The true value of a co-author is in the rewrites

Our agent came back to us last week recommending changes to our novel. Major changes, like ‘rewrite the last third of the book’. As an author, that’s the last thing you want to hear, and I can imagine how I’d feel if I was doing it alone. Luckily for me, I don’t write alone.

No matter how supportive they are, your spouse/partner/significant other can only talk so much about the story before their eyes glaze over. They definitely can’t read and reread and reread again. They can’t tell you the minutiae of how the lines work and why the bad guy isn’t really a bad guy, he’s just a guy. In fact, talk about the book too much and all you get is, “Yeah, yeah. What’s for dinner?” (There’s only one answer to that, by the way, and it’s, “I don’t know, you’re cooking it.”)

Your co-writer loves the book as much as you do. They know every character intimately. Better, they can talk for hours about it, just like you can. They will dissect the story with you, trying to work out what’s wrong, what’s right, what can go, what absolutely has to stay. Coming up with ideas of how we might fix problems.

When one of you can’t think of anything to fix a story, the other often can. Or you can bounce ideas off each other.  Stupid ideas, crazy ideas, ordinary ideas, until one sticks and you both say, “Yes, that might work.”

Better, she is going through the same things you are. While your family and friends are saying, “It’s just a story,” your co-writer is obsessing about the same things you’re obsessing about.

For pantsers like us, it’s easy (enough) to write a first draft. Turn on the computer, open your word processor and let the words pour out. Sure there are a few humps along the way but it’s relatively painless compared to the rewrites.

First drafts are fun. Rewrites are hard work, but the rewards are greater because rewrites are where you turn that rough piece of clay into a beautiful statue that you are proud to show off. (Believe me, you wouldn’t want to see our first drafts. They are terrible.)

It’s so much easier to do all that work when someone else is sharing the hard work alongside you.

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