Brooke here (or “K”) and I decided it'd be fun to write a blog post about how Lyra and I co-write together. An author's process differs and varies and it's essential when finding another author to write with that your process be similar. Most writers are pretty set in stone with how they operate because it's what works for them, which is why you'd want to find someone who has a similar process to you. On top of that, you'd want to write with someone who has a similar writing style as you. The best co-written books are the ones where they read fluidly like only one person had written it, which is why you'd want similar writing styles—or prose's.
This isn't usually an easy feat by any means. Sometimes it's a happy accident and other times you find out during the process. Writing should be fun and come natural to the writer, but if you're struggling to write like someone else (aka your writing partner) it take the ease out of writing.
When Lyra and I talked about co-writing, we had never actually read each other's work. Crazy, right? We were both focusing on other things at the time and had taken a break from writing. But I was itching to get back to writing, however, since taking my break I knew it was going to be hard coming back. I'd contemplating starting over completely. Lyra had the same thoughts, too.
Checkmate: This is War was originally titled, Baby, Make it Hurt and it was a standalone enemies-to-lovers romance. It'd been in my head for the past 3 years, and I was anxious to dive back into it. Sometimes as authors we get blocked due to pressure or stress. I had published a student-teacher romance novel called, Pushing the Limits and though it had a HEA, I had promised my readers a book about her best friend. The thought of coming back made me wonder if my readers were only going to support me if I released that book. It might've been a crazy thought, but one that consumed me nonetheless.
See, that book was no longer in my heart. Too much time had passed and I knew if I forced myself to write that book, it would not be my best. It would create anxiety and stress that writing is supposed to help heal. I've definitely learned my lesson in announcing books before I'm 100% sure I can commit to it.
So Lyra and I had a new plan. Write together under a pen name. And don't tell anyone.
This seemed crazy, yet we went in full force! First, we needed a name. After some back and forth ideas, we had decided on Kennedy Fox. We wanted something catchy, not too long, and easy to spell (and search) on Amazon. Fun fact: FOX BOOKS was the name of the bookstore in You've Got Mail that we had bonded over.
So here we were with our new pen name and got to work.
The first time I sent over the manuscript, I'd only written two chapters. I had a plot outlined with some details and sent it over to Lyra to make sure it was something she liked. A few days later, she'd sent it back with chapter three finished.
We went back and forth for a while, both writing two POV's per chapter. Travis and Viola were the main characters and an absolute blast to write! Travis King: asshole, alpha male lived to taunt his best friend's little sister. Viola: book nerd, Harry Potter lover, despised her older brother's best friend. This wasn't a new trope by any means, but bringing these two together to finally admit their true feelings was one of the best times I've ever had writing, and to top it off—I got to write it with my writing parter and best friend.
After I read the first chapter she wrote, I could see that we had a very similar writing style. We're both driven, hard-working, and dedicated. These traits are obviously important to both of us otherwise one author will always be carrying the other. That's not the case for either of us because we're both motivated to not let the other one down. That's another perk of having a co-writer—a built-in critique partner who will give you honest feedback and some ugly truths.
Side note: You know those bad habits you repeat over and over because, well they're bad habits. Having a co-writing means you have someone to call you out on those and yell at you to stop doing them. Lyra will always edit out my need for extra “just's” and “backs” and I will always fill in her missing commas. (Though it'd be easier if we'd just learn and remember, but hey, you can't win them all).
Once we got through half of the first book, we realized this story was going to take more than one book to be told. We both decided that we didn't enjoy writing trilogies (or longer) but decided to make it a duet. We hadn't picked a new title yet, but playing on the whole “games” element, we had briefly discussed “Checkmate”. However, after researching the title, there were tons of books on Amazon with the same title, not that it's necessarily bad because it's inevitable at times, we wanted to stand out. Once we decided on making it two books, we were trying to think of ideas for book 2 that played off the game, Chess. However, all the terms, I didn't like. It didn't scream romance or was catchy enough. We came up with This is War and This is Love due to the enemies-to-lovers element, but then said, “What if we added “Checkmate” before the titles and made Checkmate the series title”? It was definitely original and would stand out, so we went with it! Once we got the covers made for them, we knew it had been the right way to go!
So the further we got into the book, the more we figured out our co-writing process.
Ideally, we each write a chapter and switch off. However, that doesn't always go as planned (as I'm sure Lyra will agree with me on this), I tend to write in more detail, which means scenes (especially sex scenes) can go longer than planned. This means, I usually need another chapter to finish my “scene” before Lyra can take over. Sometimes a chapter ends on a “mini cliffy” and the next chapter is so vividly in my mind, I continue writing. When this happens, Lyra takes the next two chapters while I read over mine again.
One difference between us is that I need to edit while I write. I'm a perfectionist and I can't “move on” until I've read over my chapter a couple times. Lyra is also a perfectionist, but she edits later. So what we do that works for both of us is I will read and edit her chapter and she will read and edit my chapter before we continue writing the next. Once one of us finishes editing, the other will go thru and approve the changes or make changes themselves. This is our ‘self-editing' process. The reason for this is to make it as clean as possible before the book is done. (Kind of like when you clean up your house throughout the day so you aren't stuck with cleaning it all at the end of the night when you're tired).
