If writing a book fills you with all kinds of dread, consider co-writing a book. We’ve done it twice now: once on A Mind at Play and earlier on Rome’s Last Citizen.
We’ve found it to be an enjoyable experience both times. You get a few built-in advantages when you’re co-writing a book, and they help to address a lot of the hurdles that keep people from writing books on their own:
1) You only have to write “half” a book! Okay, so that’s not entirely true, but with two people, you do double your capacity for research, writing, fact-checking, and all the rest. It also helps to have two people pushing hard to get that all-important first draft done quickly.
In our case, we would split up the chapters, write them, and then share the result with the other person. It made the whole thing go by much more quickly than if we had been working on it alone.
2) You’re accountable to someone who isn’t you. It’s easy if you’re mid-book to find every excuse in the world to not write. Writers will joke that they rarely have cleaner apartments than they do when they are mid-project. And that’s because writing is hard work, and for many of us, we manage to find other “productive” ways to spend the time we should spend writing.
Hence why it’s great to have a co-author. You’re not writing for you; you’re writing for them. They need the chapter because they have to edit it. You signed the contract together, and you can’t skimp out on your half of the work. It’s a commitment device that’s impossible to shake.
3) You’re not alone with your thoughts. In the writing of both of our books, we’d often look up from our laptops and talk out loud about a scene, a chapter, an idea. It was great to have someone around who you could bother with things like that. (It’s also an enormous relief for family members who get tired of hearing the same fact over and over again.)
That intellectual companionship is more important than you might think. Writing can be lonely. Co-authoring a book is a wonderful cure for that, and it gives you someone else to test your ideas before and after they hit the page.
4) You leverage each other’s strengths. We each enjoy, and are good at, different aspects of the writing and book process. But in doing a book together, we get to benefit from what we each bring to the table. If one person is a better interviewer, let them handle interviews. If one person sets scenes better, they tackle that.
It can seem like a simple thing, but it’s especially helpful in those moments when you don’t know if you’re equipped to tackle a particular paragraph or section. You can turn to the other person and say, “Hey, do you mind just dropping in here for a few minutes and handling this? I think you’ll be better at it than me.” That’s invaluable when you’re trying to finish a book.
5) It’s much more fun. It helps, of course, to have a co-writer whose company you enjoy. If you can find that, then you’ll have a lot better time writing the book as a whole. You laugh at the same inside jokes; you celebrate the successes together. All the nerdy, quirky things that make up a book process just become more bearable and interesting when you’re doing them with someone else.