3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.
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Ehsan and I being brothers makes this rendition of co-authoring tips slightly different. Furthermore, we were born to Pakistani immigrants that made their way to where else but Queens, New York. Being first-generation in the United States is a strange statement to put to paper because we do not feel as though the label fits. Yet there are profoundly experience-rattling attributes to it—growing up Muslim being one of them. Suffice it to say that we share a unique outlook on life based on the additional lenses the world was being filtered through. Writing a book together lent itself well to our version of brotherhood. I can say that now, but we had “creative differences” from time to time.

(Successful Writing Collaborations: 3 Questions Co-Authors & Ghostwriters Need to Ask)

I say all this knowing that even though our background may not fit all authors, all authors fit us. Those who take up the cause of servicing a story are connected somehow, throughout all human civilization. It is an ancient practice that geography, culture, and society color with perspective. This is a roundabout way of getting to the first tip: Your ideas are yours and, therefore, need your perspective.

Your ideas need your perspective

Some may take this for granted. We sure did when we began writing Wild Sun. Expectations abounded and multiplied by two with us co-authoring it. Many times throughout the ideation phase we felt that we, with our inclinations and sensibilities, could not tell a story with mass appeal. How wrong were in this approach. Writing with your perspective and taste can be a mystery at first. The various notions you have of yourself, outside expectations, and the story at hand can get jumbled up. Try to remember that only you can tell the story and that it will never be told your way again. It is inherently unique (it does not mean that people have to like it)! We decided to use our common ground and let it dictate the themes and sorts of trials we wanted our characters to go through.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Live off-page for a while

"If you build it they will come…” they being through lines and plot here. Before ever writing, Ehsan and I would meet up with poster boards and markers and create timelines of events that would eventually be interwoven into Wild Sun character arcs. It allowed for the sort of through lines we always appreciate about real characters. We decided that the only way we could have real and visceral motivations was to experience these people off-page. Think abstractly at this stage and things can truly go anywhere in terms of the overall story.

Wild Sun: Unbound

Wild Sun: Unbound by Ehsan Ahmad and Shakil Ahmad

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Schedule time

I always say this, but you should commit time to each other and therefore, the story. That means calendar invites! Not cabin in the woods idealization, I know, but there will be time for that as well. Sometimes being workman-like about the process pays off when you step away and the work then congeals in the mind. Dedicated time builds momentum and things can start to take on a life of their own. Eventually, you are servicing a story that has a unique identity instead of continually needing to chase one. Allow it to be another person in the room with you.

Fearless Writing William Kenower

If you love to write and have a story you want to tell, the only thing that can stand between you and the success you’re seeking isn’t craft, or a good agent, or enough Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but fear. Fear that you aren’t good enough, or fear the market is too crowded, or fear no one wants to hear from you. Fortunately, you can’t write while being in the flow and be afraid simultaneously. The question is whether you will write fearlessly.

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