June 12, 2012

How to Write a Book with Your Mom

So many people have asked the same question since Mom and I published our novel, Depression Cookies: how do you write a book with your mom?

My answer: Carefully, very carefully.

Just kidding. Actually, writing with Mom felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. We've always had a very open and honest relationship. I might have kept a few things from her in the heat of teenage drama, but not as much as I should have.

Early on, my mother tricked me. She told me she could tell when I was lying because my eyebrows did this funny thing. Gullible, I bought it hook, line and sinker. After a few weak attempts at controlling my eyebrows, I gave up lying to her. Occasionally I'd withhold details, but she cured me of outright lies. Later, she admitted to making up the bit about my eyebrows. Clearly, she's brilliant.

I could go on and on about the special relationship I have with Mom, but instead I'll wrap up my advice in blog-friendly bullet points.

How to Write a Book with Your Mom
(or best friend, sister, etc.)

Frequent Story Sessions
I tend to write by the seat of my pants, as does my mom. But when two people are writing a story and working off each other, that can get a bit chaotic. Mom and I would discuss overall story elements and where we wanted to go. Every few chapters, we would reconvene and discuss where the next few were going. No formal outline, but lots of discussions. These always go better with wine or shopping. Just saying.

When in Doubt, Bring in a Third Party
In most cases, Mom and I saw eye to eye about the story, characters and editing. But when in doubt, we brought in people we both trusted. Granted, this gets a little complicated with a mom-daughter writing team, because my sisters and dad always sided with Mom. (She still makes dinner for my dad and watches my sisters' kids, so this never seemed quite fair.) Kidding aside, stay honest and get help on the tough decisions. We hired a professional editor who was happy to get in the middle and make it a better story.

Trust Each Other
The year I got married was the same year as my parent's 25th wedding anniversary, so naturally I asked them for advice. My dad told me to remember that marriage is about compromise. But he pointed out that rarely did that mean 50-50. Usually, it means someone gets 100% of they want on one issue and vice versa on another. The same is true with a writing partnership, so you have to trust each other. If one writer feels strongly about something, go with it. Trust the strength of conviction. For this to work, both writers have to be completely honest.

Encourage Each Other
The best part about writing as a team is having a built-in source of encouragement, someone who is as dedicated to the project as you are. Whenver life strangled my muse, my mother inspired me to keep going. I did the same for her. We both believed this story needed to be told, so neither of us ever felt alone.

Celebrate Together
All my writing experiences have a-ha moments. Celebrate those together. When the book is done, it will forever be a reminder of the good times and special moments you've shared. Raise your glass and toast each other's successes.

If all else fails, come up with your own version of the eyebrow trick to make sure honesty prevails.

What would your advice be for co-authors? More specifically, would you want to write a book with another writer? Why, why not?


Stephsco said...

Writing with a partner seems like it has challenges, and more so when it's your mother! But I can also see how wonderful of an experience it could be.

Tia Bach said...

Thanks, Steph. It truly was wonderful. So much so that we are doing it again!

Jo Michaels said...

I would love to work with another writer. I find those tales that are written in tandem are often the best ones. WRITE ON!

Tia Bach said...

Jo, I thought it brought a special level of meaning to our coming of age novel to have a mom and daughter writing a mom/daughter story. It's definitely special to me!

I so appreciate the time you spend reading my blog!