I’ve always been curious about writers who co-author a book. A hundred questions race through my head when I think about the process. How do they select a concept? Who writes the main character? What’s the process when it comes time to sell?
Today, with the help of the fabulous Jen Malone, I’m pulling back the curtain on the co-writing process. In her own words, Jen shares how she and writer, Gail Nall, tackled the concept and writing duties for their upcoming Middle Grade novel, You’re Invited. While Jen addresses some of the larger issues, she continues her explanation of the process in a second post over on Kidlerati.com. I highly suggest you head over that way tomorrow and check out the rest of this topic. It is fascinating! Oh, and p.s. make sure you scroll all the way to end of this post for a special giveaway offer!
By Jen Malone
I share most authors’ fascination with co-writing, even now that I’ve co-written a series alongside the talented Gail Nall. After all, writing a novel is such a deeply personal thing and we all have our own quirky writing styles and habits. How do you bring someone else into all that mess? With Gail and my middle grade series, You’re Invited, about to launch, I’m weighing in on just how this co-writing gig worked for us. Of course, I sat down to write one post and it grew and grew and grew, so this is going to jump over to Kidliterati.com for Part Two (see below for link). Part One below discusses the early process of brainstorming and selling our joint venture.
Obviously, everyone’s experience is different, but here’s how Gail and I pulled ours off:
Gail and I had been critique partners for about a year and a half before I approached her about co-writing this crazy “tween party planners” idea I had. I’d sold my debut, At Your Service, a few months prior and wanted to write more middle grade, but I also had a young adult novel (Wanderlost, HarperTeen, 2016) out on sub and thought co-writing could be a way to keep some skin in the game on the MG bookshelves, while devoting more of my time to building a YA list (somehow I thought co-writing would take half the time, but—duh, Jen!—that wasn’t necessarily the case).
Gail and I were both drawn to fun (and funny) contemporary stories about tween girls, so I hoped she would be excited about running with my idea. Luckily, she was! We’d also often joked that our writing sensibilities and sense of humor were so similar we could each finish each others’ books if need be. Our point was proven when we submitted sample chapters to our agents and even they guessed wrong when asked which of us had written each chapter. It also helps a lot that we love and respect each other’s writing and are friendly offline, despite living about ten states apart and having only met in person once for an hour. (At that point. We’ve since spent THREE whole days together at BEA).
Even though the initial concept for the series was my idea, I didn’t have much fleshed out when I approached Gail, and that was deliberate on my part. I wanted us both to have equal ownership over the books and our first plotting call was both of us tripping over each other with our “and what if…” ideas. We spent about an hour and a half on the phone coming up with some broad character sketches and a rough outline, then went off on our own to develop the two characters we’d each write (the book is told in alternating chapters from four friends’ first person POVs.) We sent each other character worksheets that described our two girls’ backgrounds and interests down to tiny details. Having those sheets as reference really helped us write the other’s characters into our own chapters and, after knowing these girls through two books, I now feel like I could probably write her characters’ chapters and I’d bet Gail would say the same.
A crazy thing happened between the time Gail and I first discussed this book and the time we wrote the proposal for it—Gail sold her debut middle grade novel, Breaking the Ice… to the same editor I was already working with at Aladdin. Talk about a happy accident! Having one editor who was already familiar with both of our writing made it much easier to sell our idea, but also helped us going forward because we both had relationships with Amy (Cloud, our fabulous editor) outside of our joint one. There was no feeling of “does my editor actually like my writing or am I just here because my cowriter dragged me in?” (note: Writer = Neurotic Maniac.)
More nitty gritty: our agents had a brief conversation ahead of time to decide who would handle submitting the proposal and who would handle negotiations and split those duties. When it was time to sign, Simon &Schuster basically divided our contract in half, so instead of signing one joint contract and having our agents separate the accounting, we each signed a contract that offered half the advance money and half the royalty rates. This way all monies were being evenly divided by S&S before being sent to our agents. This made it no-fuss for our agents through the life of the book. I’ve heard of other situations (anthologies, for example) where one author’s agent takes on the beast of a job of dividing all incoming monies among the contributing authors.
That’s all we have space for here, but later this week I’ll be posting on Kidliterati.com about the drafting, revision, and promoting process.
But we can’t leave you without a fun giveaway, so here’s your chance to win a digital ARC of You’re Invited that’s been lovingly annotated by both Gail and myself with fun behind-the-scenes info and tidbits AND a copy of the song our main character Becca writes, which the talented Grace Mann has composed and recorded. (We’re more than a little in love.) To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below with your contact information (email or Twitter handle). Entry window is open now and will close Monday, May 11 at 5 p.m. EST!
Four best friends start a party-planning business in this fresh, funny tween novel from the authors of At Your Service and Breaking the Ice.
Twelve-year-old Sadie loves helping her mom with her wedding planning business, and with Sadie’s mad organizational skills, she’s a natural! That’s why it’s so devastating when her mother “fires” her after a Little Mermaid–themed wedding goes awry.
Enter Sadie’s best friends: sporty Vi, ace student Lauren, and boy-crazy Becca. The girls decide that in order to get Sadie’s mom to reconsider, they have to make her see how amazing Sadie is at party planning. Except no one’s gonna hire a twelve-year-old to plan a wedding. A birthday party, though? Definite possibility.
Before long, RSVP—your one-stop shop for the most creative parties in town—is born. Of course, Sadie can’t wait to prove herself to her mom, but the other girls also have their reasons for enlisting: Vi has her eye on the perfect gift for her hardworking dad, and Becca’s all aflush at the thought of connecting with Ryan, the new Irish cutie in town. And though Lauren thinks she’s too busy with summer studies to “officially” join, she’s willing to help out in any way she can.
But in this particular party-planning business, nothing goes according to plan! Sadie’s mom is a perpetual no-show, Vi’s archrival is dead set on ruining her summer, Becca can’t seem to get Ryan to glance in her direction, and Lauren keeps choosing studying over her friends. Is the girls’ friendship strong enough to survive a business? Or does RSVP spell the end of these BFFs?
Jen Malone writes books for tweens and teens. Her debut, At Your Service published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin MIX in 2014 and her new series, You’re Invited (Simon & Schuster), co written with Gail Nall, launches with Book #1 in 2015. She has three young adult titles forthcoming with HarperCollins, beginning with Map to the Stars in Summer 2015. Jen lives outside Boston with her husband and three children, teaches at Boston University, loves school visits, and has a “thing” for cute hedgehog pictures. You can learn more about her and her books at www.jenmalonewrites.com.