Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Writing with a Partner

I used to think I could never write with a partner. You see, I have this thing about control. So how did I end up as one half of Steven Graham? By accident.

Over the last four years, Steve Harris (aka my spouse) has become an increasingly larger part of my writing process. He’s a great plotting partner. At first I’d go to him when I needed a sounding board for working through a plot problem or writing believable Macho Strut (you know what I mean—those testosterone-loaded passages where two men face off and talk tough). It just kept evolving from there. Now we plot all of my books together. We’ve done some of our best plotting in the car, driving up to the lake for a weekend. He drives, I prop a notebook on my lap, and we have a great time bouncing ideas back and forth. Sometimes we have such a great time that we miss our turning and get lost.

The Sebastian St. Cyr series is still very much mine, although Steve contributes a lot. But as we worked on THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT, it rapidly reached the point that it was no longer just my book, it was ours. We didn’t simply plot the book together, we plotted most individual scenes. Some scenes—especially chases and fights—are so much Steve that my role was virtually that of a stenographer. But more importantly, Steve is the expert, he’s the one who says, This is how they’d do it. Or, just as importantly, No, it wouldn’t happen that way. After all, we’re writing a spy novel, and this guy spent over 20 years in the spy business, running agents and coordinating black ops and—well, you get the idea.

I am still the one doing the actually writing. I think that’s important, because it gives the book a consistent voice and flow that I find a lot of collaborations lack (although I’ve heard of successful collaborations that are structured in many different ways). If Steve were a different kind of person, it probably wouldn’t work—I do still have that thing about control. But since he is Steve, I’m having more fun writing now than I’ve ever had. It’s wonderful to have someone who lives and breathes my book with me. With a partner, writing is no longer such a lonely business.


liz fenwick said...

Lucky you- the perfect solution to the lonely role of the writer!

Sidney said...

It's good to have an in-house expert.

I've done some collaborations on short stories. That to me works easiest because each person can write a draft then the piece can be polished to hide the seams.

Wayne Sallee and I tried writing a novel together once but it kind of fizzled.

cs harris said...

I suspect collaborations require at least one easy-going person. I'm not that person! And yes, it's wonderful to have an in-house expert. It has saved me from so many embarrassing mistakes--the sneaky little things I don't realize I'm getting wrong.

Charles Gramlich said...

I collaborated once on a non-fiction piece with someone and we wrote alternating chapters, and it didn't work well initially because it turned out that our styles were so dissimilar. I ended up having to rewrite the other author's sections to make it consistent throughout. It was a huge amount of work.

Trish Morey said...

Clever you, marrying the research:-))

Not exactly, but you know what I mean, a good move anyway. I responded to one of your posts on writing groups a couple of days back when you talked about your old Adelaide days. Now those were the days:-)) I'm loving your CS Hsrris books, just as much as I loved your previous romance titles - a great writer is a great writer and I'm looking forward to your collaboration work/s with Steve.

BTW, did you know your book, When Gods Die, was blogged at eharlequin recently? I may be late informing you, but here's the ref...


And if you're after a weather update, Adelaide had a max of 27C today, 30C expected tomorrow and clear. A fine view of comet McNaught expected once again.

And yes, we miss you Downunder...


nolasteve said...

Let me get in my two cents here. As the other part of Steven Graham, the joint writing process is to me, a real joy. Long ago, I learned that an awful lot can get done if you don’t worry about the credit. That said, if you look at any of Candy’s previous works, and look at what will be the THE ARCHANGEL PROJECT, you will see the same beautiful writing style and voice. I would never try to match her skill at crafting words into stories. What ever it is that we are doing in developing these books works well, and there doesn’t seem to be any ego problem. Perhaps it is that we both love the stories and the characters and are excited about the books. I have worked in a collaboration before and it never produced the quality of product that our work has achieved.

We don’t always have the same vision of where the story is going, but again without an ego issue, we talk it through to find what is the best solution.

cs harris said...

Hey, Trish! 27 degrees would feel really, really nice right now. I'm freezing at 44 Fahrenheit, which I think is something like 5 or 6. And I've almost forgotten what a night sky full of stars--and the stray comet--looks like.