Today, I'm super excited to have a guest blogger, and agent mate from Literary Counsel, Paul Deane, who shares his collaborative journey with co-author Kimbra W. Gish.
Paul, take it away!
Working Together is Grown-Up Play
Most people are very surprised when they learn that Kimbra and I are coauthors of a novel. They give me a funny look, and ask how we manage it.
It seems that they think of writing as a very solitary act, something people do by themselves. They're wrong, of course -- writing is all about having good beta readers and critique partners. But they wonder how anyone could give up any creative control over something that takes so much personal investment as a novel.
I don't know how other writing teams do it. But Kimbra and I started writing in an environment where collaboration was the norm. You see, we met on a text role-playing game, where each player writes their own character in a growing, ongoing fictional world. Writing your character in that kind of world isn't the same thing at ALL as writing a novel, but it does foster a certain mindset. You know you don't own the scene. You own your contribution. The events of the world emerge as a kind of interactive fiction, and the quality of the experience is determined entirely by the skills of the players. When it goes right, the back and forth and the interaction create a magical experience.
That kind of creative dance is what our relationship started with. It was all about creating conditions for the other person's ideas to bloom into a thousand new possibilities. We worked well together. We sparked ideas. One thing led to the next. And we had habits that made it possible to play with ideas without taking total ownership over the end result.
If we'd stopped there, we would never have written a novel. it's great to play out scenes interactively, but finishing a novel requires so much more. That's where differences in our personalities and styles also help.
Kimbra is the person who sees an arresting image, or captures a voice, and plays it out. I'm the person who imagines an evil plot twist that makes the main character suffer or turns a minor character inside out.
Kimbra is the person who always remembers to proofread. I'm the person who will happily spend hours and hours tweaking sentence-by-sentence to tighten up the language.
Kimbra never met a sensory detail she didn't like (especially if it involves food!). I never met a landscape description I didn't like. But we know that if our partner says, 'Cut it', it has to go.
I have no idea how I would teach someone else to collaborate the way we do. We started working by playing together, and a large part of the reason we work well together, is that much of it still IS play.
Interestingly enough, we still occasionally play out a scene interactively when we're stumped and need the extra spark that comes from not knowing what the other person's character is going to do or say next. Sometimes it takes us to very unexpected places.
Writing is a lot of hard work. But one of the reasons we're able to keep plugging through all the hard parts that every writer experiences -- is that it's rooted in a sense of play.
Paul, thank you for stopping by my blog and sharing the story of your writing collaboration. It was a fascinating and inspiring insight into your writing team process!
And guess what, dear readers...Kimbra is going to guest blog in the next couple of weeks, so don't miss it!
When Paul Douglas Deane was 11 years old, one of his father's co-workers gave him a copy of Lord of the Rings. When he was twelve years old, his mother got a Valentine's Day poster that had the words 'I love you' in twelve different languages. Both events changed his life. The first gave him a lifelong love of fantasy. The second led to his getting a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago -- which may not exactly constitute following in Tolkien's footsteps, but certainly qualifies as trespassing on his turf.
Paul now lives in Lawrenceville, N.J. with his wife Debbie and works as a computational linguist. His favorite novels include Tanith Lee's The Birthgrave, Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel, and C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, though he cherishes a love for quirky Victoriana and Edwardiana, such as William Morris' The Story of the Glittering Plain and G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. He is coauthor with Kimbra Wilder Gish of the YA fantasy novel Daughter of the Signs. Kimbra and Paul met online in a Tolkien text role-playing game. The rest (as they say) is history.