This week on Saturday Specials, I have a special guest, Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills, who co-writes Dystopian Nation of City-State (an anthology of short stories related to the futuristic dystopian, post-American nation of City-State) with James Courtney. When I asked her to narrate their experiences of co-writing for a guest post, here is what she shared with me. Thank you, Kaisy for doing this!
The Dystopian Nation of City-State has two authors. City-State requires two authors
with its sophisticated layer system, its corrupt government, its restricted societal class system, its nihilistic cult, and its magical floating city.
And what’s trending in City-State? It’s the hashtag, #helpmejames.
A little background: James and I attended high school together in Melbourne, Florida, in
the mid 90s. We knew each other, but we were not close friends. Later, James went on to marry his high school sweetheart and one of my good friends, Kelly. In fact, I was in their wedding.
We all kept in touch throughout the years.
Fast forward to 2011.
James messaged me and asked me if I could take a look at a novel he wrote – I have two English degrees, and I teach the subject. I was hesitant at first, but then… what the hell, right?
We have been writing together ever since 2012.
So… how do we operate? What makes a successful writing team? A few things…
1. Listen: Have an Open Mind – One major rule when working with a co-writer is
being an active listener. James and I talk about every element of our literature, and we work through every option possible within our current piece of literature. With listening comes communication, and this is important – I never proceed with an idea without consulting James first, and vice versa. Trust is imperative within this process.
2. Shitty Rough Drafts and Brainstorming – There is nothing like having a writing
partner for initial brainstorming and drafting. Bouncing ideas off each other has made City-State a better, well, a more evil and interesting place. When I am stuck, I just ask my partner. If I can’t think of the next great plot twist, character name, or literary device, James will. When he’s stuck, I pick up the “slack” – well, neither one of us slack off. It’s more like filling in the blanks.
3. Time Management/Efficiency – James and I both have full time jobs: I am a teacher,
and he is a postal worker. We can’t drop everything and write (although we wish we could), so the creative process takes time. However, this is where co-writing is extremely beneficial: when I am waiting for him to return a piece, I always manage my time and work on something else to get ahead. On the down side, James and I have three to four projects running at the same time, and sometimes we are not on the same schedule when it comes to City-State’s short stories and the trilogy. But hey, there’s absolutely no excuse for co-writer’s block!
All in all, James and I work together very well, and we are lucky to have one another as
writing partners. The stars aligned. So, back to work. I think I’ll work on… wait, I’m stuck.
You can follow Kaisy on Twitter at @KaisyWMills and James at @jamesacourtney.