How Do You CO-WRITE a Book – Part 2

Logo -2Welcome back to Two Navy Guys and a Novel, the blog series where you can watch two ex-Navy officers write a military-political thriller. We also answer the age-old question: how many officers does it take to write a book? Apparently, the answer is Two.

Way back last August, when we were just starting out on this publishing journey, we wrote a post on how to co-write a novel. Those were salad days–the wonderful time at the beginning of our project when we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

Well, we’re older and wiser now. If you take a look at the Writing Progress-O-Meter on our web page, you’ll see we’re deep into the second draft, so we figured it’s time for an update on this co-writing topic.

Here’s how our co-writing process breaks down:


This is a team activity. Over the last four months or so, we’d meet about every two weeks at our local library in Savage, Minnesota. (Side note: cool name for a town, am I right?) We’d draw out our timeline on the white board, then talk through each scene in detail.


This is JR’s job. He researches details about the scene and sends an outline to me. I might get some pictures of a ship or details about how SEALs could raid a compound, along with his vision of how the scene goes down. The level of detail varies from complete blocks of dialogue to bare bones, depending on how much he’s feeling that particular scene.

First Draft

Using JR’s outline, I write out the whole scene. Usually I follow his guidance, but there have been moments when I’ve just ridden off the reservation. Sometimes it works, sometimes…not so much. JR reads through my REV 0 draft and comments/edits, as needed. The REV 1 version then rests in a shared Dropbox folder.

Second Draft

Once the entire first draft was put to bed in November, I started to go back through and revise the first attempt, using JR’s edits as a guide. I deal with plot holes, fill in details that needed to be verified, and generally smooth out the prose. This goes in a REV 2 folder on Dropbox.

Third Draft

This is our most critical step and the one we’re currently involved with right now. Using the “share screen” feature on Skype, we’ve been meeting a few times each week to review each chapter. I read the entire text of the chapter out loud and we hash through typos, plot issues, dialogue, and anything else that might slow down the story. It’s interesting to note that even though I have already read this text at least three times by this point, we STILL find typos.

How’s It Working Out?

Overall, pretty well. Our bi-weekly story meetings may not have been the most efficient means of plotting, but it paid off because it forced us to talk through the story each time and make sure it all hung together. I find it amazing that in all the months of work, the ending for the book never changed. (On the other hand, the stuff between the beginning and the end changed–a lot.)

As we feared, when our manuscript expanded from 90,000 to 112,000 words, it caused about a month-long delay in our schedule.

Apart from the original story planning meetings, I think the most productive time in the project has been the REV 3 read-through process. It’s really exciting to watch the story come together. We find ourselves laughing out loud at some of the scenes. Of course, we’re pretty close to the plot, so if WE find some of the shenanigans hilarious, we hope our readers will, too!

Next Up – Beta Readers

We’re almost through the REV 3 edit process, which is a GREAT feeling! Our goal is to get the full manuscript to our beta readers by December 15th.

We’ll incorporate all of the beta feedback in late January, and then the book goes to our editor on February 1st.

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David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.

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