Tuesday, January 12, 2010

my partner in crime and me: a story of collaboration

I've been promising you this post for weeks now. Here's how my writing partner and I worked on our manuscript back in December:

We each came armed with a massive binder containing our manuscript. Each of us had annotated its pages with questions, ideas, reminders, and the occasional smiley or frowny face.

We had a pretty set schedule. Up at 8am. By the time the morning routine was done, we immediately got to work, never later than 10:00.

We'd go page by page.
Me: Do you have any comments on this page?
Her: A couple.
Me: Share.

And then we'd systematically go through our notes (sometimes of the same line or paragraph or character motivation) and would proceed to talk about the characters and story as if they were real people and places. Sometimes we got stuck on a word or a line, and spent 20 minutes wordsmithing (even my mother, a room away, chimed in a few times). Sometimes we disagreed on a piece of dialogue or a character response or description. We made our cases, and usually compromised in the end. When we liked something, we complimented the writing (at times unsure of which one of us wrote it). When we didn't like something, we made fun of the writing and each other. (As the novel progressed, we marveled at the new levels of suckage it had reached.) The ability to laugh at yourself and your work, especially if the writing is not going well, is a crucial step in the process. More so if you are collaborating.

This was all before lunch.

After lunch, we'd resume our place, and work until dinner. After dinner was West Wing time. We included this as part of our work. The West Wing provided us with simultaneuous motivation and relief. Some nights we squeezed in a couple more hours of work before bedtime.

Some days we changed our scenery, be it the Barnes & Noble cafe or a different room in my mother's house. When we weren't talking about our manuscript, we engaged in debates (is Long Island really an island?), trivia (Where did the Pine Barrens get its name?), and I put her three years of chiropractic school to work (Why does my jaw pop when I eat certain foods? Why do women get menstrual cramps? What is that annoying knot in the back of my neck?). And so on. We laughed a lot, we ate good food, and we enjoyed the beauties of the East End. I even showed her the creepy Santa that stands outside the variety store on Main Street and sings when you pass it (it's not human, but it's real...)

We still have a lot of work to do on our manuscript. More scenes to write, a lot more to revise, and more feedback from readers. The best part of the project is how much fun we've had. We always said from the get-go that even if no one else likes our book, we do. And sometimes that's all that really matters.


Rob said...

Sounds like having someone else to write with you gives opportunities to bounce ideas back and forth. I've read that Stephen King and Peter Straub did this collaboration and that's how they wrote The Talisman and Black House. Like you guys, they'd show up each with a hugh manuscript and pick it apart to intergrate it into one. Let us know how it progresses and good luck.


cutie said...

Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today..........................