How I Blindly Co-Wrote a Book… And Made a Great Friend

Writing a book is hard. Co-writing a book has a whole other set of rules. I had no idea how to write with another author when Crystal Crawford and I came up with the idea to write what we affectionately call our weird alien romance. In hindsight, that was probably a blessing. If I had known what I was doing, I don’t think our book would have become the strange, funny, wonderful thing it is.

Crystal and I first met on Wattpad, a writing app where authors can post their work for others to read. I read her book, I Am Not a Stalker, and she read mine, The Yellow Note, then we started messaging privately about our writing. From there, we started beta reading each other’s books, then I joined her hugely supportive beta reader group (who are also dear friends of mine now). After that, the next logical step seemed to be to co-write something.

Grab I Am Not a Stalker here!

Grab The Yellow Note here!

Even to that point, we had never met in person. We had also never spoken on the phone. We did all of our planning via Facebook Messenger and in Google Docs, proving the level of our itnrovertedness. Is that a word? No? I’m making it a word… introvertedness.

introvertedness

Moving on, with some semblance of an outline and a lot of pantsing, we managed to chug out quite a few chapters on our own from our individual character’s points-of-view—Grace and Alexia. Then came the tricky part. We had to seamlessly merge our writing styles and our characters into a meeting scene, then move forward to complete the book together. It was definitely an interesting experience that taught us a lot.

We had loads of fun on Google Docs, taking turns writing bits here and there, live on the Doc at the same time. It took us a while to get into the groove (and a lot of laughs), but soon we were building something amazing.

What started as a little idea we bounced back and forth became The Extraordinary Extraterrestrial Love Lives of Doppelgangers! We didn’t intend to write a 100K+ word soft science fiction novel, but we did! We also entered the book in the Wattys, a writer’s award presented by Wattpad. WE WON for our category! And it was the day we won that Crystal and I finally picked up the phone and had a real conversation.

Find The Extraordinary Extraterrestrial Love Lives of Doppelgangers here!

We had a lot to discuss that day, including what we wanted to do with our book. At first, we left it on Wattpad, but we decided to leave the platform and self-publish our book. Together, we created Considerate Malice, our joint publishing brand, where we will also publish the sequel to TEELLoD and a NEW superhero series that is under construction! That’s all sort of hush, hush for now, but I can say if you liked TEELLoD, then you will love the superhero series!

Now, here we are, years later, and Crystal is one of my best friends. We still haven’t met in person, but we spend a lot of time messaging and discussing our brand via lengthy phone conversations (that almost always take multiple tangents, with many ridiculous ideas for books).

So, the point of my blog post today is this… sometimes jumping into a project with little to no idea what you are doing can be great. I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re, say, an architect, but for two writers, it turned out to be a great thing that let our creativity thrive!

And that’s sort of the point of writing, isn’t it?

Behind The Scenes

Ready for a sneak peek into my process? Fair warning, there might be spoilers!

An inside look like this doesn’t happen very often, because I am always rotating my work to keep my brain active! But lately, I’ve been in editing overdrive. I had a backlog of books just waiting to see the world, so I decided to send them on their way while I work on some longer-term things.

So, without further ado… here is my messy book writing process!

There is an ongoing debate in my head over which is better—planning or pantsing. For most of my books, I only plan ahead one chapter at a time, but for some, I try to make a detailed outline. My collaborations are always outlined since it is easier to write with another person when there is a plan. I also write outlines for my epic fantasy series, The History of Goranin. If I didn’t, those books would be twice as long as they already are!

Whether I outline or not, I do tend to take copious notes about ideas, worlds, characters, and anything else that pops into my head when I am in the shower—where all my brilliant ideas hit me.

Here’s a look at some notes from Autumn Awakens, the fourth book in The Immortal Grimm Brothers’ Guide to Sociopathic Princesses:

IMG_7149

Don’t worry… that jumble of nonsense in horrific handwriting does actually make sense to me… and it’s one of the more organized pages!

When I do outline, it looks something like this (which… is probably all wrong but it works for me):

(Contains small spoilers for Eiagan’s Winter)

Outline

After some brief planning or notetaking, I just dive right in. I usually write every day, sometimes entire chapters, other times just a few paragraphs. It really depends on the book. Something light-hearted and fun is much easier than a world-building fantasy with adult characters in death-defying situations.

As I write, I have a team of alpha readers that help me figure out what works and what I should scrap. We share via Google Docs, where we can share comments. After that, there are several rounds of rewrites, editing, and cover design.

