I’ll be honest with you, when Eliza and I were planning out this series, this was the post I was most concerned about. Finding the right cowriter is the trickiest part. If I’d decided to message someone else on a whim years ago, I would probably be writing a very different series. I’d probably be as collaboration-phobic as anyone else.
For one thing, I think finding the right cowriter is a lot of luck. That being said, your perfect cowriter probably isn’t very far from you right now. Maybe not in terms of physical space, but you probably run in some of the same circles. The first tip I have for finding a good cowriter is just immersing yourself into the writing community. Don’t just dive in and ask someone you found on Twitter if they want to write something with you. Follow them. Learn what they enjoy writing and what they’re good at. What their style is. That’s another way fanfiction and fandom helped bring Eliza and I together. I’d read everything she’d ever posted, and I was following all of the insightful and hilarious things she was posting on her blog back then. I didn’t know her, but I knew her content. By absorbing what she was putting out into the world, I got a sense of who she was. If you’re looking for a cowriter, that’s the place to start. Learn what their opinions are. What they’re reading. What genres they write in, and what they’re working on. How they feel about oxford commas. I’m just kidding, I don’t even know what Eliza’s oxford comma opinions are. But seriously, it sounds creepy, but getting an idea for who they are as a writer from afar is the best judge of a good cowriter.
That doesn’t mean it’s going to be this perfect relationship, however. You might find that the person you admire so much as a writer is better suited to be a beta reader or critique partner than a cowriter. That’s okay too. The key is just to try. A simple I would love to work with you sometime goes a long way, in whatever way that takes shape for you. You’ll eventually build this group of writers that become like a baseball team of friends, everyone plays a different position, but they all still go to bat for you when you need them.
There’s one more tip that I’d like to offer. It helps to find writers outside your own genre. For example, Eliza is Tolkien reincarnated, and I don’t have a fantastic bone in my body. Everything I do is rooted in the world we live in, and when I write with her, it usually goes something like “but what if we added magic” and I love it. She thinks of things that I absolutely never would have in a million years, and it adds so much to anything we’re working on. You have to step outside of yourself to collaborate with someone in this way, so you might as well reach out to someone who doesn’t write exactly the same way you do.
That being said, eventually, in good collaboration, your ideas will blend together so much that you won’t remember who came up with what. In our first story, I couldn’t tell you who named our OC, or who decided to give him a dog named after a sculptor/ninja turtle. Unless someone’s having an emotional breakdown (I know that definitely came from me) or talking to animals (probably Eliza’s idea,) it really is such a melting pot of influences that I couldn’t pick myself out of anything we’ve done. I reread our first multi-chapter story a few days ago, and if we hadn’t labeled the chapters we’d written in the author’s notes, I genuinely would not have been able to pick out my own writing.
So here’s my best advice. Try. Write with people. Make stuff that might be garbage. It might take time, and some stumbling along the way, but you could fall into a cowriting relationship that means the world to you. And you just might create characters and worlds you’d die for.