In 2015, Jen Sternick asked her friend Tom Wilinsky for some book recommendations for her teenage son, who had just come out as gay and was looking for “a rom-com for boys like me.”
“When I was a teen, no such books existed,” said Tom. They started reading young adult fiction but couldn’t quite find what they wanted.
“Finally, Tom suggested we could do it ourselves,” said Jen. Their first young adult novel, Snowsisters was published by Interlude Press in 2018, they’re just finishing up their second novel and are working on a short story for an upcoming YA anthology.
“The question we get the most from people is about how we work together as co-authors,” said Jen. “The answer is both simple and complex.”
Have you ever considered co-authoring a book with a friend or colleague? Read on for some top tips for writing a book with another writer!
Learn to Pick Your Battles
We love the back-and-forth of collaborating. Early on, we made a decision not to let writing differences get in the way of our friendship. Both of us are good at communicating when something is important to us and at letting go when it isn’t. And we have a commitment to the work. If we have a deadline, whether external or internal, we both know that the other will do what it takes to meet it.
Find Your Groove
Once we have a general outline for a story, we decide who is going to write what and when. Tom writes on weekends, when he can spend several hours at a keyboard. Jen writes in short spurts before work or in the evenings. Tom now lives in New York and Jen lives in Rhode Island, so communication can be a challenge. We talk on Saturdays or Sundays and sometimes more when we’re really trying to get something out. We draft our scenes and chapters in Google Docs and share with each other once we’re ready. When we’re working on drafts, we use “suggested” for editing so that it’s clear what is new and who is inserting or removing text.
Play to Each Other’s Strengths
Tom is much better at close-line editing. Jen likes to nail down the story arc early on-- we haven’t completed a story yet in which she hasn’t written a draft of the last chapter early in the process. We also balance each other out in terms of managing anxiety and stress. If one of us is worried about attending an event or how a chapter will be received, the other one is usually able to calm fears.
Share the Self-Promotion
We have joint social media platforms, although we’ve pretty evenly divvied up who runs them. Jen prefers Tumblr and Twitter, while Tom stays mostly on Instagram and Facebook. Many co-authors run their own individual social media sites.
Find an Unbiased Editor
We’ve had to figure out how to work through it. In our first couple of books, we split the book into two points of view, and each of us had the responsibility of writing one. That created a natural decision point-- your character, your final call on edits. The few times we’ve really conflicted on how to resolve something, we’ve put it aside or asked an editor or a beta reader to weigh in.
Co-authoring has its challenges and its joys. We may not always be in sync about where the work should go, and sometimes we have differing time availability. But we get instant feedback. And, best of all-- we give each other courage. Getting a book published takes a lot of persistence and a lot of time. Sharing all of that makes it much easier.
Tom Wilinsky and Jen Sternick are the authors of Snowsisters. Check out their website for more information and updates: www.neverhaveieverbooks.com.