The Art of Co-authoring and Collaboration, a guest post by Katie and Kevin Tsang
The Key to Co-Authoring
Some people might think that writing a book with someone you are close with (in our case, a spouse) is a recipe for disaster. Luckily for us, we’ve figured out ways to make it work, and the result is books we are super proud of. Whenever we do school visits, students often ask us about how we write together, and we tell them it is sort of like working on a group project. The important thing is listening to each other, a willingness to compromise, and appreciation for each other’s ideas.
A brief history of our publishing path:
In addition to writing funny young fiction and adventurous MG with Kevin, Katie also writes YA by herself, as Katherine Webber. But even when she is writing her own YA, she always has Kevin read every draft and valued his input, which is how she knew that they would be able to co-write together. When Katie had the initial idea for a young boy who had to face his fears (what would become our series SAM WU IS NOT AFRAID) she knew that she wanted to co-write it with Kevin, both because she trusted him creatively, and because she knew that Kevin has more insight into being an 8 year old boy! Once we’d written the SAM WU series, which are shorter chapter books, we were ready to take on our next writing adventure—The Dragon Realm books! The DRAGON books are longer and more complex than the SAM WU books, so we had to approach writing them completely differently than we did with SAM WU.
The best part about co-writing and collaborating is at the start, the brainstorm stage. Before we start writing a new project we spend countless hours talking about it. Who is the story about? Where is it set? Who is the baddie? We hang up white board paper in our apartment and write these questions on it, so if we are in the kitchen or the living room, we can be thinking about it. Then, once we’ve figured out the who, what, and why—we start outlining. For us, outlining is key to successfully co-writing. We both need to know what comes next in the story, and who is going to be writing what. We go through the outline and divide up the chapters and scenes. But once we’ve written them, we review and edit each other. Kevin is great at world building, and the exciting action and battle scenes, and Katie loves writing dialogue and character development, so at some point, we both work on every scene and chapter in the whole book. We will talk through plot points and come up with new scenes together as we write.
NO BAD IDEAS
Of course, sometimes we disagree. Writing together is so much fun, but it is also tricky! So we’ve had to figure out how to work through any disagreements. To make sure that we are respecting each other’s ideas, we never delete any scenes. Instead, we copy and paste them into another document we call ‘the sandbox’ so we can come back to it later. And instead of saying ‘I don’t like that idea’ we say ‘I think we should put that in the sandbox’ or sometimes we even use a code word ‘mushroom’ which means, ‘this isn’t working, we need to try something else.’ The reason we chose ‘mushroom’ is because sometimes we like mushrooms, sometimes we don’t, and it really depends on the preparation. But what we’ve found is that the scenes that we initially disagree on are the ones that end up being the best ones in the book! Often we end up with something completely new than other of us were initially thinking, and our combined idea is so much better than what we could have come up with on our own.
FINDING THE TIME
When we started writing together several years ago, it was just the two of us. Now we have two young children who keep us pretty busy, so our writing time is even more precious! Like any author, we have to prioritize and protect our writing time. For us, this means after we’ve put our daughters to bed, instead of watching a show or relaxing or even going to bed ourselves, we fire up our laptops and get some writing done. But the late nights and early mornings are all worth it when we have a finished book that we are proud of. And we do always make sure to find time to read as well, whether it is out loud to our daughters, to each other, or whenever we can squeeze in some solo reading time. We love having a book that we read out loud as a family, most recently it was The Phantom Tollbooth.
THE BEST PART
The best part of co-authoring is being able to create a whole world with someone else, and know that they are just as invested as you are in the story and the characters. And we absolutely love when we hear from young readers who love reading the books as much as we love writing them.
Meet the authors
Katie and Kevin Tsang are bestselling children’s authors. They met in 2008 while studying at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Since then they have lived on three different continents and travelled to over 40 countries together. As well as the DRAGON REALM series, they are the co-writers of the young fiction series SAM WU IS NOT AFRAID and Katie also writes YA as Katherine Webber. They currently live in London with their young daughters.
About Dragon City
Book 3 of the Dragon Realm series.
Billy Chan and his friends have been transported 5,000 years into the future where the evil Dragon of Death has become ruler of Dragon City. Humans now live to serve the dragon population, and it’s no different for Billy, Charlotte, Dylan, and Ling-Fei. After losing contact with their own dragons, they’re determined to track them down in this new city, even if it means putting their own lives at risk. But one dragon has turned to the dark side and has no plans to return. With the help of a new clan of dragons, can the four friends undo the Dragon of Death’s villainous work—or will she triumph eternally?
Publisher: Union Square Kids
Publication date: 04/12/2022
Series: Dragon Realm (Billy Chan) Series , #3
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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