Laura Howard: The Why's & How's of Co-Writing a Novel


The Why's & How's of Co-Writing a Novel

Have you ever considered co-writing a novel with a friend? Then you are going to LOVE this fun article by authors Liz Reinhardt and Steph Campbell. They just released their second co-written novel, A Toast to the Good Times

The Why’s

SC: Writing can sometimes be lonely. Though we’re both lucky enough to have a large circle of “writer-friends,” the actual process is pretty solitary. But co-writing is an entirely FUN experience. You get to bounce ideas off of each other, you get to try new things and step out of your writing comfort zone, and for Liz and I, co-writing made sense because it is just pure fun

ER: YES! The one and only downside of this career was the many hours I spent talking to my dog or blabbering to my poor, glazed-eyed husband about my books. For Steph and I, I think our success has a ton to do with the fact that we have a really organic sense of togetherness. We are completely honest with one another, we have total and absolute respect for each other as writers and friends, and we’re both enormous risk takers.

When we started A Toast to the Good Times, we had this very strong feeling that this was Landry’s story to tell. We’d successfully handled two POVs in Lengths, and that was a little more of each of us driving one character and then threading the story together. So, it would have been easy to just add Mila’s perspective and let it fly as a back and forth story like we’d done before, but we really had this feeling that Landry was our man. 

So we just said, “Let’s do this. Let’s trust we can do this and do it and if it gets too weird, we can call ‘uncle’ and change tactics.” 

And I feel that we did a very solid job of weaving this story together. There are points mid-sentence where one of us would pick up where the other left off, and I have a hard time remembering who wrote what where. Which is beautiful! And it was scary, too. 

An entire book that’s basically a romance from a guy’s POV? A twenty-something idiot guy who makes huge mistakes? And we had to stay true to his character and tell his story and make people not hate his was something we worried over a lot! But we love to do things that are out of our comfort zones.

Also, Steph and I are work horses. We set deadlines and we work. Hard. We don’t make excuses, we don’t back down. Steph has FOUR KIDS!! Two are babies!! And so I get ashamed when I’m like, “Ah, I don’t feel like doing my word count.” Because if SHE can do it, I can do it! Hahaha!! I think we’re like-minded enough but different enough that the mechanics are smooth and workable, and it’s the writing itself we focus the bulk of our energy on.

The How’s

SC: Liz and I are both total ‘pantsers’, in that, we don’t even really start out with a firm plot, so giving up total control of a project works out well, because neither one of us have a firm grasp of what the entire story will be when we start out.

We typically just start with one character in mind, and one of us will open up a document (on Google Docs, which really, lets be honest, is sort of the best invention ever) and WRITE. Sometimes we each write a chapter, sometimes we write until we get to a stopping point and aren’t sure where to go from there. We both have access to the document, and changes are recorded and saved in real time, so we always have the same document at all times. Actually, we’ve both been logged on at the same time occasionally and can see what the other is changing or working on. :)

ER: Hahaha!! That’s freaky ;)! I always feel like a peeping Tom when that happens. And I love that Steph and I have that level of trust, because writing is very, very personal. It’s baring your soul on paper, and you come to love what you’re doing and how you do it.

We have very similar tactics as far as letting the project take a life of its own, but we do have distinct styles. I tend to be wordier (gee, can you tell?), and Steph helps me chop back and keep the plot moving. Steph tends to be crisp and acerbic with this knife-point sharp wit and dry humor. I try to add a few little flourishes here and there to soften things out. And I feel like I’m learning from Steph. 

Our current project was our leanest, word-count wise. And I loved that it was a honing exercise for me. I really tried to see what I could balance and juggle with single images and strong dialogue, but within the frame of a certain amount of words.

It goes back to trust. I’m on the edge of my chair every morning that there’s another chapter in the doc, waiting to see what amazing thing she did with the book and challenging myself to add to that in a positive, smart way.

The Fun Stuff...

SC: Co-writing is like the old Choose Your Own Adventure stories in the purest and funnest way imaginable. I never know when I go to bed and close the doc what I’ll wake up to, and it’s always so happy to pull the file up and see where Liz has taken the story.

ER: Also, we are now regarded as a team. We get to share tables at book signings and promote together. There’s always someone to bounce ideas off of. There’s someone to share joys and frustrations with. Working with Steph has been, hands down, the most amazing piece of a very amazing writing adventure. And I love imagining writing together when we’re little old ladies, going on retreats together, drinking lots of wine, looking at pics of the grandkids. It’s a commitment that is so gorgeous and special, and I’m glad every single day that she and I took that awkward chance agreeing to co-write. It’s like a choose your own adventure WITHIN a choose your own adventure. How’d you like that, Steph? Deep right?! 

(Hahahaha!! I can totally see her rolling her eyes at me right this minute!! :)!)


To keep the good times rolling, Steph and Liz are offering an e-copy of BOTH A Toast to the Good Times and Lengths to two lucky winners! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great interview. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. Awesome interview! I can't imagine how fun it would've been to watch these two ping-ponging during this process. I LOVED Lengths. Can't wait to read this new one! Great job, girls. I would love to someday earn my way into a circle of writerly friends and be able to co-author something. I think it would be so amazingly fun!

  3. I have had wonderful experiences with my co-writers, but we have never published. May I ask a question on how you came to a publishing agreement? Do you have a book account that you share? How did you work that out? I am curious, because one of my co-writers never wants to publish and a new co-writer and I might be interested, but I want to be sure I have everything worked out, should we ever decide to publish together.

    Thanks for your time! I appreciate it more than I can say. If you would rather answer in an email for whatever reason, I am risurocket @ gmail . com or risurocket @ yahoo . com. If you would rather not answer, that's ok too.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! Your books are now on my TBR Tower. After all, it looks like I have co-writer homework to do. :) ~Shanah

  4. Bookmarking! Totally would love to do this one day. Great interview :D


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