Co-writing is not for everyone. Char Chaffin and I have been friends since 2011, when we both came on board Soul Mate Publishing with our debut novels. We got to know each other virtually, and by the time we met in person at our first romance conference—Atlanta in 2013—it was as if we’d known each other forever. Soon, we both became acquiring editors with Soul Mate, cementing an already strong friendship.
During RWA Atlanta, we’d tossed around writing something together, and after one frenetic brainstorming evening came up with our first co-written book, Rodeo King, which debuted in 2014. We were thrilled when Rodeo King finaled in the 2016 Heart of Excellence Readers’ Choice Awards.
We had so much fun writing together, we decided to keep doing it, and agreed a pen name was in order. CiCi’s first name was easy, since both our names start with ‘C.’ All we needed was a last name. Eventually, we came up with ‘Cordelia’ which means ‘heart,’ and our tagline is ‘Writing From The Heart.’
Co-writing is an exciting adventure, but it also comes with challenges, and is not for the weak at heart. Mutual respect and compromise is the key to a successful co-writing partnership.
Char and I talk on the phone frequently; everyday if we’re working on a project. I’ll bring Char in here and we’ll discuss our writing processes and how they combine seamlessly into our works as CiCi Cordelia.
We’ll answer some of the questions we routinely receive regarding our partnership:
How do you combine your voices?
Since Char’s a heavy plotter, and I’m a total fly by the seat Pantser, it works really well. I’m able to continue with my usual creative process while Char keeps us focused. Plus, I’ve learned to at least outline each chapter which has improved my writing. I just can’t plot too far in advance or I lose the spontaneity of the story.
Char: Writing with someone else opens up a whole new world of compromise. ::grin:: For me, I had to write more on the fly than ever, and Cheryl found herself dealing with my incessant need for outlining. Part of why CiCi succeeds is our ability to meet each other halfway.
Cheryl: True dat. Since I started writing with Char, I’ve learned to plot, just a bit. We do a general outline,so we can stay on track. But the stories never turn out the way we originally plotted them, so there’s still a lot of pantsing going on.
Who writes what chapter?
One of us writes a chapter, then sends it to the other for edits. We usually have two or three editing rounds before the chapter is polished enough to move on. Then the other one writes a chapter and we repeat the process.
How do you work out disagreements?
Char: We are both strong writers with strong opinions, so obviously we sometimes come at our basic plot incompletely different ways, whether or not we’ve already set down an outline. We’ve never not been able to talk it out and find common ground we can both accept. I think that’s because we do know each other very well and consequently know when it’s better to cede rather than argue. Also, we understand when a project won’t work for us, the same as we instinctively know when we have picked a winner that will benefit from what we both bring to its creation.
Cheryl: This is where compromise comes into play. Char and I are fortunate that we love the same type of books and don’t often have disagreements. But, we’ve had a few. It’s a delicate balance because usually we are both right, it’s just that we’re having a difference in where we see the story leading. So, we carefully and respectfully work through it, until we agree upon the chapter, and where it’s heading. The best thing about co-writing is that this process leads to a better read, in my opinion.
How do you both settle on genre? Characters? Titles?
Char: It depends on whether one or both of us have an idea that won’t leave us alone, or whether we’re just chatting on the phone and brainstorming occurs. We both get so excited when we start talking plotting and characters, that often the genre and our hero/heroine creates themselves.As for titles, those can be toughies, but again if we just talk it out together, we find what’s right for our work.
Cheryl: Yeah, what she said . . . ::smile::
Do you use an outside editor and cover art services for your co-written works?
Char: Since we’re both editors, we usually edit each other during the creative process. Cheryl is a great developmental editor, and I’m punctuation-crazed and grammatically anal. Both of us are strong characterization editors. Cheryl handles all the cover artwork, either creating it herself or working with a cover artist to come up with a selling cover.
Cheryl: We edit each other and that seems to work well. I do have a handful of critique partners I run my work through, and they catch a lot of stuff. By the time we finish our stories, they are pretty clean.
Does your writing partnership affect your working relationship as acquiring editors at Soul Mate Publishing?
Cheryl & Char: That would be a yes . . .but only in a good way. Sometime in the fall of 2015, we were chatting as usual, and started toying with the idea of a long-range book/series project we could develop together as editors, written by thirteen different Soul Mate authors. When we presented the idea to Soul Mate Owner and Senior Editor Debby Gilbert, she fell in love with the premise and gave it her professional blessing, and The Soul Mate Tree Series was born. The first book was written by us, under our pen-name, CiCi Cordelia. So, we not only co-write together, we co-edit.
We are currently working on a three-book historical western series, and our co-writing grows stronger with each book.
What advice do you have for those thinking of co-writing?
Char: First and foremost, you need to trust your co-writer. And it helps if you work with an author whose writing is similar to yours. I believe you should go at co-writing for the right reasons. Cheryl and I co-write because we love writing together and we believe the books we create together combine the best of both of us. As mentioned before, compromise is key. You’ll have to find common ground through every aspect of the process and you’ll need to leave your ego at the door, too.
Cheryl: As Char mentioned above,make sure you like and trust your writing partner. That’s key. Then look for someone who complements your work. It’s important to find a writer who makes your own writing stronger.
I do believe Char mentioned she’s anal . . .lol. True. I, on the other hand, am not. So I’m always rushing, wanting to get to the exciting part. That sometimes means leaving out details that would make the scene stronger. And Char sometimes writes with so much detail I find my mind wandering. So I edit her down, and she edits me up, and the pacing of our stories is the better for it. So don’t just look for someone who writes ‘just like you.’ Look for someone who melds with your own writing style to make a great story even greater.
But most of all, have fun!
Cheryl Yeko is an award-winning author and writes Steamy Romantic Suspense with protective alpha men and strong heroines. She also co-writes Sexy Historical Westerns and Hot Paranormal with her BFF, Char Chaffin.
She lives in Wisconsin with her husband Patrick. She loves to read, play piano, and spend time with family and friends. She belongs to several writing groups, including Romance Writers of America (RWA), Wisconsin Writers Association, Wisconsin Screenwriter Forum, and Sisters in Crime.