When my first novel, WANNA GET LUCKY, hit the shelves in 2010, I was interviewed by a great guy assigned to write a piece for the Arizona Republic. His first comment to me was, “I thought writing a novel was a personal, solitary affair, but according to your acknowledgements, it takes the population of a small town in Iowa to write yours.”
Okay, so I did thank half the people who were still talking to me by the end of the tortured process of birthing a novel, but truly, they all played a part. And, through the few years and three novels since then, I’ve found my writing process is a bit unique, though not unheard of.
I love communal writing—stories by committee.
This is especially laughable since in “real” life I do not play well with others. Ask me to join a committee or go to a meeting and you’ll need to bring the tranquilizer gun to get me there.
But give me the opportunity to spend the day gathered around a table with my best friends (Lucky’s aunts) Barb and Maria, each of us half-hidden behind our computers tapping out our deathless prose, and I’d sell my grandmother to be there.
The three of us met in a critique group. The leader kicked me out (long story). Barb and Maria left with me and we’ve been together ever since. Of course, I complicated the dynamic when I moved from Colorado Springs, leaving them behind. But, we’ve honed our conference-calling skills and are talking about delving into to the world of Skype. We email pages and communicate regularly—the writing has stayed a communal effort, but I no longer get the almost daily pleasure of their company.
When we are in the same town, we pick a restaurant with good food, free-flowing alcohol (for emergencies), and a plug for Barb’s antique laptop—food is a plus as well. We gather early, set up shop and work until happy hour. Hunched over our laptops we must look like a group of witches, tossing words into the story cauldron, occasionally hurling invectives and offering incantations to the Gods of Prose. Sometimes the words flow, other times I’m tackling a passing waiter to beg for some medicinal spirits…but I’m the most morally bereft of the group. The three of us have a great time and, yes, we actually write.
But, if we need to brainstorm a plot point, delve into an expertise one of us has, or think of something silly—this is usually my request☺–then we make an appointment, a time to park the stories for a moment and shift gears. At the appointed time, we order an appropriate beverage and dive into each other’s stories and their unique issues.
This sounds schizophrenic, but it really works—for the three of us. It keeps the creative juices flowing and jump starts the imagination. In talking through my stories, Barb and Maria have opened my eyes to different directions, different ideas. Now, I may not take their suggestions, but they get me playing outside my own weird little box of potions. And they’ve helped me from writing myself into a corner with no way out—especially helpful since I’m a pantser… no outline for this gal. Nope, I just turn my imaginary friends loose and try to keep up. But this lack of planning poses interesting problems when there is a mystery involved and clues to plant. And, Maria and Barb are godsends!
While this is my process, I know it is far from universal. Each writer has his or her own unique way of hammering a story into shape.
BTW: I’m giving away ten FREE downloads of the digital novella (Kindle version only), LUCKY NOW AND THEN, Part One. This novella is a bit of a departure for me. It’s a dual time-line story told in two parts that takes you to “old” Vegas where a murder occurs. The remains aren’t discovered until the present day. Lucky’s father is implicated and she rides to the rescue.
I had fun with it, and I’d love to know what you think.
The first ten to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org will get that free download!