I’ll be honest. I’ve heard this story before! That’s because I’m lucky enough to have spent lots of IRL time with Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton, who co-write their novels. Yes, you read that correctly. They write together. Once you spend time with them it doesn’t seem so outlandish. They are separate but equal, together but apart, when they’re presenting a book talk or sitting on a panel or signing books (even if no one shows up—oh yes, that happened to us together in Tucson) or eating dinner at a table filled with twenty authors. They’re humble but self-assured, funny yet sincere, and THEY WRITE GREAT BOOKS.
So to quell the curiosity, Liz and Lisa are here today celebrating the launch of their third novel, THE YEAR WE TURNED FORTY, and telling us how they do what they do.
Please welcome Liz and Lisa back to WFW and ask them anything you’d like to know in the comments. And check out their books on their website: lizandlisa.com.
We are thrilled to be guest posting on Women’s Fiction Writers. We’ve long been fans of Amy Sue Nathan’s site and are excited to be here. Thanks, Amy!
I’m thrilled too. Can’t wait until we have the chance to get together in person again! xo
Writing together, separately
By Liz + Lisa
One of the questions we are often asked is: How do you write together? Wide-eyed, the person will wait for our answer. We often wonder what they expect we’ll say. Maybe they picture one of us hunched over the other’s shoulder, breathing adjectives into her ear. Or maybe they think we sit side-by-side at the keyboard, Liz using her left hand and Lisa, her right.
To be clear, our goal is to never be writing the same thing at the same time. That version of teamwork reminds us of a three-legged race. Two people’s legs bound together as they wobble toward the finish line. While literally being joined at the hip might work for some authors, it definitely wouldn’t be our choice. Not only would we fall over because we’d both be fighting to lead, we’d lose. We’d kill each other if we were that collaborative. (Long story, but we tried it in college once and it ended with a word processor on the floor!)
The way we write together is by doing it separately. Meaning, there are two thousand miles between us as we do it. We are in separate offices in separate homes in separate states. But yet, we are completely and wholeheartedly collaborative. We email. We talk on the phone. We text. Sometimes we do all three at the same time. We have as many discussions as it takes to agree on things like character development and story arc. Then we begin writing. (alone!)
So how exactly do two people write one book? Our system is simple. One of us writes the first chapter, sends it to the other for edits and we rinse and repeat until we agree that chapter is done. Then the other writes the second chapter, and so on. And by the time we type those two little words on that last page, we really have only a vague idea as to who has written once. In our minds, that is a perfect collaboration—when the finished product feels like the perfect blend of the both of us.
Of course there are other factors in being a successful writing team. We must be caffeinated! And wear our thickest skins when reading edits! And, most importantly, we have to be completely trusting of each other. Of course, there have been bumps in the road (read: fights!). But these missteps have only helped us learn important lessons about writing and each other. And as a result, we’ve become better writers and friends. With our third novel about to be published, we feel thankful to have our names on a book cover together. And we often ask solo authors, How do you write a book all by yourself?
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for more than twenty-five years and survived high school and college together. Liz lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter and two bonus children. Find them online at Lizandlisa.com and on Instagram at @Lisaandliz.