Ronovan Hester Shares Advice on Writing Collaboration @RonovanWrites

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How to Collaborate When Writing a Book by Ronovan Hester

ronovan-hesterAs some of you know by now, if not you will shortly, I co-authored a book with the Award Winning Author PS Bartlett of the Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales. This being my debut novel, it was an interesting experience to go through and one from which I’m taking take a lot away. As with any experience, there was plenty of good and some bad. I’ll explain the bad in the following in the How To parts of the article. This was a first for both of us, the collaborating part.

First I want to put down what you should consider when the idea of collaboration comes your way. In no way does any of this mean to say anything bad about my experience. I am taking good and not as good things I’ve learned and putting them him for you.

Things to do Before Collaborating

  1. Read the work of the other author. You want to see if the two of you have the same ideas, general style, and taste in writing and word usage. I personally loved PS Bartlett’s The Blue Diamond: The Razor’s Edge and that is what led to our becoming friends and co-author.
  2. Establish a rapport with the co-author. You want to be able to communicate with each other. You want to understand the language of the other person. By this, I mean you want to know when they are serious or joking, or when they are having a bad day and you can read emails and know it’s not you but just a bad day.
  3. Exchange writing samples for critique of work unrelated to any project you might work on together. See if you can handle criticism and a give and take process. See if the other person understands what you mean and if you understand them when talking about writing aspects of Character and Plot.

If you don’t do the above three things, your writing experience will likely be a disaster. I’m not saying it will definitely be one, but it could be.

Now you’ve agreed to begin the process of coming up with ideas. What do you do now?

Things to do Before Beginning to Write

  1. Agree on the type of writing process.
  • There are different ways of writing a book with a partner.
  • Each person may write alternating chapters.
  • One person takes the lead on writing the first draft.
  • The lead writer writes a chapter, the co-author reads it, and a discussion takes place before moving to the next chapter. (Although the lead writer in the process may keep writing as the ideas flow.)
  1. Agree on roles in the process.
  • Depending on a book there may be;
    • Who is responsible for what kind of research?
    • Subject matter
    • Style
    • Or Voice, that may lend itself to one writer being the first draft writer, if that is the route you are taking.
  1. Who will be responsible for parts of editing and proofing?
  • Is there one best at catching continuity?
  • Tense
  • Point of view check
  • Tightening up the writing

This is a sticky one as editing will step on toes and possibly hurt feelings. This is why there needs to be a lot of agreements and thought before even beginning a collaboration.

  1. Agree on the final approval process.
  • How do you determine when it is ready for the editor?
  • Who is to say when the final draft is complete?
  • What happens if one of you does not approve in the end?
  1. Agree on what happens if one drops out of the project.
    • Do you scrap the entire project if only a certain percentage of the manuscript is completed?
    • Does the remaining author continue with full credit and rights?
    • Does the remaining author continue writing, with credit given to the co-author, but the continuing writer retaining all rights?
    • Does the remaining author continue and both authors share credit and rights?
    • When I refer to rights above I mean rights to the characters, the intellectual property, all rights related to the ownership of the book and characters, and the profits.

The above looks like a lot to consider and go through, but you need to do it. You don’t want to get to the middle of the process and discover this is not where you want to be, or maybe, just maybe, you discover your co-author is not into the project as much as you are.

Maybe you were expecting something about how to do a collaboration as in how to share documents in Google Docs through Google Drive. People jump into a writing partnership with a friend and end up discovering the friendship isn’t as strong as they thought. When sharing creations and giving some control of your ideas over to another there can be some problems arise. Feelings may be hurt, prides may wound, and friendships may end.

One final thing I would suggest; put it all in writing. Why should you do this? I’m not saying for legal reasons, I’m saying for reference reasons. A writing project can take a long time, and memories can vary. A document agreed on by both authors can be a great thing to have on hand. Document and note everything. It is important when ideas come up and each author agrees to changes. This can be a fun part of your life and a rewarding one, but don’t let it be a regrettable one.

I again want to stress, this article has nothing to do with how my own personal collaboration process went as far as the negatives go. I know what went great and I know what could have gone better.

PS Bartlett allowed me to run rampant with the book. I wrote the first draft, creating the story, and the characters with only one thing she wanted done for the most part, get a man with red hair and blue eyes that could be the captain of a ship to a certain place in the Caribbean by a certain time.

