Saturday, March 05, 2005

In Answer to A Question

Hi Guys! Saturday morning and I thought I'd stop by before I get to work on the (Yippee) writing and the (UGH) housework and (SUPER UGH) taxes. (What, me, procrastinate? Surely you jest!)

Robin asked me a question in the comments on yesterday, so I figured I'd take a sec to answer.

Cathy and I tried the "traditional" partnership thing in various ways. Alternating chapters sucked, there was no continuity in the mss and the other person would get aggravated if the story went off in a direction different than what we'd discussed (as they are wont to do) because everything THEY'D planned just got thrown out the window. Led to a lot of frustration and irritability on all parts. What we've finally worked out that works for us (and you'll have to try different things until you find the right "fit" -- which you'll know when you see it) is:

We talk out the books completely during our daily walks (we exercise every day for our [particularly my] health) including character quirks, backgrounds, reminders of what we've done in the previous books that can't be undone, where we want this book to go, but also where we want the entire series to go.

Once it's plotted out and we have the whole of the book "iin our heads" then it goes to one or the other of us to do the first draft. Usually who it goes to depends on a couple of things: (1) whose turn is it based on who did the last one; (2) what's going on in our personal lives (i.e., who is actually likely to have enough time to get it done on schedule); (3) where we are with other books (we've learned to try not to pull me off of the same manuscript too many times because I lose the thread, lose my patience, and lose my temper in that order.) Four or five major interruptions (taking one to two weeks) is about my max. Fortunately, most interruptions (Like edit memos for previous books, etc.) really don't take Cathy and I that long. So we're generally OK. It also helps if we're both working on books in the same world at the same time, so we're at least looking at the same reality and overlapping characters and plot lines so I don't have to completely redirect my energies.

Generally Cathy and I are each working on a different book at the same time. Right now she is working on Antoine's book and I am working on Catherine. She just finished the copy edits on Moon's Web and we are about to get interrupted by the edit memo on Touch of Evil (the vampire non-Sazi book). I have been being VERY VERY good and only writing down all the new world and story ideas in brief memo forms so that I don't get lured off by the siren song of a totally cool story that isn't contracted. But it is very good news that I have been HAVING whole new world ideas again. I don't think creatively when my health is the pitts.

When we finish our first draft of whatever we're writing we pass the mss off to the other person for review and edits.

Now this is where it gets tricky. Despite the fact that we've talked it through in advance, and talked about the direction all the time we've been writing, what you see in your hands from the other person is not necessarily what you thought had been decided. People hear things differently. So, we've developed certain rules. When there is a minor dispute, we work it out. But if there is a "neither one of us is bending on this" dispute tie goes to the writer (i.e., the primary for that manuscript). This does NOT make the person "losing" happy, but it IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and you can comfort yourself that it'll be your turn when YOU are the primary. If you are going to have an ongoing partnership that will actually work through the years the one thing you have to protect the most is the partnership. It is more important than the individual books, and it is CERTAINLY more important than the individual scenes. Getting pissy and having a snit fit will cause bad blood that can destroy the partnership faster than anything. Because if you didn't both think you were right, you wouldn't be arguing. If you don't want to do the "tie goes to the writer" baseball analogy, flip a coin. But come up with your solution before the problem surfaces and stick to it.

Once we've each edited the mss of the other, we hand them back and the person looks over the changes. Some you accept. Some you refuse. Some, you look at the other person and ask "WHY are you wanting to do this?" Because while you don't necessarily like the language, there may need to be a change. "I didn't understand XYZ" can lead you to go -- "Oh, OK, so what if we.....?" We've come up with some of our best work during the re-writes because the editing brings out things you didn't realize were logic gaps. (Sing with me folks "First there is a purse and then there is no purse and then there is." [for those of you who like Donovan])

When we've gone through and edited the edits we both look it over ONE MORE TIME for consistency (but no major edits). Is the carpet blue in scene one and purple in Chapter 5? This is our chance to catch the "Why does Bob have blue eyes in the scene with Mary and brown in the scene witih June?" stuff before it gets sent out. Because after this run, it goes to the agent. (And yes, she will have suggestions too -- but thank God they're usually fairly minor) From the agent it goes (hopefully, if she accepts it) to the publisher/editor -- who will (you guessed it) have changes as well (which you HOPE will be minor, but hey Hunter had a 20 page edit letter).

Who does these edits -- well, it depends. If one of you is in the middle of a "life sucks" period -- its the other one. Otherwise, I would suggest it go to the primary. But that's one of those negotiable things, because at this point you've both worked on it enough to handle it.

But, again, because it's important. If you're going to keep a partnership going, the partnership is more important than the individual book.

And, like any other relationship, the partnership is going to take some work.

Oh, one more thing. For the record, you cannot keep your personal life from impacting the partnership. Don't think you can do the Business is Business/Personal is Personal bit. Your personal life impacts your writing in many and subtle ways. Your priorities impact it as well. Cathy and I both understand that our families come first, the partnership second and we each expect the other to act accordingly. If it is a matter of choosing between our family and our work, the work will not win and we are both ok with that as long as we make sure that those kind of choices don't come up too often.

OK that was probably WAYYYYYYYYYY more than you wanted to know. But I do hope it helps.

(PS I'm going to call Cathy and see if she wants to edit this -- it's practically a mss. GRIN)



Robin Gorrell said...

LOL! You've got your own Constitution :) In my case, my writing partner is my sister. So far, the process has been a dream. Having hailed from the same womb, we tend to have the same sense of humor and have treated our current heroine like a 3rd sister, I guess. We can write with the same voice. Seriosly, sometimes, when editing, we can't remember who wrote what. It's been great because if I'm having a bad day (I'm an attorney w/ two kids under five and she's got two almost teenagers and a brutal work sched in T.V. news) we still manage to produce at twice the rate I was doing alone.

Anyway...whatever you're doing seems to be working. Wishing continued goodness your way. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer.


Anonymous said...

Hi Cie, wow, what a post you did today! I felt like I was reading the chapter of a book, ha, ha! Hope you have a great weekend! Yolanda, hope you do too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cie, wow, what a post you did today! I felt like I was reading the chapter of a book, ha, ha! Hope you have a great weekend! Yolanda, hope you do too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cie, wow, what a post you did today! I felt like I was reading the chapter of a book, ha, ha! Hope you have a great weekend! Yolanda, hope you do too!

Yolanda Sfetsos said...

Thanks for sharing such an in-depth explanation of how you and Cathy work together to get a book written/edited/published. It's fascinating. I always LOVE reading about the behind-the-scenes stuff!

You guys sound like you've got a terrific partnership and I CAN'T wait to read more of your books. I'm totally fascinated with the VAMPIRE book... I must know more... ;)

Hope you have a GREAT weekend. It's so awesome when the ideas for new worlds keep comin' into your head, huh?

I got some great news yesterday. Another one of my short stories WON a contest. Very exciting!!!

Have a GREAT weekend Cie, you too Jim!

See Ya!

Anonymous said...

yolanda, congratulations on winning another contest, that's awesome!!! Cie has me interested in that vampire novel too. Continue having a great weekend!

Yolanda Sfetsos said...

Thanks Jim! :)

If you're interested in reading the short story, here's the link:

Let me know what you think if you get a chance to read it! It's a little horror tale...

Can't wait to find out more about the vampire novel that Cie and Cathy have written! ;)

Hope you're all well! I'll catch up with you tomorrow!