Write a good outline and stick with it

This doesn't seem like such a big deal. You and your friend share a vision. You've talked endlessly about it, you know who your characters are and where you want them to go, and the fact that you don't have the whole story worked out doesn't seem relevant.

However - from my own experience here - the act of writing changes the vision, and even with an outline you can end up in trouble. My friend and I had agreed to write a book together in a universe that I created in which the heroine was so strong in her faith and her love of her fellow humans that she transformed and redeemed the fallen angel who was sent to lead her astray. It was supposed to be both a life-affirming and a funny book, the start of a series of collaborative books in which humans would interact with denizens from Hell and Heaven, and in which God would demonstrate a seriously warped sense of humor. I wrote the outline, she was to do the first draft, I was to do the final draft.

Somewhere along the way, she veered seriously from the outline. What had started out a fun and funny book turned very dark, ending with the heroine seduced away from her faith, left hopeless and broken and bound for Hell, with the fallen angel triumphant. When I got her manuscript, I had a problem. As she'd written it, it no longer set up the second, third, and fourth books, which I'd sold at the same time with three other writers, all of whom were already working on their books. I tried to rewrite it, but I couldn't. It was too far from what I had to have, in both tone and content. I ended up sending it back to her with a long letter explaining why I couldn't use it - I wrote a completely different solo book in just under a month to meet the deadline, an exhausting experience in itself, but made worse because my friend was deeply hurt that I'd rejected her book, deeply hurt that I had written a letter to her explaining my decisions instead of telling her in person (a piece of sheer stupidity on my part - my publisher told me to give her the news in writing and instead of treating her like a friend I did as he suggested and treated her as any other business associate), and just plain hurt because. She never spoke to me again, and I'll tell you, no book is worth a friend.

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