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I know a couple of people who are co-authoring a book, and they have been debating how to go about distinguishing between the two of them in their content. They have an outline of topics that they are discussing, and each is providing their own voice/commentary on each topic individually. As they get ready to merge their content, how should they go about identifying which comments are from which author?

EDIT: To be more specific, the male co-author is a nature photographer, and the female is a zoologist. They met online and agreed to do a seven month trek through Africa, with each chronicling their observations independently, without seeing what the other wrote. At the end of it all, they are merging their content to show each person's perspective. Basically, each chapter is a different incident that occurred during their journey together.

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What's the granularity? Chapter, paragraph, sentence, ...? –  Monica Cellio Sep 1 '11 at 14:48
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

John Cleese and Robyn Skynner actually used sectional speech headed:

John:

and

Robyn:

To make the distinction. But their book was dialectic with Cleese interviewing Skynner.

In general co-authored books are just presumed to be co-authored with no specific division made between who wrote what.

Some programming books I've read give bylines on chapters but this is usually in overview style books where many different and various topics are covered in one volume, anthology style.

If they are desperate to have their own voice then it might be suitable to identify "Common Content" which is the main body of the text. Then "A's Content" and "B's Content" which are put into separate box out sections where appropriate and relevant. The box outs could be individually formatted and a key given in a "How to use this book" section.

If the parts of each author are really completely distinct then maybe it would be better to either have bylines by the chapter or even for them to write two completely separate books!

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It depends on the effect they want to achieve.

These are 2 ways I think are most feasible:

1) Don't "merge". Write the book in two sections, "What The Artist Felt" and "What The Scientist Observed" are titles that strike my fancy, based on the stereotypes of a photographer and zoologist. In any case, each person gets their own section of the book. Then they'd have the introduction to narrate how they chose to have their own sections, what the book is all about and why it is divided.

2) Write chronologically, distinguishing points of view. First, organizing each scene in both texts chronologically, name each section a fancy title and make the subtitle the writer's name. The overlapping scenes can be written in third person, talking about them. If the texts were written in first person, or are descriptions and observations, it's fairly easy to do this kind of merging.

There is another way that comes into my mind, but it requires more work than the previous ones: take both chronicles, and write the whole thing in third person perspective. It might or might not work, and will likely require fills-in as there are scenes that are bound to be written by one of them and not by the other. On the other hand, it provides the opportunity to think back, describe things that went unnoticed, and write afterthoughts in.

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Personally, the best co-authored books I've read there was no discernable difference in styles. Occasionally, such as in the Stephen King/Peter Straub collaboration "The Talisman" it could be argued that one wrote about one world while the other wrote the other. But in your case, where the authors are very different, I would probably alternate chapters.

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