I asked mother/daughter writing duo Kate McMurry and Marie August to tell us a little bit about what it's like writing as a team.
As co-authors of Girl vs Ghost (Misdirected Magic - book 1), I was curious if the mother/daughter bond helped or hindered the writing process.
Our Experience as a Mother-and-Daughter Writing Team
By Kate McMurry and Marie August, authors of the young-adult, paranormal, romantic comedy, Girl vs Ghost (Misdirected Magic Trilogy, Book 1), misdirectedmagic.com
Over the years of our collaboration as young-adult authors, we’ve been asked many times by friends and family, both writers and non-writers alike, “How can you stand to work with a partner? Don’t you fight a lot?”
That concern is quite understandable given that we Americans are predisposed to view ourselves as a nation of “rugged individualists.” This philosophy naturally leads to a tendency to perceive a partner—any partner, whether personal or professional—as someone who has an annoying habit of looking over your shoulder, questioning your every decision, and insisting on compromises and sacrifices you’d rather not make. And for a novelist, there is the additional psychological wrinkle of worrying that one’s sacred “artistic vision” will inevitably be violated by the input of a partner.
When as a mother and daughter we decided to work together a few years back in order to write young-adult fiction, these cultural beliefs definitely made us uneasy about our ability to form an effective alliance. And since we have always been very close, we further worried that clashes over our writing might cause hurt feelings that would damage our personal relationship.
We had a lot to gain from writing together, though, because for us the saying, “Two heads are better than one,” is extremely true. We each get much more fiction done when working together than we ever managed to accomplish separately. In order to hang onto that benefit, we made it our goal to seek out ways to lessen discord arising from creative differences. Through the process of trial and error, we eventually found a technique that works exceptionally well for us. We call it the “Third Way.”
On most occasions when we disagree on a problem regarding character development, plotting, drafting or editing our joint projects, it is immediately apparent that one of us feels much more strongly than the other about her opinion. In a situation like that, it is a small sacrifice for the person who cares far less to yield to the other partner’s idea. There are times, however, when we are both equally forceful about our preference, and neither of us can be persuaded that the other’s option is superior. When that happens, we invoke the Third Way, which requires that we each surrender our initial choice and brainstorm together until we arrive at a third alternative that we both agree on.
This conflict-resolution method has essentially removed all the potential negatives from our writing partnership and allowed us to focus on the positives, which are many.
First and foremost, writing as a productive professional demands consistency and discipline—which can be much easier to maintain with the assistance of a partner. It is rare that both of us are simultaneously not in the mood to work, and the one who isn’t is inspired by the energy of the other. We also set appointments to meet and write at regular times, which helps keep us on task.
In addition, as a team we have yet to face one of the worst fears of authors, writer’s block, because so far we’ve always seemed to be able to figure out together what is impeding our forward progress whenever our work becomes stalled. If it is a plotting problem, the partner can help devise a solution. If it is a drafting issue, the partner can offer suggestions, or take a turn at drafting herself. A partner is also a huge gift at all levels of the editing process, from macro shifts in book structure down to the micro changes of line edits, making it far more likely that missteps will be eliminated before the book is sent to market.
A partner provides a number of emotional advantages as well. She is invested in the success of the book in a way that no one else could ever possibly be, because it is her book, too. She also serves as a constant source of human contact. As has often been noted, working as a solitary writer is one of the loneliest professions there is. A partner is a powerful antidote against the alienation that too much isolation can bring.
Finally, the greatest boon for us in our particular partnership is that working together gives us opportunities to spend time together that we would not have had otherwise. As a mother and daughter who are best friends, we are very grateful for that gift of stimulating companionship, and we both hope that we can enjoy many more years of working closely together as a fiction-writing team.
Karen: Thank you Kate and Marie for taking the time to write this guest post and for visiting For What It's Worth today! It sounds like the benefits of a writing partnership far outweigh any negatives. You also seem to be able to come up with unique solutions to any stumbling blocks by having a person you trust to work with. Best of luck to you both!
Buy Girl vs. Ghost (Misdirected Magic, Book 1) : Isabel Lindley doesn’t believe in magic, but her best friend, Tripp, is obsessed with witchcraft. Strictly as a favor, Isabel agrees to help with a spell and is shocked when the ghost of a teenage boy splat-lands in her bedroom. Her friend is thrilled—even though only Isabel can see or hear the ghost—but Isabel is horrified. She’s the most ordinary sixteen-year-old girl on the planet. What is she supposed to do with a ghost who doesn’t know his own name, how he died, or why the heck he’s tied to Isabel with a psychic chain? Her only hope to take back her life is to help him solve the mystery of his demise so he can go to the Light. Or wherever. She’s not particular, as long as the ghost is gone.