Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke write novels. Together. And they do it while living thousands of miles apart–Liz in San Diego and Lisa in Chicago. They are following up their delightful joint debut, Your Perfect Life, with The Status of All Things, which comes out June 2. Liz and Lisa have some terrific advice for anyone wanting to write a novel … with a friend. – Meg
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: How do two people write a book together?
It’s the first question anybody asks. How do two people write a book together? And the honest answer is, very carefully.
It probably helps that we’ve known each other for over twenty-five years. And that we survived high school, college and even shared the same house (and bathroom!) for four years. But even with all that history, co-authoring a novel with anyone can have its pitfalls. So if you’re really ready for this (and we say go for it!) we’ve put a list together so you can learn from our (many) mistakes!
- Check your ego at the door
This one can be hard, especially for two type-A control freaks like us. We each like things done our way—which can be a serious tug of war when it comes to crafting a novel. But what we’ve learned is when you take your ego out of the process, it flows so much easier. (Imagine that!) The feedback becomes constructive, not agitated. Things get done. Books get written.
- Don’t fall too far in love with your own words
We know you all have them—those phrases you write and then fall head over heels for. You believe you’ve just constructed the most beautiful sentence and you’re feeling proud as you hit save. Well, when you have a partner, she reserves the right to delete it or re-write it. And when that happens, you might not be happy. But that’s the thing about penning a book with someone else. You need to trust that person. There’s probably a good reason the sentence didn’t hit the right note when she read it. Or maybe she feels it can be placed somewhere else. Or maybe even after considering all of this, you still don’t agree and want to fight for your words. And that’s your right. But before you have any discussion about it, it’s very important to follow rule #3.
- Sleep on it
Step away from your computer. You are tired and your writing partner just ravaged the chapter you sent, one you believed to be glorious. Your blood boils as you scroll down and witness a sea of red. You start a fight with her in your head. (You are winning it, of course!) When this happens, shut the laptop down and grab some zzzzs. We promise, it will seem better in the morning. And if it doesn’t? Well, then see rule #4.
- Choose your battles
You slept on it. Or more likely, you lied awake all night wondering why your partner cut all your metaphors. Either way, you gave it some time and are ready to go to battle, ahem, we mean have a very rational discussion about the merits of keeping it in. Our advice? Make sure to choose these battles wisely, and only after you’ve followed steps 1-3.
- Laugh. A lot.
Yes, we know writers are thought to be serious and literary. But none of it is worth it if you don’t enjoy the process—if you can’t laugh at yourselves. Lisa is obsessed with em dashes and Liz still doesn’t know the difference between it’s and its, but that’s okay. Neither of us is perfect, but we always strive to be better. And that’s one of the best things about writing with a partner, she will push you farther than you could ever push yourself and she will teach you things you thought you already knew. We believe when it comes to writing a book, two heads can definitely be better than one! – Liz and Lisa