You would think she would have more concerns about a character who ends up being so important to her series of books. She wasn’t. I loved The Blue Diamond: The Razor’s Edge and that world created. I understood it. I discussed with her what this world could be and encouraged her to go for it. She went into her prequel trilogy and I into the book that became Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling. She trusted I would create characters with depth and character to match what she needed in her future books. While writing her trilogy she would ask me if the man I wrote as Captain Gabriel Wallace had certain things she could use in her books or if there were certain characters he had with him she could use. It worked out very well.

After I finished nitpicking my drafts to death, which took me about 4-5 weeks to write, I passed it over to Bartlett, as I call her or Blonde Bartlett the Sea Siren, her Pirate Name. Once some of her trilogy work was done, she then went to work on our book, added her flavor to it, her needed touches to match what all she did in the future with the man known as Wallace in the book, tightened up some of the sections, and added some proper ship and pirate jargon.

The final product was a story about 95-98% what I started with, and a read of language that blends nicely once you get past that initial set up and get on with it stage of unrest conflict causes. With four reviews in so far we have Three 5 Star reviews and One 4.5 Star review.

Here is part of the 4.5 Review.

This prequel is written to explain an enigmatic pirate, Captain Rasmus Bergman, found in a series written by P.S. Bartlett. Author Ronovan Hester was selected by P.S. Bartlett to go back in time to develop the character of this fierce, yet protective man. Set in the early 1700’s, Hester uses a very formal Old English dialogue and non-dialogue language style. The historical descriptions are done smoothly, and flow nicely without being to “teachy”.

A word of advice is to settle into the language as quickly as possible. It was a bit of a stumbling block for me, as I tried to mentally get the long slow phraseology to catch up with the fast scenes. Hester seems to settle into a great story-telling groove after the third chapter. After that I was along for the ride…

As stated above, the language is Old English and a bit stiff at the start. I don’t know if I warmed up or if Ronovan Hester warmed up, but it flowed through my mind smoother after a couple of chapters.
In Amber Wake, Gabriel Falling, Hester takes on the challenge of writing first person and steers clear of some of the pit-falls of that style. He doesn’t describe what is happening behind him or on another boat. As a reader, you only know what Captain Rasmus Bergman knows, which is critical in first-person writing.

Another challenge is developing a character from someone else’s series. Hester takes this in stride and creates a back-story to explain the famous pirate. He includes history of what could explain Rasmus’ high moral standards (for a pirate) and his upper class education. At times the internal and external dialogue, and the actions seemed at odds, but it didn’t stop me from reading.

This is the first I’ve read of The Razor Adventures Pirate Tales. It would be entertaining to get readers together, who read these books in different order, and see if we each have a favorite character based on which book we read first.

So in conclusion; Ivory Dawn, Amber Wake, Demons and Pearls, and Jaded Tides are all prequels to The Blue Diamond. Unlike Ivory Dawn, Amber Wake is a stand-alone novel, but barely.

Why include the review here, and why the 4.5 and not one of the 5’s? This one shows some of those things that can happen with co-authors. However, you can see how overall it worked out nicely. Eventually you have to put the book out and into the hands of the public. We could have spent another month or more . . . maybe . . . and found some of those things mentioned above, but that’s one reason a professional editor was paid. Obviously, the points were not problems to keep from publishing or keeping his reader and others from enjoying the book. With any review, it’s an opinion and a matter of taste, this coming from a man who created and runs a book review and interview site. In reality, the book could be a two. I like it. I am proud of what I’ve done. That’s what matters at the end of the day.

Thank you, Jo, for allowing me to take up some of your space today. You are one of the most highly respected people in the author support world I know and the fact you volunteered for this is truly an honor.

Amazon.comAmber Wake-Gabriel Falling by PS Bartlett and Ronovan Hester

Choose your poison
of connection
with Ronovan.

Amazon Author Page
Amazon Author Page UK
Personal Blog
Author Site

To connect with PS Bartlett:P.S. Bartlett Author

30 thoughts on “Ronovan Hester Shares Advice on Writing Collaboration @RonovanWrites

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    February 20, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Jo Robinson hosts Ronovan Hester talking about collaboration when writing a book and it also applies across any form of joint project. Ronovan and Author P.S. Bartlett have just released Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling as a prequel to her successful series The Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales.

