Blending Voices

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Blending Voices

Lately I’ve been working on writing a book with an associate who I also count as a friend. He invited me to help him with the project, which he’d already written a first draft of in very rough form, and we’ve been passing the manuscript back and forth, adding to it, deleting from it, making other changes large and small to the words and descriptions, resolving plotholes, and rearranging chapters.

Co-writing isn’t always easy. One of the biggest challenges is blending your voices. If you and your co-author write in vastly different styles, or if one of you has a strongly distinctive voice, the change from one paragraph to the next or one chapter to the next can be strongly noticeable, even jarring, to the reader. The writing just doesn’t flow seamlessly.

Of course, that’s not the only way to collaborate. It’s possible for one author to come up with the idea for the story, if it’s fiction, or for the nonfiction material to be presented, and to lay out an outline—perhaps even a vastly detailed one—and for the other author to do all the actual writing. And that still doesn’t lay out all the possible collaboration methods. There are other, although less common, ways to divide the work as well.

But if you’re each doing some of the writing, it can be a real challenge to write in a cohesive style, so that the readers can’t discern, “Oh—‘Author A’ wrote that pasage,” or “’Author B’ wrote that chapter.”

I’ve co-written a few books previously, but unlike the current novel-in-progress they were, all but one, nonfiction, I was the lead author, and while my co-authors contbuted material and/or information and/or ideas, I did the bulk of the writing.

I did have one co-author who contributed material for me, who had a very distinctive voice that I was loath to alter. Twenty years later I can revisit the book and still pick out the segments he contributed—not because I remember that these were his, but because his voice is, at least to me, so clearly his voice.

Collaborating can be tricky. It definitely presents a challenge. But it can give you a chance to sharpen your skills as you work to blend your voice with that of your co-author.

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