Monday, October 20, 2014

On Co-writing

When people hear that we are co-writers, the first question that they ask is “how does that work?”
The short answer is: beautifully. It’s like having a hive mind. Imagine always knowing where you left your keys, or whether you need to buy milk.

But we assume you want to know more about our process.

Some people assume we each write a chapter then send them back and forth. While we have done that in the past, and it may work for some people, that’s not what works best for us.

When we come up with an idea for a story, we get out some wine and brainstorm together. We come up with the kernel of the idea, the conflict, the characters, and the journey. We’ll work on an outline together chapter by chapter.

Then, Betsy starts by tackling the empty page. She fast drafts and sends things to Carrie in bulk. Carrie works on stepping back and plotting beat by beat using color post it notes and other high-tech methods. 

When Betsy is done with a messy first draft, Carrie takes over and moves things around, streamlines, adds scenes, takes scenes away and asks those hard questions about characterization, motivation, and which plot bunnies have eaten all our vegetables.

Then we go back and forth a bunch more times and rinse and repeat. By the end of the process we don’t know who wrote which word or sentence. It’s all one voice, as it should be.

 By now you are probably asking, “what if you disagree or what if you don’t like something the other one has written?” The answer is that it happens very infrequently, but when it does, we talk it out and usually come to an even better solution.

So, what are the benefits of working together? Well, it’s fun first and foremost. Writing can be a solitary endeavor, but for us it’s like a slumber party, only with lots of commas and plot whispering.

Secondly, we can get twice as much done. While one person is working on a draft of project A, the other one is working on something else. 

It’s also like having a running partner. If you know someone is counting on you, you’re more likely to tie those sneakers on and hit the trail and suck it up. You also have a built in cheerleader who can talk you off a ledge if you get a rejection or are waiting for a response.

Also, have you ever reached the point when you want to throw up your hands and have someone else finish a scene or a chapter? When that happens to us, we just hand over the draft to our co-writer and turn on old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

We do not own the rights to this adorable Muppet image

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