Writing Partner: Writing with a FriendPosted: June 22, 2016
Have you ever wondered how it all began?
Fictional Kevin and Dr. Meg
FK: Several months ago I had been bantering about with several new WordPress friends: Dr. Meg, Dr. Shell and Jason. In my typical snarky fashion, I touted my superiority, made fun of their posts and was generally a nuisance.
They all loved me (of course.)
Jason made a serious post about how he was NOT accepting guest posts on his blog. I, of course, took that as a challenge. I decided to write a short story featuring him and my new blogger friends. It was compelling, so he decided to repost it on his blog. Win for the Fictional Boy.
If you read The Post it is, like most of my fiction, concerned with death and gore. Dr. Meg read it and made some comments. The online love was obvious…
M: I had a new follower… Fictional Kevin. His first comments had been on my post about Elmore Leonard’s ten rules of writing. “Seems like a pretty funny guy,” I thought. Ok, I’ll follow back.
I visited and commented on his blog a couple of times and then this happened…
On a post about sending himself text messages to remember ideas while he’s out and about, here is our exchange:
Meg: Funny!!!! I use notes on my phone too. How is that harder than sending yourself a text, Kevin? Are YOU sober?
Kevin: Don’t mess with my mojo this morning, Meg. I will cut a bitch. And I am mostly sober. Well, sort of. Remember: Hemingway said “write drunk, edit sober.” So I’m just like Hemingway. He was an American writer.
Meg: Fine, ‘Ernest’ I will leave you to your scribbling! *Stomping out the virtual door in a huff* “Bitch indeed,” she muttered.
Kevin: Shouts after her: “and put on something nice for once, geez!”
The came The Post. Seriously, go read it and ask me why the hell I stuck around. I can’t explain it myself. I barely knew this guy and he slaughtered me (in the story) in a most gruesome way after insulting me, my blog and my writing. For some reason I didn’t run screaming, I responded:
There he was, on the park bench, waiting for her. It was strange that he’d suggested they meet in the park on such a dreary day. She hadn’t given it much thought. She was too excited to see him. After all Kevin was one of her few writer friends. He of all people would be happy that her book had made the best seller list. As she approached, he looked up at her smiling.
“Hey,” she said, returning the smile.
He rose and offered her the spot where he’d been sitting since it was dry. Instead of sitting beside her, he picked something up from the ground and stood to face her.
“You smug bitch,” he muttered, before landing the first blow.
The first one didn’t kill her, neither did the second. Through the physical pain, her heart was breaking. She thought he’d understand. She thought he’d be happy for her. She thought he was her friend.
Kevin’s response? “This is perfect.”
It apparently was the beginning of a beautiful relationship…
FK: Dr. Meg responded almost positively to her untimely demise in “The Post”. I didn’t find out until later even her hubby, Harry, was concerned.
We continued to banter back and forth on our blogs and eventually she was able to see past my rugged good looks and charm to the real me.
For some years I had considered writing fiction. I make my living writing non-fiction, but I wanted to expand my horizons. Writing fiction is far different than writing non.
Reading Meg’s blog, I realized she is far more competent at fiction than I, so I paid close attention to the things she was writing, trying to learn. It helped. I wrote a couple short stories and also wrote more on a couple longer-term pieces I was working on.
After we got to know one another we exchanged emails.
I began to realize I needed help to be able to write fiction well. I struggled to write dialog and deadlines were an issue – with fiction, I had none. After getting comfortable with Meg and with her writing style, I proposed a limited collaboration. A mid-length story, 14 chapters around 1,000 words each, written alternately as a serial with each chapter appearing on our blogs weekly.
Foolishly, she fell into my trap.
M: Kevin thinks he’s so smart, doesn’t he? Well, he is, actually. And I immediately recognized what a great opportunity and challenge this would be for me. It would push me to write out of my comfort zone. Even though it was not without some misgivings, I left the basic idea for the story up to him, since he had suggested this whole escapade. I even let him write the first chapter, knowing that would give me the final word. And thus, more control over the story.*evil laugh*
You see, originally we thought we’d keep our alternating chapters secret from one another so that we’d have to “respond” to one another’s writing. But as the story progressed we realized that a true collaboration was going to have to happen if this tale was going to be any good. And THAT’S when I foolishly fell into his trap!
FK: Writing the first chapter was easy for me, but it lacked “something.” I am good at identifying the psychological makeup and backstory for characters. I had that down cold. I can even write a compelling bit of narrative if I work hard and hold my mouth just right.
When I got done, there was something missing. That first chapter was all “tell” and no “show.”
I sent it to Meg for her input. She agreed. She helped me craft some dialog that showed David “being” David, rather than simply me telling the reader about him. It improved the chapter dramatically (pun intended.)
This is one of the best reasons to get a writing partner: He/she can fill in the gaps in your own ability.
M: I have the same habits as Kevin in creating backstory for my characters. Write a little biography on them, things that won’t necessarily be included in the narrative, but information that helps you shape their behavior. Up to this point though, I hadn’t written a character into a situation as dangerous and psychologically manipulative as the one Dr. Melody Rivers was in with David Twichell. The difficult part was that I had largely based Melody on myself. I now had to really imagine how I would react in those circumstances. I had a mini freak out at one point. It was unnerving to put oneself in the crosshairs of a potential killer. Thus, being able to talk it through with my writing partner was invaluable. The experience of collaboration has made both of us better writers.
FK: After 14 weeks, we finished our story at 17,000 words or so. Our readers enjoyed it and we enjoyed creating it. We’ll be putting it up at Amazon and will do a free weekend if you want to pick it up. You can join our announcement list here.
Some things we learned from the process:
- A writing partner can help you have deadlines for your writing
- A writing partner who has strengths you do not have can make you a better writer
- A writing partner can help you see your characters and their thoughts and actions in a different light
- A writing partner can brainstorm plot and character ideas with you and help you both create a more compelling story
- A writing partner can act out dialog with you to give it a more “real” feeling for the reader
- A writing partner can become a good friend – this was the best part for me.
Once we got the story completed, Meg and I along with our significants met in Gatlinburg for a meal and beers. It was fun and I think Meg and I will be friends for many years to come.
If I don’t murder her.
M: Or I murder him first… See? I always get the final word!