Collaborative Writing in the Digital Age

An interview with two writers living apart and writing together

Writers Noah Nichols and Brie Beach live in separate states, but are writing a novel together. Their collaborative work on the book led them to embark on a flash fiction project together as well. The project involved them writing a story on a single topic, using the same characters, with Noah writing from the female perspective and Brie writing from the male viewpoint. Noah sent us his story, “The Result,” and it was published last month. Brie also shared her story with us and we are including it here, along with an interview of the two writers concerning co-writing in the digital age.

FT500: For the flash fiction stories, what did you start with? A prompt? A concept?

Noah: It was just one of those things that kind of happened on the fly. I got an e-mail suggesting that I submit a story to your site and then I started writing “The Result” a day later. I formulated the main story very quickly while getting ready for work. Once I had Brie read the completed version, she expressed interest in trying her hand at flash fiction. So I said that she should maybe write a spinoff of my short from the opposite perspective and see where it (went). That’s how things started to gel together as an impromptu collaboration.

FT500: Did you coordinate your efforts? Did you decide who would write which perspective or did you just write the stories independently?

Brie: When I read Noah’s story and liked it, he suggested that I write one from the opposite point of view, so I immediately came up with some ideas of what his character’s boyfriend would be like and went from there. So we both read each other’s stories right away even though they were written individually. It was all Noah’s idea to write mine from the other person’s perspective and submit it.

FT500: You are co-authoring a novel. How do you work that?

Noah/Brie: We wrote our novel using Google Docs during the month of November for NaNoWriMo, to see if we could do it in a month, and it ended up going even better than we expected. Our novel has four parts; the first is from the man’s perspective and the second from the woman’s. So we wrote those individually. Then we wrote together on the last two parts, sometimes each taking a turn writing a line or a section and then sometimes we would each add to what the other had written. (More recently) we have been working on the editing together and will go through it again individually. Our “Strands of Sand” happened very organically. We had an incredible time writing it and constructing it. In fact, there was one specific area where we literally wrote the dialogue between two characters in the story all on the fly through Google Docs. It was exhilarating! We intend to create the sequel in the same kind of fashion. It just sort of flows naturally for us, working together on writing and editing.

FT500: You live in separate states.  Do you have any lessons learned from that process that you could share with our readers? The FewerThan500 editors used to do the editorial work here digitally. In the past few months have we started meeting in person instead to discuss submissions and strategies. It has worked much better for us. How do you make the separation work?

Noah/Brie: Thankfully, being apart from each other is only a temporary thing. The plan is to live in the same area and create in person. Google Docs does make it easier to work together from anywhere since you can see what the other person is writing in real time. It definitely wouldn’t work the same way with other programs. Google Docs is great, but it does come with huge limitations. I’m sure working together in person is much easier. For now, the easiest thing is to both be working in Google Docs but to talk on the phone at the same time. That way we can see what’s there and what’s being changed, but can also talk through something or answer questions immediately. But nothing beats actual real life back-and-forth creating.

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This is the previously unpublished work of Brie Beach. You can read Noah Nichols previously published companion piece here.

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The Day Off

By Brie Beach

I hear the text message alert on my phone, but I ignore it. I’m currently kicking butt on Call of Duty Black Ops; can’t stop for a text now! It’s probably from Dylan, anyway, asking why I’m not at school. I don’t really feel like dealing with that.

I probably should have gone today, but I didn’t want to take my biology test; since my mom was nowhere to be seen, I just stayed home. I’m sure I’ll get crap for it. I don’t care.

The doorbell and home phone ring at the same moment, causing me to lose focus and die. “Aw, for the love of Tom Cruise!” I yell, standing and throwing the controller at the couch. “WHAT?!” I look through the peephole to see a meek-looking grandma with a pamphlet. “No, thank you,” I say under my breath. I’m ignoring them both.

Just as I’m getting ready to start a new game, I hear my text alert again. “Can’t you people leave me alone to relax here just for one day? I think I deserve that much!” I walk over to my phone, and without checking the messages, shove it in the pantry under a bag of rice where it cannot bother me.

Three hours later, I pause the game only to get some Pringles and my fourth Dr. Pepper of the day. As I shut the pantry door, I hear my phone’s muted buzzing yet again. I groan loudly, popping the top off my soda and spilling it down my front as I take the first drink. I halfheartedly clean it with a paper towel, leaving the drops on the floor in hopes that the dog will lick them up.

I glance at the clock: 2:37. I’m good, don’t need to check my phone just yet. One more game first.

Halfway through my third game, I’m aware that my bladder is full and my soda is empty. On my way to rectify the situation, I realize it is now 4:52. Crap. Won’t be too long now before I get dumped on by one person or another. I give in and check my messages.

Chris: Dude, where are you? Mr. Springer says you’re failing biology now cuz you missed the test…

Mom: Tyler, are you ditching? I got a call from the school.

Dylan: How come you’re not at school today? You sick?

Called that one.

Eric: Where are you? Coach is pissed you’re missing practice, and he’s gonna kick you off the team.

Dylan: Are you okay? Should I come over?

Mom: Tyler, please call me! Now!

Dylan: I’m coming over! You better be home.

Before I read the rest, the doorbell rings and I’m sure it’s Dylan. When I open, she screams, “You’re lucky it’s negative, you cretin! We’re done!” She hurls a stick at my face. I pick it up; it’s a pregnancy test. I look up and she’s gone.

I close the door and return to my game.

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