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9 Pros and Cons of Co-Writing a Novel

Writing is often an isolating and personal endeavor, and co-writing offers an opportunity to share the experience with someone else. Here, the co-writing team Ali Brady break down the pros and cons of co-writing a novel.

When people find out that Ali Brady is actually two people—writing BFFs Alison Hammer and Bradeigh Godfrey—one of the first questions they ask is how we do it. The creative process can be so personal, it can be hard to imagine how to blend your style with another writer’s.

(The 6 Stages of Writing a Bestseller)

This can be especially challenging when your co-writer lives more than a thousand miles away, when you both have busy day jobs, plus solo writing careers. If you ask us, it is so worth it—but like anything, there are pros and cons.

PRO: You can take a vacation with your BFF and call it research

Our debut novel, The Beach Trap, takes place on the beach in Destin, Florida. And while Alison has been to Destin dozens of times (her dad lives there), Bradeigh had never been. So obviously, we had to plan a trip to give her the full experience! There’s something about being in a place—seeing the sparkling emerald water, feeling the powder-soft white sand beneath your toes, tasting the salty brine of oysters—that brings the story to life on the page. And bonus: It’s tax deductible.

CON: The price of air travel

As great as Zoom calls and FaceTimes are, sometimes it’s better to be together in person, face-to-face. Especially during certain stages of the process, like plotting out a new story, when we prefer to be in the same room for optimal brainstorming energy. Thanks to life and other responsibilities, we can only get together in person a few times a year. But even if time wasn’t an issue—the cost of flights sure would be!

PRO: You’re accountable to someone else

Most writers will agree that a key component of productivity is accountability–and when you’re writing with someone else, you’re accountable to someone other than yourself, and you really want to meet your commitments. This sense of responsibility urges us to stay on schedule, and the anticipation of reading each other’s drafts keeps it exciting.

CON: You are accountable to someone else

This isn’t a typo; there are two sides to this coin. Accountability can sometimes feel like pressure when it’s not just your career on the line–it’s your co-writer’s too. Because of differences in drafting speeds or unexpected life events related to our families or day jobs, our individual productivity levels may not always match. Luckily, we’re both happy to pick up the other’s slack, and we give each other lots of grace and understanding when life is unpredictable.

9 Pros and Cons of Co-Writing a Novel

PRO: Two brains together are better than two brains separately

One of our most exciting discoveries as co-writers has been that creativity isn’t cumulative, it’s exponential. When we brainstorm together, our individual ideas spark new ideas that neither of us would have ever come up with on our own. When we’re drafting or editing, we have a partner who knows our story and characters just as intimately, so we’re able to edit each other to achieve our common goals.

CON: Creative differences

It’s inevitable that co-creators will sometimes have different ideas about the plot, characters, voice, or setting. This can cause some friction–but that’s not always a bad thing. If one of us has an idea that the other isn’t sold on, we’re forced to clarify, compromise, and collaborate to make the idea better and stronger.

PRO: Sharing the load

We split up the chapters, so we’re each only drafting half the book. That means our first draft can get done in half the time! We also divide up some of the business tasks, like social media posts or responding to publicists, booksellers, or readers. We each have different strengths that complement each other, so knowing that we don’t have to be good at everything takes some of the pressure off. On the other hand…

9 Pros and Cons of Co-Writing a Novel

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CON: Double the work for half the pay

Even though we split up the drafting, we edit each other rigorously, and that is arguably just as challenging. Communication is key, so we meet virtually at least once per week and are constantly messaging throughout the day. We check in with each other before making any decisions that affect our joint career. All this coordination requires more time and effort than if we were writing solo.

PRO: Celebrating the highs and sharing the lows

As co-writers, we share this experience more intimately than any friend or significant other could. Our successes are even more exciting because we can celebrate them together, and we have a built-in commiseration buddy when inevitable disappointments happen. We do recommend that co-authors try and alternate who is having an emotional breakdown or writing-related panic attack so at least one member of the partnership can be stable and supportive!

We sometimes say that co-writing can feel like a marriage: We’re committed to each other, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live (or until we fulfill our contract!). Even though co-authoring is a business partnership, our relationship is crucial to its success, so we make it a point to prioritize communication and friendship. Because at the end of the day, we write because we are driven to create, to share a story with the world, to feel that indescribable spark of inspiration light up our souls. All of that is even better when sharing it with your best friend.

Creative Writing 101

Creative Writing 101 combines teaching the key elements of storytelling with developing the protagonist. Once you understand who this character is and how to make sure you’ve included the key story elements, you are well on your way to writing that book you have been squelching.

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