Thursday, February 25, 2010

James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener

Today we have two authors visiting with us. James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener are co-authors of David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend.

James Boylston has written articles for The Alamo Journal and The Crockett Chronicle. He’s also the creator and moderator of the Alamo Studies online forum, a web based discussion group devoted to the serious study of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution. A songwriter and audio engineer, he has had a life-long interest in the Alamo and David Crockett. You can listen to some of his music on his MySpace page (my favorite on his current playlist is Blueprint for the Blues; second favorite: TROUBLE).

Allen Wiener is also the author of The Beatles: The Ultimate Recording Guide and co-author of Music of the Alamo. He has written for The Washington Post, People, American History, The Alamo Journal, The Crockett Chronicle, Western Clippings, Goldmine and Discoveries.

Their book, David Crockett in Congress has won high praise. I found it quite interesting that they live in different states. Boylston resides in Florida, while Wiener lives in Maryland. They’re here today to talk about co-authoring. If you’ve ever thought about partnering up and writing a book, this is a great post to read.

Welcome James and Allen!

CONSIDERING CO-WRITING

James R. Boylston and Allen J. Wiener

Since the publication of David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend, one of the questions we’re asked most frequently is, “How exactly does co-writing work?”

It’s a fair question, especially given that writing is generally a lonely process, when authors reach down deep inside themselves and transfer their innermost thoughts onto the page.

For a collaboration to be successful, there are a number of factors to consider. First and foremost is TRUST. Each writer must have faith in the other’s abilities, and trust that shared ideas will result in shared benefits. The book is what’s important and egos have to take a back seat. So, getting to know your partner before you plunge into a project is important.

HONESTY: Collaborators must be open with each other about strengths and weaknesses in their writing. The work is bound to suffer if one writer has a thin skin or is reluctant to be blunt with the other for fear of offending. This is related to the issue of trust. Both authors should be confident that, when they hear criticism or suggestions from their partner, they are honest comments intended to strengthen the work. This is as true for the research phase of the work as it is for the writing itself. When the research burden is being shared, each writer has to trust that the other has left no stone unturned. Often, a writer may think of a source that the other has missed, and that has to be communicated. This is one of the strengths of working with a partner, who may think of things you hadn’t considered, or suggest sources that had not occurred to you.

COMPATIBILITY: Two distinctly different writing styles, regardless of how effective each may be, will hurt a final manuscript. The reader should forget the fact that the book has been written by two different hands and be able to focus on the content. The narrative must flow seamlessly, as if a single author had composed it. This can be problematic since writers’ styles tend to be distinctive and each writer tries to convey his thoughts from his mind to the printed page. It is a major advantage if the two writers have similar styles, but when they do not, each must adapt theirs to that of their partner to the extent possible. Depending on how different those styles are, the process can be difficult and is best addressed in the drafting and editing stages. Each writer’s initial and subsequent drafts should be reviewed by their co-author, who should suggest revisions or corrections and send it back to the original author. This back-and-forth process can be repeated several times for a single chapter and, in the process, the styles of each writer may “bleed” into one another. Although complete seamlessness may not be possible, a smoother transition can be accomplished. Of course, the surest way to avoid this problem is to choose a co-author whose writing style already matches your own fairly closely.

BALANCE: In most collaboration, each author will bring certain strengths and weaknesses to the task. They may not be obvious at the start, but should become more clear as the work progresses. One partner may be better at seeing the big picture while the other may be more detail oriented. One may write long first drafts while the other submits shorter, sketchier, first attempts, and these roles often shift as the writing progresses. The sooner the two authors recognize these traits, the sooner they will arrive at the most productive division of labor.

A SENSE OF HUMOR: Writing a book, or even a magazine article, can become stressful. It is certain that unanticipated challenges will crop up, causing delays or frustration. Learning to take on these obstacles with patience and a smile will get you through them with a minimum of aggravation and stress. In fact, this is one of the advantages of having a partner, since these burdens can be shared.

Anyone considering a joint project would do well to keep these things in mind. Checking your compatibility ahead of time can avoid a lot of stress later on. Still, there’s no guarantee that collaboration will work out successfully. Achieving effective teamwork is not always easy, but giving a partnership careful consideration before taking the plunge can make all the difference between the successful completion of a project and one very long headache.

