This article by Simon Whaley, on the original ABC Checklist, appeared in
Writers' Forum Magazine - February 2008
CO-WRITING - EASY AS ABC

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"We didn't meet 'in the
flesh' until the day we met
our publisher," says
Maureen Vincent-
Northam, co-author of The
ABC Checklist for New
Writers
. Maureen and her
writing partner Lorraine
Mace communicated
entirely by email and
Microsoft's MSN Messenger
whilst writing their practical
guide for budding writers.

"We've known each other
since 2003," says Lorraine,
"when we were both
members of the online
writing group Writelink. We
got to know each other's
work through articles
published onsite and from
forums, but we also
became friends because
we share the same sense
of humour. This led to
reading and proofreading
one another's work as well
as sharing ideas and
networking."

'As professional writers,
both have plenty of
experience to draw
upon'

This successful partnership
proves that you don't
need to be in the same
country as a co-writer, let
alone the same room:
Maureen lives in Hereford
near the Welsh Borders
whilst British-born Lorraine is
now based in south west
France, although she was
living in Spain when they
started the book.

"Lorraine suggested we
write something together
and as writing was
something we had in
common, a book on the
subject was the obvious
choice," says Maureen. The
ABC Checklist for New
Writers
is subtitled 'How To
Open Doors and Get
Noticed the First Time
Around' and is aimed at
writers of both fiction and
non-fiction who are just
starting out and want to
act professionally, rather
than look amateurish.

"I got the idea originally,"
says Lorraine, "because I
found it so difficult to find
basic information on
formatting for a submission
when I was a beginner
writer. So we brain-stormed
ideas until we came up
with a list of topics that a
beginner would need to
know, or might not
understand even if they'd
heard the terms, and kept
adding to it even after
we'd started the book."

"We chatted on MSN
virtually every day,"
confirms Maureen, "and
communicated via email
for longer discussions."

Their book is an
alphabetical list of terms,
phrases and advice,
starting with Abbreviations
and ending with ZZZZ -
Sleep On It.

This alphabetical structure
helped them to focus on
various sections of the
book where they had most
experience. Not only are
they co-writers, but their
writing skills and abilities
complement each other,
too.

Lorraine covered fiction
The ABC Checklist for
New Writers
is their first
book as a partnership,
and tackling something
for the first time always
makes it a learning
experience. "We
discovered during our
research that an author
agreement was
essential," says Lorraine.
"We were lucky in that
nothing went wrong, but
things can go awry in
some partnerships so it's
best to be prepared for
all eventualities."

'...it's like having a
professional writer by
your side who knows all
the answers'

Lorraine and Maureen's
book focuses on
formatting, presentation,
style and protocols. It is
not a 'how to write' guide
because there are plenty
of those already
available. Instead, it's like
having a professional
writer by your side who
knows the answers to all
those questions you have
when you're first starting
out. What do editors
mean when they ask for
'clips'? How do you 'hook'
your reader? How does a
script layout differ
between a stage play
and a radio play? What
rights should you offer
when submitting a
manuscript? The answers
are all in their book.

"It was important to both
of us to write the sort of
book that we wished had
been available to us
when we started out as
writers," says Maureen. "So
we thought of all the
things we'd struggled to
understand or find
answers to. We tried to
focus on the formatting
and presentation of work
as this is what usually lets
most new writers down.

"It's one of a kind - there
isn't another book like this
on the market which
concentrates on giving
the same kind of advice.
The ABC Checklist for
New Writers
will help
writers to present what
they have written in a
way that will give it the
best possible chance of
being read by the
decision makers."

It's clear to see that
partnership-writing can
produce authoritative
work. Would they do it
again?

"Most definitely," says
Maureen. "Lorraine and I
work well together and
we already have another
book planned, something
quite different from ABC."

So next time you have an
idea for a book, why not
consider making it a joint
effort? As Lorraine and
Maureen have shown,
co-writing can be as easy
as ... A...B...C!
Maureen tackled research
Lorraine for example,
tackled the fiction areas,
whilst Maureen
concentrated on
research topics.

As professional writers,
both have plenty of
experience to draw
upon. Lorraine has been
a columnist for Living
France
and Spanish
magazines, and her non-
fiction and fiction pieces
have appeared in
monthly publications here
in the UK and in America,
France, Australia and
Ireland. Her next book,
The Greatest Moving
Abroad Tips in the World
,
is due for publication in
October 2008. Lorraine
also won the comic verse
category in the Petra
Kenney 2006 International
Poetry Award, has been
placed in other contests
and has judged writing
competitions, too.

'... a writing partnership
has many
psychological benefits'

Maureen's work has also
been published in
national magazines,
newspapers and online,
and she is author of The
Greatest Genealogy Tips
in the World
. She wrote
Write & Seek, a research-
for-writers e-book
available from Writelink,
loves local history and
has undertaken research
projects for a local
authority.

Co-writing a book in this
way has many benefits.
"The time lapse means
France and Spain are
one hour ahead of
England," chuckles
Maureen, "so Lorraine
may have begun work
earlier but I could stay up
later!"

"When completed,"
Lorraine chips in, "each
section was sent to the
co-author for checking,
which we then revised
according to each
other's comments."

'It's one of a kind - there
isn't another book like it
on the market'

Both writers agree that a
writing partnership has
many psychological
benefits. "A big writing
project is less daunting
when it's shared," says
Maureen, "and the
editing even more so!
And it's helpful to be able
to bounce ideas around."

Lorraine agrees. "Having
someone to share the
task with is a great help
as is having a friend to
laugh with - and having
someone to blame if the
book doesn't sell!"

~~~~~
~
(c) Simon Whaley 2008
Simon's website