193: “Writing Fiction as Coauthors” with Steve Vannoy

It’s Never Too Late to Fulfill Your Dreams

“And I can sense the joy that you’re having. The mistakes don’t matter. It’s the ideas and the concepts that you’re bringing into the book. Your flare. You know it’s got your uniqueness.” —Steve Vannoy

What happens when two guys who run a successful business helping nonfiction authors write their books decide to write fiction? This podcast is part two where Steve and I talk about our journey cowriting a fiction book. Smokey and his coming-of-age story in a red-light district town came to life for us last November 2021 during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you haven’t already heard part one, Episode 186 of “Author’s Who Lead,” you should go back and listen to the start of our fiction journey. Steve interviewed me about what it was like to write this book when I was just 10 days into the process of the 30-day NaNoWriMo writing sprint. On today’s episode of “Author’s Who Lead,” we give the inside scoop on what it was like to finish that novel with a coauthor, lessons we’ve learned along the way, and what’s next.

The Handoff

We decided that to coauthor our novel meant that I would write the first dirty draft and then give it to Steve to do the initial round of edits. This utilizes our different creative gifts, as I’m the book whisperer and Steve’s genius lies in wordsmithing and really bringing out the personality and power of words. 

At the time of this recording, Steve has only had the book for a few days. The handoff was a big deal for him because, unlike other projects we do together, this one we really didn’t talk about ahead of time, except in generalities how the book was going to go. So when I shared the manuscript with him as a Google document, he had a lot of anticipation and excitement to read it. 

Pantser vs. Plotter

I am definitely a pantser when it comes to writing fiction. A pantser is also called a discovery writer and is less structured than a plotter, who is an author that organizes and outlines their book before they start writing. Steve and I didn’t start out with any kind of outline or preconceived idea of where the story would go. 

In fact, after I had written almost half of the book, we realized that it was going to be a young adult coming-of-age novel. This was a surprise because it was loosely based on events and history around a town known for its red-light district. I’ve listened to authors talk about how their characters make choices and do things they hadn’t planned on, but only after writing a book myself did I realize how true that was. I watched as my characters showed up each day doing and saying things that surprised and inspired me.

Book Research

One of the biggest mistakes authors make is getting caught up in research. Research is not writing. I knew this from working with authors over the years, but after writing this book, I know firsthand how easy it would be to get lost in research and not take action. 

For our book, we already knew a lot about the setting and time period we were writing in since it was based on stories that our dad has told us over the years. Once we had the idea of writing this book, we made a point of asking him to tell us more stories.

That’s all the research we’ve done—just listening to stories of our dad growing up. Our book isn’t about him, but we are weaving some real details into the fictional setting and characters. The reader won’t know what’s fiction and what’s true. This also makes it easier and more enjoyable to write, since I don’t need to have to get all the details correct. 

A Dream Come True

I always wanted to be a fiction writer. As early as sixth grade, I remember wanting to write stories so badly. But I gave up my dream of becoming a novelist because all the red markups and stress about grades made me feel that I wasn’t any good. After college, I ironically became an English teacher, but I only wrote screenplays and nonfiction because they were shorter.

Today, I write because I enjoy it. At 52, I am writing my first fiction book and have fulfilled my dream of becoming a novelist. And it’s all right that it’s come later in life because now I see the world differently. I’ve experienced so much more and I have a voice now. My advice is to follow your dreams no matter how old you are. “I think anybody who’s thinking about writing a book, it’s never too late. It’s exactly the right time to start.” —Azul Terronez

Helping Other Authors

We’re in this business because we want to help authors. We have coaching programs that help get their ideas out of their heads and onto the page. We also have a publishing press that can help authors publish and market their books. I want to be able to coach confidently and being a nonfiction author and now a fiction author myself helps model the creative experience and process for others.

Having the personal experience of going from an idea to a successfully published book has been insightful and helps us practice what we’re teaching our authors. I have coached hundreds of successful entrepreneurs, first-time authors, and experts in many fields to write their books and build businesses with them.

As authors write their books, it’s inevitable that they find ideas for other books. We call this finding book babies. With our fiction novel, Steve and I knew it would be just the first in a series. In fact, I will start book two on February 1. While Steve edits the first one, I’ll be writing the draft for book two. We’ll let you know how all this unfolds when we do another podcast episode.

I hope you were inspired by the lessons Steve and I have learned on our fiction-writing journey. What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? In the comments, share your biggest challenge to writing your book.

That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside you that needs to be written, know that you can write the book that’s been on your heart no matter what age you are. Don’t delay—get out of your head and put words on the page today!

Episode Resource:
AuthorsWhoLead.com
Mandala Tree Press
Authors Who Lead Episode 186 with Steve Vannoy
National Novel Writing Month

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