Why I’m Impressed by Anyone Who Co-Authors a Book

When I was younger, I had a bit of a bias against co-authored books. I tried reading a few and I never particularly liked any of them; the rational conclusion in my mind was that they were bad because more than one author was a recipe for disaster. How could writers combine ideas, tone, etc. to make a cohesive whole? I decided it couldn’t work.

My own school experience seemed to confirm this. Any time a teacher or professor suggested writing a “group paper,” I knew I was in for trouble. Group papers had all the problems of group projects, except worse. No one could really figure out how to write a good paper with more than one author. Either the final product was a horrid mix of three different writing styles, changing paragraph by paragraph or section by section, or one person had to do the bulk of the work and just write the paper by themselves so it would sound decent. It seemed like a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario all around.

More recently, I’ve read several co-authored books that I quite enjoyed (including Illuminae and Honor Among Thieves, for example), so it clear that co-authorship actually can work. I began thinking again about all the struggles that must go into this, however, when I saw the announcement for Great or Nothing, a Little Women retelling set in 1942 by FOUR different authors: Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood. How on earth, I thought, is THIS going to work?

The book is set to be scheduled in 2022, so I haven’t read it, of course, but basically I am filled with sheer admiration that four authors could come together to write a single book at all. Part of their solution is that each author is going to write from one March sister’s point of view, so any difference in voice or writing style will be a feature rather than a flaw.

However, there still seems to be a lot of room for conflict with it comes to co-authorship. How, for instance, do the writers decide what the plot will be? How do they keep from devolving into arguments about not just whether they want to include the other person’s idea in the book, but whether that person’s idea is just completely stupid? (Ok, that might still be my tension about group projects talking. I’m sure most professional writers know how to be civil in disagreements!) But, really, how do they get anything done at all–and do so in a way that they come up with a polished, enjoyable finished product and also still have their friendships in tact? I’m really quite in awe.

So to anyone who’s successfully written something in conjunction with someone else, I salute you! And I can’t wait to check out Great or Nothing when it’s published.

Briana

21 thoughts on “Why I’m Impressed by Anyone Who Co-Authors a Book

  1. Davida Chazan says:

    There are so many books written by two or three authors that I’ve loved that I could never have any bias against them. For example, the sisters who write under the name Liv Constantine, the couple that writes as Nicci French, and then there’s “Team W” – Lauren Willig, Karen White and Beatriz Williams. Also Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb’s collaborations have been great!

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  2. MetalPhantasmReads says:

    I hardly ever read co-authored books until a few years ago. But it’s nice to see how two people can blend a story together to make it seem like one person wrote it. Some authors have completely different writing styles, but they create one together 🙂

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  3. Faith @ Pages Left Unread says:

    The Little Women announcement really surprised me as well, because four authors?? writing one book?? I can’t even fathom it. I haven’t read many stories with multiple authors so I can’t form solid opinions on them, but the ones I haven’t read I thought were okay.

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  4. Mei-Mei says:

    I am impressed by them, too! One of my favorite series, The Expanse, is written by two authors, each writing two character perspectives per book. It works so well, I don’t know how they do it.

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  5. Michael J. Miller says:

    I love Tess Sharpe! Her novel, ‘Captain Marvel: Liberation Run,’ was one of the absolute best expressions of Carol Danvers’ character I’ve ever read. I was so impressed by the story overall she became one of those authors who I’d read a book just because she’d written it.

    And yeah, group papers were THE WORST. I can conjure up all sorts of rough memories of those from college XD. So I totally share your admiration for people who can write well together. I have a few books Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan – two Historical Jesus scholars – have written together. When I read them it blows my mind how smoothly the chapters flow.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I JUST got around to watching the Captain Marvel movie, so now I might have to check out that book! And all your posts on Captain Marvel that didn’t make much sense to me before.

      I am surprisingly good friends with someone I had to write a paper with my freshman year of college. She decided to start working on it the night before it was due, and I was NOT a fan! Somehow I eventually forgave her for this experience. :p

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  6. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    Urg I hated group projects as a kid! (I was always the one that got stuck with most of the work) so co-authoring a book sounds like hell to me haha. So I agree I am super impressed by anyone who can do it, and even more impressed by people that can do it well! I love the idea of each author being a different POV though, that sounds like it could be really cool!

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I wonder if there’s anyone who likes group projects. The people who don’t do anything but still get a good grade?? (Except I have yet to meet someone who ADMITS they were the person who didn’t do any work!)

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