, the first question we always get is, “How do two people write one book?” We’ve learned over the years that in screenwriting, teams are common but we’re still something of a rarity in fiction, and we don’t know why! It’s a great way to make the daunting task of writing fun —and efficient.♥
We met at an ATM where we were both depositing our nanny paychecks, and recognized each other from class. We were both enrolled at New York University at the time, but had never spoken. We became fast friends, but didn’t start working on The Nanny Dairies until five years later. If you are considering writing anything inspired by your own life we cannot recommend enough to have a few years’ distance from the experience.
Without a writing class between us we stumbled onto a process that has essentially remained the same. Once our endless chatting has generated the germ of an idea, we spend several weeks outlining the core elements of the story — primary and periphery characters, A and B plots, and timeframe. We then break this outline into chapters, and we each write every other chapter, odds or evens. Once we have this first draft we sit together and go over it line by line on the computer, on paper, and frequently out loud, until it is ready to go to print. And, of course, our editor gets to weigh in at multiple junctures along the way.
Now that we’re writing coaches we appreciate more than ever how invaluable it is to have someone to talk through every idea with. In twenty minutes we can play an idea through and if it doesn’t work we move on — some writers waste months on a plot point that doesn’t end up serving the narrative. We also help each other with conviction, which is the other greatest challenge for aspiring authors. Because there are two of us we often feel like we’re talking about a friend’s project, which allows us to sell the heck out of it. If we have one piece of advice it would be that women need to start thinking of their work as a product they’re positioning earlier in the process.
If you are thinking of taking on a partner, remember this will be a very intimate relationship — you have to share vision of what the final book will be. You will squabble, know that is part of the process and don’t let it derail you. Be respectful, keep your heart and ears open, and never be afraid to ask for some time to think about an idea your partner has proposed.
Also be explicit about everything, all the roles and responsibilities, do not take anything for granted. Who likes to write at which times of day, how many hours per week do you each have to devote to it. Is it even? If it isn’t can you shift the compensation to reflect that? It can all be worked out, but only if you communicate. But it’s good practice. Because, if you can nurture a good relationship with your partner, you’ll have no trouble doing the same with your reader.
Nicola Kraus is the co-author of the international #1 bestseller The Nanny Diaries and co-founder of TheFinishedThought.com which helps aspiring writers realize their dream. Online classes available now.