    Liked by 1 person

    roughseasinthemed said:
    February 20, 2016 at 11:48 am

    That’s a really interesting read from Ronovan. I can imagine collaboration being an absolute nightmare, but with PS taking a fairly hands-off role in the drafting of the story, it sounds as though Ronovan was given a fair amount of rope. So to write.

    @ Ronovan, I was interested in your comments about paying a professional editor to pick up on issues, yet the reviewer (I mean 4.5 is a very good rating anyway) still picked on dialogue and action inconsistencies. Is that because you didn’t brief the editor to look for those sort of issues? I remember reading the first chapter and thinking some of the dialogue didn’t sit right. I had the initial impression it was set in England but some of the language sounded American, so I was confused then.

    Liked by 1 person

      Ronovan said:
      February 20, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      I didn’t have contact with the editor. She’s edited previous books by my co-author, PS Bartlett. Thus, she was aware of what to look for. If you mean the chapter I put up on my sites, that was the pre-edit versions. I imagine some language bleed over does occur. I mostly went for story, plots, sub-plots, and character development. Then Bartlett went through and tightened the script up, added parts that needed to, edited to fit her style, for the most part without taking my voice away from it, technical things about ships from her experience having written her previous books in the series, and including certain aspects she needed in there for future book continuity and for her own personal enjoyment of the book, meaning her thoughts on what needed to be added to bring different aspects to the book.

      We did the beta-reader thing. Then she sent it to the editor, did the edits, mostly keeping the core of the story and characters as originally done, and then uploaded to Kindle and Createspace, or was it the other way around? 🙂 I wasn’t there so I’m not sure. It got loaded.

      I mainly enjoyed the experience of writing and creating through that original 2-3 drafts I did before handing it off to PS Bartlett. I’ve learned how it all works, albeit knowing to begin with but it is good to see it in action.

      Thank you for reading, commenting. 🙂 I hope you get it and let me know what you think as a reader in a review, and as an author in email. 😀 Unless the review would be awful, then rip me apart in an email. But I know it’s not your main genre.

      Much Respect to you Mel,

      Liked by 2 people

        roughseasinthemed said:
        February 20, 2016 at 6:40 pm

        Thanks for such a detailed reply about the process. From memory, I think the American spelling stood out for a ye olde pirate booke. But it’s months ago. Honor and odor I think?
        The question is, if one sets a book in England, should English or Americanese be used? Difficult. Americanese, to me, doesn’t sound authentic.
        And, I haven’t read it, so I can’t let you know. But, I do the email thing first for people.
        I don’t have a main genre. I read everything.

        Liked by 1 person

          Ronovan said:
          February 20, 2016 at 6:46 pm

          I have a book planned for later set almost exclusively around English citizens. In that one I plan to use the English spellings. For this one there wasn’t a discussion about what spellings to use. I think it works best for the writer to use what they know. But like I said, I plan to try for the full-on English version soon. I downloaded the Grammarly and it catches those spellings for me. I’ve tested it. Thank you for commenting. I like ‘Americanese’. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

            roughseasinthemed said:
            February 20, 2016 at 6:54 pm

            It’s just not the spelling. Grammar too. I’m reading a draft right now. Classic American is ‘couple something’. We always say ‘couple of’. I suspect Brits see the differences more than Americans.
            But good on you going for an English book. Excerpts on your blog?

            Liked by 1 person

              Ronovan said:
              February 20, 2016 at 9:31 pm

              Soon as I get the process going I’ll be sharing. But yes, grammar is big as well. I do try to keep the grammar straight as far as what someone might call an item or process. I’ve read USA based books written by Europeans and there is terminology and cultural aspects that scream at someone from the USA at pulls the reader out of the story. I’ll not be rushing an English based book, and I’ll likely use an editor who is expert in that type of writing. Wendy Janes comes to mind. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              Ronovan said:
              February 20, 2016 at 9:35 pm

              And sorry for referring to you as Mel when I first responded to you. I thought I saw an author I know and was replying to her. 🙂 She isn’t a Historical pirate type person so much. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

      P.S. Bartlett said:
      February 21, 2016 at 6:07 am

      @Roughseasinthemed I believe each reader, especially those who aren’t accustomed to reading in the “Old englishese” I write my pirate stories in, may find my style a bit unfamiliar at first but others have no concern at all and never mention it. It’s like walking a tight rope. One could easily fall to either side, but to keep one’s balance between authentic proper English or sounding as if these 18th century people fell through time from yesterday requires not only balance but flexibility. I don’t want to run readers off with too many ye’s and lengthy sentences but at the same time, injecting just enough, I believe, allows them to be carried deeper into the time period…at least that’s what my editor as well as many of my previous readers have told me.