Here’s a small outtake from The Telegram that will release this summer:

Google doc comments

Sometimes I buy covers, but most often, I design them myself. That was a huge learning curve, but it is also a lot of fun. For that, I use Photoshop. Then it’s out for a beta read before releasing to the world!

Here is a layout of the cover for Mattie Bender is a Cereal Killer that will release June 15:

Cover

That was a brief look into the process, but if anyone is interested in a more detailed breakdown, I might be willing to do a video series as I write the next (and last) Grimm book! Let me know in the comments if that is something you’d like to see!

The Quiet Voices

Far be it from me to tell someone how to react to anything. I am a red-headed firecracker on a path of destruction most days, then I remember in whose image I was made and try to reduce myself back to humbleness. I say that, to say this. I am not here to weigh in on the state of my country right now, because another empty voice shouting into the void does nothing. I will, though, implore anyone reading to understand one thing—not everyone processes grief and expresses themselves the same way.

It’s true. Sometimes it is difficult to understand or accept when someone isn’t as infuriated as you are—or so you believe because they are not raging around destroying everything. But please understand, some people are called upon to do the repair work, some are here to hold hands and offer warm embraces when it’s just too much, some are meant to soothe the souls in the aftermath—not light the world on fire.

Before shaming your friends for not screaming, ask them what they are doing. So, what am I doing? I am raising a daughter who sees all colors as unique and beautiful, created without mistake in the vision of God—even if you disagree with them. I work hard to ensure I support causes that lift people from poverty, and I work in the community to ensure the hungry are fed, the poor have housing, and more.

I do not want to toot my own horn because there is always more work to do. It is never done, and I can never do enough to be worthy enough to say it is. But I am saddened when I hear “you are part of the problem” because I don’t scream, rage, or light things on fire. I am a creator, not a destroyer. Many, like me, hear quiet voices, and it calls us to action. And there are more like me everywhere, so please, let those with soft voices use them because they often reach those who are afraid of the loudness of the world. They reach people who would otherwise hide in their safe, quiet corners and call them to action.

So, obviously, this blog post is a little different. My country is on fire, and it is scary for everyone. But beneath it all, I see hope. I see the quiet exchanges of love, the warm embraces of strangers of all colors, the pure heart of most people—and it is not violence or oppression.

I want to leave this post with a small story of an interaction I had with a man earlier this year. I’m not going to preach or rage, only offer that sliver of hope (I pray).

I was in a bookstore searching for a children’s Bible, which was surprisingly difficult. I passed a man browsing devotionals several times, apologizing profusely for each time I asked him to excuse me (the aisle was small). We stood there searching for at least ten minutes before he spoke up and said, “When did you become a believer?”

My back stiffened as I turned to face him. I was terrified of this man’s question. Anyone who knows me well knows the series of events that took me from someone who “believed in God” to someone who “knows God.” But boy, was it scary to try to tell a stranger.

He knew that, too. There he was, a tall African American man (maybe 18 inches taller than me), large and well built, wearing a black hoodie and jeans—and me, an average-sized, pale as snow, woman on a mission to find something, staring at him with fear. But he was also a wise man. He knew that fear, and he knew it had nothing at all to do with him and everything to do with sharing my story.

His eyes softened, and in them was the most kindness I had ever seen in my life—ever. And I could also see he was afraid, too. I think he was as scared to share his story as I was.

I almost melted right there, and for the first time, I told a complete stranger the story that dragged me through Hell before it deposited me right at the feet of hope. Then he told me his, which, even though I have not stated his name, I will still keep to myself because a confession of faith is something personal and meant to be told by the individual.

There was a moment of uncertainty, that moment when you know you have connected with someone on an indescribable level, but you can’t quite name it. We looked at each other, knowing how close we had both been to devastation, how close one of us was to leaving earth unfulfilled, and how—by chance alone—we found each other in a bookstore searching for the same thing.

It turns out, we weren’t searching for a Bible or a devotional. We were searching for peace, and for another person who could hear our struggle and absorb some of the pain for us.

I offered my hand, he offered his arm. Before I knew it, I was getting one of the best hugs of my life. It was cozy, wrapped up in that hoodie and massive arms!

Then my husband and daughter walked up just after we separated and finished talking. My daughter shyly hugged my leg and waved to him. He waved in return, then shook hands with my husband.

And that was it. We said our goodbyes with what we came for—connection.

During the madness, I urge you to find those who can connect with you where you are. Force never changed anyone for long, so let your quiet protesters do their work. It’s necessary.

What happened to George Floyd was an abomination, and I pray nightly for his family and friends. I pray for the broken hearts and the fearful, that they may find a way to bridge gaps between us all, to end hate, no matter our color because we cannot know another’s pain until we feel it with them.

_The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it._