What it takes to be a co-author – Nina Whyle

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By Nina Whyle

I know I speak for both of us when I say that co-authoring is our success story. Maybe not in terms of, “check us out we’ve topped the New York Times bestsellers list” – which, we wouldn’t recommend any writer to wait for that sort of affirmation before feeling successful. Better to set yourself small attainable goals and celebrate those. You finished your book – great, celebrate it. Your first sale – great, celebrate it. Your first review – great, celebrate it. ♥

When we began co-authoring eight years ago, we didn’t think anything beyond getting the first book finished. We were writing from across The North Sea, Nina in London and Clare (Whyle) in Copenhagen, so everything we did was mostly via emails. It still is one of the exciting parts in our collaboration, opening an email to discover a new draft.

People tend to be intrigued by the actual process of getting words on paper, but the only process we write by is to carry on where the other left off. I tend to start off the writing process, as I’m a fast-typer and in Clare’s words, “Nina can get words down quicker than a sushi chef chops fish!” Whereas Clare is the hilariously funny one with absolutely no filters; literally anything can come out of her mouth and it’s that kind of surprise that makes opening a new draft so much fun.

What we have tried to do is to narrow the process down in to key factors, and even come up with a catchy acronym! CHELMPS CD, sounds a bit like a virtual racehorse.

1. Camaraderie – Our friendship set the whole thing off. We were friends for several years before we even thought about writing. Of course it stands to reason we found each other hilariously entertaining and funny and it didn’t take us long to discover we both wanted to write a book. We can understand some friends might be nervous about working together, in case their differences in writing styles or work ethics might create a rift but we’ve always had a more cheerleader way about us, a self-mocking British type of cheerleading! We wouldn’t want you thinking we’re as sweet as sugar pie.

2. Honesty – It helps to be straight forward in your opinions but never rude, and be kind, perhaps refrain from striking out entire sentences especially at the beginning stages when you’re bashing out the book. By the time we get to the end we’ve forgotten who’s written what part, then striking out chunks of work becomes more about what is working for the story rather than who did what individually, there is no room for pettiness plus it spoils the creative process, which is the best bit. Be prepared to revaluate and accept what you thought was AMAZING isn’t really that great.

3. Ego – Very important to leave it at the door, wrap it in strong duct tape with no air supply. We have both attempted to write with other people and quickly concluded that people can be a bit touchy about their words. If you’re that way inclined perhaps co-authoring isn’t for you. We aren’t precious at all, and perhaps that’s unique to us but we are usually in agreement when something doesn’t work or we feel a line can be improved.

4. Laughter – Plenty, you have to ENJOY it, quite critical if you’re writing comedy! If the other doesn’t find it funny, then your readers won’t. Of course, taste and style are individual, but it helps to have your trusted sounding board on speed dial.

5. Motivation – This is the coolest aspect. When the other is floundering, or having doubts or simply a bad week, she chucks the gauntlet over and the other presses on. We both have outside pressures that imprint on our time but that’s the beauty of co-authoring, the other can write while the other deals with those outside issues. The motivation of having each other’s back allows us to be flexible. We never berate one another if they are tied up with (real) life. We only encourage and enthuse.

6. Passion – If it’s not there, it never will be and you cannot fake it. I think you know pretty early on if you have chemistry.

7. Supportiveness – mostly covered in Motivation, but life is full of blips and because we were friends to begin with we don’t pester the other one about deadlines, (this may change when we pick up an agent!) when we know the other’s biscuit barrel is crumbling, or the other’s life allows no time. We are just there for each other, throughout it all, work problems, health crises, personal faltering… the list is endless. After all it is these experiences, these small plights and challenges that filter into our story lines.

8. Commitment – Writing a book is hard work it, some days you won’t be able to type quick enough while other days it’ll feel like pulling teeth. We love collaborating and its our commitment to each other that spurs us on; knowing that the other is waiting is is a great motivator to get bum on seat and write, you can’t go and put your feet up just because you hear the pale grapes calling you from the refrigerator when you know the other one is waiting on your words. We savour ever spare moment to get something done, with or without wine! Even when they are the only moments for wine.

9. Determination – A must, otherwise the first book never gets finished and you can pop yourself into the group of “I’ve always wanted to write a book…” We are four books in, our fifth out with agents, a script in the pipeline and fleshing out another idea for a book. We are determined to surge forward, moving on is imperative to growing your partnership.

So there is our CHELMPS – CD Our guide to what it takes to be a co-author.

Nina Whyle is a writing duo made up of two best friends. They write fun, romantic reads about the Film & TV industry, with strong female friendship at its core.


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