When I tell people I work with my husband, the immediate reaction is, “Oh, I could never work with my husband/wife!” To which I reply, “Then you’re married to the wrong person.”
Not only do we work together, but we play together, study together, research together, sing together, and travel together (when I can get Mr. Recluse to leave the house).
Recently, in addition to writing songs together, he’s the music, I’m the lyrics; we began to write books together. The difference being that when co-writing a song, it is usually done in a day, demo’d the next day and pitched the day after that. When co-writing a book, it is a lot harder and a lot longer.
Songs are roughly sixteen lines that tell a story: beginning, middle and end. They can take as little time as twenty minutes to write (I love when that happens), or as much time as several months. But, for the most part, they are done fairly quickly.
Books, on the other hand, are much more complex. The story is done with the same word pictures, being careful to craft every word so that the reader’s time is not wasted, but more time is spent in the effort.
Take the first book in our trilogy, “Fortune’s Web.” We talked the story out, back and forth, for at least six months before we committed any words to paper. During those six months, we developed characters, discussed plot points, planned conspiracies, and established strategies.
Our characters moved in with us. They got up with us in the morning, ate every meal with us, and sometimes woke us up at night. They talked back when they didn’t like the direction we were taking them, and let us know by not working out with a particular plot or story. We would know within a matter of weeks if a character would not work with a conspiracy, and we would have to make a change. They began to take on a life of their own.
After we were sure we knew the story forwards and backwards, we wrote an outline. Yes, I put my high school English class to good use, and I’m glad I listened when the lesson was, “How to Make and Use Outlines.” We were very clear what we wanted in each chapter.
After making the outline, we wrote a synopsis of each chapter on a different page. Sometimes these synopsizes were as small as one paragraph, and sometimes they were over a page depending on what needed to go into that particular chapter.
This is the spot where we knew that the book would hold together. This was the time we would add or delete chapters, or combine them if the situation warranted.
Once all the chapter synopsizes were done, we put the leaves in the dining room table and opened it up as large as it would go (it could seat 12). We then placed each chapter in order around the table so we could walk around reading each of the chapter paragraphs to see if the book was in the right order. At this time, we changed the orders of the chapters, added chapters where needed, or added stories on a particular page. It was fascinating.
Only when we were satisfied that the story was complete did we start writing on the book . . . but we didn’t write it in order. Since we knew what the story was, we could choose any chapter we wanted to write on any given day and know what had to be covered in that chapter. I would wake up one morning, and if I felt sexy that day, I would write one of the sex scenes. If I was feeling violent one day, I would choose one of the fight scenes or one of the murder scenes. We would print out what we wrote on that day and put it under the chapter synopsis that it went with.
We found out that we had very different writing styles. I would write on the computer downstairs in my office, and Kerry would write on his computer upstairs. Every two or three hours, we would check in on each other to see our progress.
I write by vomiting words from my fingers. I can sit down and start writing immediately and within three hours, I will have sixteen pages written on a particular story. Of course, there are a lot of repeats, and parts of those sixteen pages that are not useable, but I needed to get it all out to be able to keep the gems.
Kerry, on the other hand, will agonize over whether it is “and, or ,and” (and comma or comma and), and after three hours, will have written three sentences. Those will be three perfect sentences, but one paragraph is what he will have done in that time frame.
Lucky for us, we get along, and do not insist on having our own way, although I’m a little more protective of what I write than Kerry is. It is at this point that we switch what we are working on and proceed to write on each other’s chapters. I will take his perfect paragraph and begin to vomit words all over it. He will take my sixteen pages and act as an editor, cutting and pasting, deleting and adding, until it is concise and tells the reader only what we want to at the time. We may switch several more times on the same chapter.
Now back to where I started, working with each other. Once we have accomplished writing on each other’s chapters, we will sit down together and go through the chapter again making sure we both agree with what has been added and what has been deleted. When we need to add something, I throw up all the words I can as fast as I can and Kerry says, “Yeah, that’s good, but if you said it this way, it might be better." It is often the case that characters are changed and stories are rewritten at this time.
In “Fortune’s Web,” only one month before the book was to be published, we totally changed the ending, adding in several plot points to make the book into the trilogy you read today. Originally, the book was just the novel and a sequel, but we had a great idea to make it into a trilogy that you’re going to love.
That brings up another problem. In “Fortune’s Web,” we had to be sure to leave the book open-ended so as to have some characters return in “Blood Debt,” the second part of the trilogy. We also had to introduce some characters in “Blood Debt” that would return in our third book, “Collusion.” It is difficult to put in “birds” that will come into play in later books, and yet, not give away too much of the third book’s story.
“Blood Debt” is half written and it is just as exciting as “Fortune’s Web.” And, we already have the story and most of the outline on “Collusion.”
Between our two extremes, we find a perfect blend. We have to remember that writing is hard work, so we leave our egos at the door and our attitudes in the garage, and get the job done.
We’ve been writing partners now for twenty-six years. Let’s see if we can hold it together for a few more years until we get some more books written for you to enjoy.