Monday, March 3, 2008

stage one: invention

I'm currently in the planning stages of a new novel, and I'm co-writing it w/ a dear friend of mine to whom I'll affectionately refer as PIC (partner in crime). The challenges of this collaboration stem from two factors: one, she lives in the northeast and I live in the southeast. Two, she's in the process of studying for her state medical boards. That's right; she's in the process of becoming a chiropractor. Make no mistake, however; she's a writer. It's just not her day job, as some would say.

The idea for this particular novel was born out of a real-life situation, as is much of my fiction. There's a fine line between comedy and tragedy, and while nursing my broken heart, I clearly saw the comedic moment. And when I emailed PIC about it, and how it would make a good opening to a novel, she wrote back: you. must. write. that. book. Then she asked to be my partner in crime on it. Without PIC, my first novel wouldn't be as good as it is today. No one knows those characters as well as she does, no one talked about them or cared about them as she did, as if they were real people. If only she were an agent. And we proved to be effective collaborators when we co-wrote a draft of the screenplay for that novel. So I didn't need to cogitate twice (sorry about that -- private joke) before telling her that we were most certainly gonna co-write this novel.

Thus, for the past couple of weeks we've been shooting ideas and character names (names are a big thing for me) and snippets of conversations and freewrites back and forth. I am incessantly evil because I lack total regard for the fact that she needs to study and I continue to tempt an distract her as I move the project forward. She is incessantly evil because she lives in a place where it constantly snows and she doesn't want to uproot her or husband's life to move down here, where it would not only be warmer but more convenient to collaborate.

As of right now, the novel lacks the picky detail known as the plot. So last night we tried to sketch out the basics: girl has blog; girl breaks up w/ guy; girl sets out to meet new guy; blog goes up in smoke; that sort of thing. (I know, doesn't sound like an interesting novel -- I'm leaving out the good stuff.) Here's what this post is really all about. This morning, I received an email from PIC that contained all these wonderful questions about both protagonist and plot to ponder over. And I wondered why I didn't think of them myself. Or maybe I've been thinking about them all along and never wrote them down. So I enthusiastically answered them and came up w/ some new what-if questions and sent them back to her. My point is that the process is part of the fun. The questions, the pondering, the what-ifs, the snippets of conversations in my head and in email. The Classical Greeks would call it Invention. Invention rocks.

All I can say is thank god for email and IM and Word. Otherwise we'd be spending a helluva lot of time and money snail-mailing this stuff back and forth. Hell, I'd probably insist that she move. Why her and not me? Who the hell moves back into the cold? (Future post: why writing is oftentimes the ultimate selfish act.)

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