We use Google docs to write all our manuscripts in. This allows one of us to write while the other edits. The self-editing process is also our ‘blending' process. We make edits and changes to each other's chapter to blend our voices. The reason for this is so the reader is unable to tell when one writer started and the other ended. It makes it for a more solid, fluid read. This is also why it's so important to have a co-writer with a similar writing style. If one of us was a lyrical prose writer (uses a lot of metaphors) and one of us was a direct kind of writer, you'd be able to tell while reading the book. And if that was the case, there'd be a lot of blending and editing in the process. (This isn't to say it can't be done, just that it will bring up some extra challenges).
Lyra and I also have different responsibilities we take on as part of our partnership. We each have strengths that we use to our advantage and while one will be in charge of one thing, the other will be in charge of something else. That way together, we're both using our strengths and doing the best we can to invest in our brand. I'm lucky to say that Lyra is a photoshop ninja and designs all of our graphics, teasers, giveaway images, and swag design. I can be super picky (and needed, she'd probably add) so not being able to hire someone and wait on their timeframe helps immensely. After a year and a half, Lyra basically knows everything that I'll knit-pick and will adjust it before even showing me. LOL!
With that said, she's also responsible for creating (and updating) our website. She's a smart one, I tell you 😉 She created kennedyfoxbooks.com and our shop. (I'm slow learning from trial and error as well as her guidance, but I would've never been able to get it to the level it is now without her). She also creates all of our blogger HTML packets we send out for cover reveals and release day blitz'.
So while Lyra is responsible for the technical stuff, I focus more on our social media. I schedule posts to our Facebook page, post giveaways, take Instagram pictures, respond to comments or messages, etc. I usually do our newsletter as well while I keep Lyra busy with “admin” stuff. It just happened this way, we never exactly said what we could each do, but as time went on it was just what stuck. Lyra works a day job, which is why I took over the social media role. It was just easier and I like doing it, too. By the time Lyra was off work and adulting, she only had time to write at night and since it was limited, her time was best spent writing during those hours.
Once we were “out” as Brooke and Lyra, things shifted a little. I think most of our readers could tell who was who when we were posting, but then we could actually post as us. Lyra enjoys doing live videos and random posts in our Facebook group, while I mainly stick to Instagram and scheduling Facebook posts. I work on our Facebook ads and tell Lyra what graphics or images I need and then through trial and error, figure out which ads to stick more money into.
After the first draft is done (though it's more like a third draft between our double editing system), we send it off to betas. (At this point, one alpha-reader has read it in chunks of chapters). While our betas are reading it, we both go through it and edit. Lyra listens to our manuscript through Google and will use the “suggestive edits” feature in Google docs to mark it up. I will then read behind her and approve or change her edits. Listening takes 3-4 days typically and by the time she's done, it only takes me another few hours to finish reading her changes. At this point, the betas are usually done reading and I'll go through their notes and tweak anything in the manuscript that needs it.
Once everything has been added and approved in the editing phase, we send it off to the editor. Our editor is amazing and since we send it pretty clean, edits in about 3-4 days. Our betas usually find any plot holes, character discrepancies, or major issues, which means our editor typically checks for grammar, spelling, or suggests changes in sentence structure.
During this time, Lyra and I are both focusing on the marketing and promo. Sometimes we just take those few days to recoup. However, I usually am busy with our InstaFam boxes and am getting those prepped and ready to be shipped out.
So once we get edits back, we go through them (usually takes me less than a day) and voila! Our manuscript is ready! We use Vellum to format for eBook and paperback. (Super easy!) Once both are uploaded for approval, we're off to continue marketing, posting, and promoting the book. This is usually where we send our ARCs for bloggers and start hearing honest feedback in reviews (usually on Goodreads before the book goes live). Then before we know it, it's release day!
Since we release on Tuesdays, Lyra usually has to work (Boo!) but I keep her updated with everything during the day via texts (and sometimes A LOT) so she's aware of everything that's happening. I might need some new images to use (if our ads aren't performing that well) and I'll keep a list of things for her to do that might even be for the next book.
Since we offer our Fox Boxes in our shop, we're always looking for swag or promo items (Lyra is the Google Queen, so she takes on the responsibility when I tell her a swag idea). Which means, we're always working on something! Either way, Lyra and I are doing it as a team, even when we're responsible for different parts of the business.
About a week after release, we get right back to writing and start the next book. We work on pretty strict deadlines and are both motivated to keep at it, which is how I know I've found the perfect writing partner for me! It takes us about 6 weeks and we've nailed down our process so we typically know how much we have to write to finish on time.
I'm sure there are hundreds of ways to write with another writer. I'm sure what we do is very different from other co-writers, but this is just a glimpse of how Lyra and I do. We tease each other about being an old married literary couple, because honestly, that's probably the best way to describe it. Sure, we argue and disagree, but like any partnership, we have to make compromises to make this work.
Most authors will tell you they're control freaks, hence why so many chose to go indie. Lyra and I are both Type A personalities and like to be in control, so there's always a learning curve when going into business with someone else. However, having someone to discuss books, plot points, brainstorm, be as invested into the book as you is priceless. I seriously wouldn't have it any other way.
So there you have it.
This is our basic process of co-writing.
It's not easy. It's definitely not for everyone.
But when you find your literary soul mate, you won't want it any other way!
I hope this helps anyone who's thought about co-writing. If you currently do, feel free to comment below and tell us how you do it!
Until next time,