Christine Daigle on Co-Writing and Serial Fiction
Neuropsychologist and author Christine Daigle discusses co-writing and serialized fiction.
Neuropsychologist Christine Daigle has published short fiction in Apex Magazine, and the Playground of Lost Toys and Alice Unbound anthologies. Publishing under the pseudonym LP Styles, Daigle and writing partner Stewart Sternberg have several books published, including Dark is a Way, which was a finalist in our Genre Fiction Contest earlier this year.
Christine was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her experiences with collaborative writing, and serial fiction.
Writing is stereotypically seen as a solitary endeavor, but there are so many authors out there. How important do you think it is for writers to network and build relationships with their compatriots? If an author is looking to develop relationships with other authors, how would you recommend they do that?
In my experience, building relationships with other authors is one of the most valuable and enjoyable parts of being an author. I would recommend joining online groups with other authors in the genres or platforms where you’re publishing or planning to publish, like those on Facebook or Discord. In those groups, authors help each other, sharing what has worked and what hasn’t, and you can learn a lot by listening to what others are saying. In the communities where I participate, the mindset is to lift everyone up and celebrate success.
How did you and Stewart first encounter each other? How did you decide you two wanted to write together?
Stewart and I were in a real-life writers’ group together. We were writing in (mostly) the same genres and had a lot of the same writing sensibilities. I think the most important part is that we both have little ego about taking feedback on our writing, which makes co-writing pretty painless. We started writing together when I was throwing around some ideas for a steampunk novel, and Stewart jumped in, brainstorming with me. It just seemed natural to write it together. And that book was published with a small trad pub press, so I guess it worked out!
Every writer’s creative process is different, and I’m sure that’s true of writing partnerships as well. Can you describe for us how you two work out ideas, plots, and handle writing?
Typically, I throw out some wild ideas, then Stewart says, “No”, and reins me in until we have an outline. After we’ve brainstormed an outline, one of us first drafts and the other second drafts. Who’s first drafting varies. With the serials, we’re pretty much writing by the seat of our pants at the moment, so we do a quick Discord chat about the next episode or three, and then just write.
There’s much more to being an indie author than writing. There’s also the business aspects of book production and marketing. How do you two divide and conquer the non-writing elements of a co-writing partnership?
Stewart doesn’t much enjoy the business side, so I do most of that. Covers, social media posts, newsletters, ads, etc. If I’m overly busy with that, first drafting duties usually fall on Stewart.
What advice would you give to any writers considering a co-writing partnership?
I’d suggest trying it out with something that’s low-stakes and you’re not financially dependent on. I don’t think anyone can write with anyone. You need to gel and have some sort of synergistic magic when you’re writing together. It should be easier to get words down, not harder.
As a co-host of the Serial Fiction Show podcast, you’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of serial authors (myself included), and you’ve written a couple serials yourself. (Dark is a Way started as a serial, The Molecule Thief is ongoing.) From all of that experience, what do you think are the most important things authors should know about writing serialized fiction?
While serialized fiction is growing in popularity, there are upsides and downsides to serialized fiction. Starting from nothing, with no audience, is a challenge for any new writer, whether they’re writing novels or serialized fiction. But serial fiction gives newer authors the opportunity to test out a story without having to write a full-length novel.
Also, if you’re going to write serial fiction, it challenges you to write tighter on a faster deadline, giving more consideration to cliff hangers. Serialized fiction really hones craft and makes each scene or episode equally important to keep the reader reading. Serial readers need to be invested early on in those free-to-read episodes so they’ll keep reading when they hit a paywall. The story’s hook must push them over the wall. Exposition can lose readers, especially early on. I’d also recommend starting with a bank of 10 or so episodes before you publish the first one, because you can burn through them fast, and you don’t want to scramble to keep up that publishing schedule.
Any last thoughts or advice you’d like to share with us?
I think one of the great things about serialized fiction is that many platforms are not exclusive so you can publish in multiple places and later use the source material to turn your serial into novels, like Stewart and I are currently in the process of doing with The Molecule Thief. Also, to anyone who is giving consideration to trying serialized fiction, I encourage you to take the leap. There’s nothing to lose!
Thanks again Christine for taking the time to share your insights with us!