As most of you guys know, I’ve been working on a collaboration project with friend and critique partner Kerry Schafer. It (hopefully) will turn into a suspense novel about a hotel ghost. This is both of our first co-writing experience, and it’s been an interesting one, with ups and downs.
It’s been a pleasure to work with Kerry on the prewriting / planning stage. She’s got such an eye for character and setting that our little town in Kansas (with a marble factory!) took shape in just a few conversations. Our hotel, based on some cool pictures from the 70s, ended up just as completely built. Then it came to characters, and the two of us working on a common file for about two months in dribs and drabs.
Then the time came in both of our schedules to work on it as our main focus. I don’t think either of us was quite prepared for what that meant emotionally. Instead of the dribs and drabs “fun project” now we’re serious about crafting a novel, a real novel we’re proud of. We both care intensely about our work, and having that passion sometimes work at odds has been a huge learning experience. We had to learn how to fight! But Kerry was absolutely right–better to fight than to hold back from making the work the best it could possibly be. With a first collaboration, though, it’s a learning curve and stressful when it’s not working. Fortunately, it works at least as often as it doesn’t.
When it came time to get serious, we both had things we wanted to change to make the novel “feel right” to our inner ears. After a kerfuffle or two about direction, we tore out a large portion of the already-written first third, and she reworked her main character Clay nearly from scratch. That meant I had to step up to the plate with Avery and rework her character to be as interesting and layered as the new Clay’s. Her backstory changed totally, and she got a stronger character arc. I also reworked a bit of the structure as well, and our setting started to come alive. We’ve mostly finished that round of changes now, and when I read back over our first 20k yesterday, I was pleased beyond words. It’s really starting to become a true collaboration, with pieces of both of our styles and characters that aren’t quite what either of us would do on our own. It’s working, and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m getting excited.
Here’s hoping the rest of the novel ends up as working just as well, even if we have to tear out and rework. It’s my first collaboration. There’s no real way to tell how it’s going to work or how long it’s going to take. But I’m hugely hopeful. Here’s to learning, growing, and fighting for a great book.
And here’s to Kerry, for writing this journey with me.