      For instance, here is the original verbiage from Ron’s final draft:
      “Gabriel, there’s trouble brewing upstairs,” Miles Jacobs said, taking an empty chair at the corner table of the tavern. I looked at my First Lieutenant; the seriousness of the situation was obvious from his set jaw and clenched teeth. My eyes traveled to the stairs at the opposite end of the tavern. The big room was crowded with members of the Royal Navy and local seamen. There was only one business to be found at the top of those stairs and any trouble up there would be ugly.

      The final version:
      “Gabriel, there’s trouble brewing upstairs,” Miles Jacobs said, taking an empty chair at the corner table of the tavern. When I observed my lieutenant’s set jaw and clenched teeth, I immediately appreciated the seriousness of his words. My eyes followed his to the steps at the opposite end of the tavern, passing over the crowded room of Royal Navy men and local seamen. There was only one nature of affairs to be found at the top of those stairs and it was never the prudent sort.

      I’m not certain this is a perfect example of what I’m trying to explain, however, I hope it explains things a bit.

      Liked by 2 people

        roughseasinthemed said:
        February 21, 2016 at 11:55 am

        Thanks for adding your perspective, PS, as well as Ronovan’s interesting post and subsequent comments.
        On ye olde English, I would say that the general guidance is similar to those for using dialects in books, a little is OK, but don’t overdo it. Some people advocate not deviating from standard English at all. I think it’s an author’s decision.

        I’ve done ‘collaborative’ writing. It can vary between an absolute disaster zone and very good indeed. I found it worked better when it was clear that someone was in charge (me), who had definite goals regarding style, direction, content. Discussion, disagreement, compromise are all fine, but agreement on roles is critical. And in my case, being brought in as an experienced writer/editor/publisher, it made sense that I steered the projects.

        It’s an interesting topic, and I look forward to any future posts Ronovan, or you, or both of you write about it. In a way, it reminds me of guest blogging on a much bigger scale. The same issues need to be considered though.

        Liked by 2 people

    Annika Perry said:
    February 20, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    This is very interesting and as Ronovan mentioned I thought it might be much more about the actual writing process but realise that there is obviously so much more to consider beforehand. Very wise words which should ensure a friendship stands up to any later confusion. As a journalist we often worked on articles together and at first I was extremely apprehensive so used to doing things ‘my way’ but I found it invigorating and challenging in a positive way that resulted in fully formed articles. Oh, there were plenty of ‘discussions’ along the way though and no original agreements on how to proceed, that would have been useful!

    Liked by 1 person

      Ronovan said:
      February 20, 2016 at 6:19 pm

      I love that, ‘discussions’. 🙂 One of the reblogs of the post mentioned how this would work in other writing ventures as well. I may do a follow up to this about the writing part, if Jo would like. 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Much Respect

      Liked by 1 person

    olganm said:
    February 20, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Many things to consider. If writing is hard I guess writing in collaboration can be hard squared. Thanks for the tips

    Liked by 1 person

      Ronovan said:
      February 20, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      There definitely is a lot to consider. PS Bartlett and I made it through it with a great story and great characters. I think all the reviews are talking about how they like the characters and the depth of them, especially Captain Gabriel Wallace.
      Much Respect


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    Let's CUT the Crap! said:
    February 21, 2016 at 2:27 am

    I’m in awe of anyone who can collaborate in novel writing. I must be too insecure to even imagine it, or I might be too much a control freak. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    Don Massenzio said:
    February 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here are some great tips on collaborating with other authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    dgkaye said:
    February 21, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Excellent share here Ronovan and Jo. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    Ronovan Hester Shares Advice on Writing Collabo... said:
    February 22, 2016 at 9:53 am

    […] How to Collaborate When Writing a Book by Ronovan Hester As some of you know by now, if not you will shortly, I co-authored a book with the Award Winning Author PS Bartlett of the Razor’s Adventures Pirate Tales. This being my debut novel, it was an interesting experience to go through and one from…  […]

    Liked by 1 person

    kathyrollinson said:
    February 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm
    theowllady said:
    February 27, 2016 at 1:50 am

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.


    […] with South African Author Jo Robinson: Ronovan Hester Shares Advice on Writing Collaboration-Preliminary Agreements  Short Excerpt […]


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