Thank you very much, James and Allen.

You can find out more about the authors and David Crockett in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Poor Man’s Friend at James Boylston’s blog, Jim’s Corner: Miscellaneous Ramblings. In addition, Allen Wiener also has a blog, Allen’s Corner: An Occasional Commentary on Books, Media, Current Events, and the Author’s Own Writings. If you’d like to hear more about their book, you can see the talk they gave at the 2009 Texas Book Festival, which was taped and appeared on CSPAN Book TV.

David Crockett in Congress is available in bookstores everywhere.
TweetIt from HubSpot

24 comments:

  1. Thanks for the inside look at co-authoring. Never thought about it until now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's amazing that this post, which I assume was written by both authors is so seamless...a sign of how well they likely collaborated on the book. Fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It amazes that two people can work together and write a book. But for those two people to live in different states that far apart is really something. Thanks for introducing me to a couple of "new to me" authors and a book that sounds very interesting, not to mention the great links to check out.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've co-authored a book and it is a challenge. My experience was unique, as my seven co-authors each contributed a chapter and it was sandwiched by my words, so the difference in style was okay. But for in-depth co-authoring, I know communication would be key!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Co-writing seems to be a great challenge but I can see how the collaberation can offer insight that a solo author could not accomplish. I love the Douglas Preston Lincoln Child Tandem.

    Having a sense of humor is important as authors writing in tandem will need to set aside their egos. This approach is necessary for the success of the book. Nicely done.

    Stephen Tremp

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting insider's look at co-authoring. It seems that really thoughtful, considerate communication is key for an effective outcome. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    ReplyDelete
  7. When it works, it's great. When it doesn't, it can end friendships. Boylston and Wiener clearly made it work.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very useful and informative guest post - thank you. I've not co-authored, but I have an author friend who has, and he told me a lot of the same things you mention as important. They were two completely different types of writers - one very methodical and the other quite serendipitous, so trust and balance were very high on their list.

    Great sounding book - best of luck with it!

    Marvin D Wilson

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank goodness for the internet age, right? I can't imagine the phone bill that would be racked up in the long distance phone call days.

    This was some great information...thanks so much for sharing!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

    ReplyDelete
  10. This was so interesting to me, because as with almost everything in life, communication and trust are essential.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great insights. Honesty & humour would be such important keys - as they are for many things in life :) Thanks for the great information!

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you're co-authoring, we now even have Skype. It's free and you can see each other as you discuss things.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Very insightful tips. I have collaborated on a number of occasions and once wrote my own rules for successful collaboration. It was neat to find so many that we agree on. Paramount is putting the egos aside. Having a sense of humor is number two in my book. Laughing can diffuse any tension that may arise.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dear wonderful friends, you will notice that I have now added word verification. I hate to do it, but I am currently getting hundreds of spam comments on past posts. It takes hours to delete them one by one and Blogger does not have a method of bulk deleting spam. I hate to add the squiggly letters, but for now I see no way around it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This was valuable information. I once began a project with a friend, but our interests diverged. So your advice is definitely worth considering and following.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I enjoy my solitude as a writer and don't think I would ever want to do it but I'm always amazed anyone is able to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I did it once. Would never do it again. (Of course, you should never say never.)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I did it once. Would never do it again. (Of course, you should never say never.)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I did it once. Would never do it again. (Of course, you should never say never.)

    ReplyDelete
  21. I enjoyed this interview. There are some interesting aspects of co-authoring I’d never thought of.

    ReplyDelete
  22. You make co-authoring sound fun! Now I want to try it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Jim Boylston here...

    Thanks, Helen, for having us and thanks to all of you for your comments.

    Allen and I found our partnership to be a rewarding experience and, thankfully, smooth sailing throughout. We were acquaintances with a shared passion for our subject when the project began, but we've become close friends despite the geographic distance between us.

    A true happy ending!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Jim, that is indeed a happy ending. I know of cases where the partnership did not end well. Thanks very much for stopping by Straight From Hel.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...