Loree Lough

At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 70 books, 59 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed “edgy, heart-tugging adventures” by reviewers, her stories have earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards. A frequent guest speaker for writers’ organizations, government agencies, book clubs, college and high school writing programs and more, Loree has encouraged thousands with her comedic approach to ‘learned-the-hard-way’ lessons about the craft, and 600 (and counting!) of her former students are now published authors. Loree splits her time between an Allegheny Mountains cabin and a home in the Baltimore suburbs, and shares both with her husband and a formerly-abused, now-spoiled Pointer whose numerous vet visits inspired the nickname ‘Cash’. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to write her at loree [at] loreelough [dot]com. “And please,” she adds, “visit my blog (www.theloughdown.blogspot.com) and my soon-to-be-improved web site (http://www.loreelough.com) where, if you’re patient, you’ll hear some hauntingly beautiful music.”

Is Co-Authoring Co-ray-zee?

Just a week ago, after giving my “Why You Need to Outline” speech to a local writers’ group, a woman stepped up and shared that though she’d been writing for years, she hadn’t managed to break into print. Her best friend was having the same problem. They’d known each other since college, lived in the same suburb, and sent their kids to the same schools. Because they had so much in common, the two women considered pooling their talents (the friend is great with dialogue and this woman is super at scenes), thinking that way they’d stand a better chance to be published. But she’d heard horror stories about perfect pals who became bitter enemies by pairing up to write, and knowing I’ve had a few “write together” relationships, she wondered what I’d advise to help protect their friendship.

I’ve never felt comfortable launching into answers when I haven’t taken time to pray and think about the questions. So I promised I’d go home, give the matter some careful thought, and get back to her in an e-mail. This is what I wrote her:

Think of those hurry-scurry days when you were planning your wedding. Did your minister hand you and your fiancé a contract guaranteeing happily ever after? Did he place his hand on the Bible and vow that the two of you would never grow apart, for any reason, then hold that hand in the air and swear you’d never disagree, never get angry, never feel hurt or neglected or taken for granted (or, God forbid, jealous)?

Well, of course he didn’t! The man was in the business of leading, not misleading, couples. And the hard truth of the matter is if he’d said anything about the future, it would have been something like “nobody can predict the future.”

So let’s put a spin on the now-cliché Forrest Gump quote: Change happens. And there’s just no way to prepare for the way we’ll feel when change affects us.

A coauthor relationship, like a marriage, is a partnership that unites two very different, very unique individuals for the purpose of facing the world of writing together. Just as most couples start out with the best intentions, writers who venture into coauthor relationships believe in happily ever after, too . . . until those changes take place, and one half of the partnership says, “Hey, this wasn’t part of the deal.”

So coauthors, like potential spouses, need to begin by talking about their future. About each person’s writing strengths and weaknesses, work ethics, how much time they’ll each dedicate to the project. They need to decide, up-front, how they’ll split the workload. Who’ll submit the work once it’s ready for an editor’s eyes? Who’ll act as go-to person when it rouses editorial interest? They must decide before the work begins that no matter who proposed the idea, they’ll share equally as much as is humanly possible.

For some coauthors, the preplanning works. Others, sadly, end up like half the married couples who start out believing in happy endings. Them thar changes happen, see, and those changes are responsible for minor disagreements that can lead to temporary separation . . . or divorce.

Prenups avoid some of the conflict when Hollywood types or corporate moguls go their separate ways. They have tangible assets that can be divided up: homes, furniture, cars, vacation houses, stocks and bonds, etc. A written work—particularly

before it’s published—is more like one of the offspring of marriages. Because once you and your friend meld time and talent and edit the thousands of words that’ll become your novel, it won’t be easy to say “I wrote this and she wrote that.”

The solid coauthor relationship is like any marriage that has survived years of life’s ups and downs. It works because the partners put the success of the work ahead of things like who wrote what and who wrote more. When interviewers ask how the writers came up with reader-identifiable main characters, who takes credit? And which one takes the bows for having developed and resolved believable conflicts? Conversely, which writer takes the blame when reviewers cite “too many flashbacks” or “the writing is passive rather than active”?

So by all means, hammer out as many of the details before you sit down to write word one. Ask yourselves what problems other writing duos face, and figure out how you’ll cope when the two of you encounter that dilemma. Set aside the joy of starting out on this exciting new venture together and expect pot holes, pitfalls, and stumbling blocks in the road ahead, because if you let your Pollyanna bonnet blind you to such things, you’re sure to trip and fall . . . and the landing will have painful consequences.

I wish I could give you a tried-and-true formula to guide you toward a “happy ending” in your story and your coauthor relationship. If you’re over twenty, you’ve already learned there are no guarantees in life.

So don’t waste time rubbing a rabbit’s foot, hanging a horseshoe above your office door, crossing your fingers, plucking four-leaf clovers from the meadow, or wishing upon a star.

Instead, get down on your knees and pray for all you’re worth that every detail you and your partner hammered out before you wrote “Once upon a time” will build a solid framework that’s still standing strong when you type “The End.”

Love Finds You In Paradise