“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”
The Journey to Write
It Takes Two...a Father-Daughter Writing Team
People often ask us what it is like to jointly write a novel, especially a first novel. Well, the answer, at least for us, is great! Notice the answer was not 'easy' or 'fast'.
When we started this project, we spent some time asking other authors if they'd had any experience with team writing, and the ones we found were universally against it. The complaints ranged from "you'll never agree on what you want to do or say" to "just hire a good editor." We did find several people who said that if one person writes the story and the other just does editing or minor fleshing out, it can work. Needless to say, the negative feedback was daunting, but we decided to persist in spite of it all.
One thing that was valuable to us and probably needs to be considered by anyone contemplating team writing is compatibility--not just liking your writing partner, but also having a great deal in common is very helpful. It was crucial in our writing experience, and it is especially key if you are following that old adage for beginning writers of "write what you know." If there are two of you writing, you probably ought to have similar viewpoints and basis of knowledge about your topic.
We were also fortunate in the process we eventually followed in our writing, and that process is responsible for much of our success. It was pretty simple. We spent an entire day just writing about five pages of notes on the story plot. This skeleton left us with character, action, setting and a hook to the next chapter for every 'scene' in the story line. When you have that kind of organization already established, the actual writing is a more controlled experience.
Another thing that really helped was identifying who was responsible for writing what. We tended to divide chapters up by point of view of the characters, and then swap the chapters with each other and rewrite/add to each other's work. It got so that by the end of the project we were unable to tell who wrote what anymore, and that's a good thing in a co-authored work!
All this organization and process makes the experience sound like it was all work and no fun--well, not so! We had some lively discussions on how to create this skeleton outline on which to hang all the 'features and clothing' over some fun times in the oddest places. At one point we were discussing how to kill off a character. The sun was beating down on our car while we sat in the hot restaurant parking lot. Naturally, the windows were down. As I asked Wendy, "well, how are we going to kill this guy off?" a woman walked up and opened her car door next to us. She froze and we could tell she was trying to decide if she should run or call the police. It is hard to be sure whether she ever believed that we were just writing a novel, but at least we never got pinned spread-eagle by the cops.
Now, is this the perfect recipe for team writing? Well it would be a lie to say we didn't have some subsequent changes in our outline and the occasional serious heart to heart about what we wanted to write. Nothing in life is problem free, but in the main, we are convinced these steps were absolutely critical in enabling us to end up with a finished product and no scars to go with it!
If you've never considered a team approach to your writing... try it. The doubling of creative ideas, the blending of style and the synergism present can enhance your writing enormously...plus you get to nag each other if one of you slows down on your page count!
All in the Family...Geneaology as Inspiration
A love of family history is sometimes all it takes to spark a first novel, at least that was the case for my first book, The Raven Stone. Several years ago I came across a website where a Professor at University of Regina (Saskatchewan) had posted the descendants of Colonel Thomas Rea, born in Ireland in 1780. For obvious reasons, I began to scroll through the long list of descendants until, much to my surprise, I came across my grandfather. This was more than intriguing to me, since I had never known the name of my great grandfather who had abandoned his wife and two sons when my grandfather was very young. From this one source I was able to trace my ancestry back six generations. Surprisingly, I discovered that my grandfather actually had a half-sister of which he had no knowledge. With each new discovery, I was flooded with a multitude of questions. Without realizing it, I had caught the genealogy bug.
Genealogy is a little like detective work. Clues come from a variety of sources and with each new revelation, more clues are unveiled. Where genealogy and criminology differ is the end result. When solving a crime there is usually a final conclusion. When doing a family history there is never a conclusion, there is always another discovery to be made. Although the number of ancestors of any individual is finite (if you go all the way back to Adam and Eve) it can seem nearly infinite after seven or eight generations (256 ancestors). As a result, my own family history will never be complete.
Studying genealogy had satisfied two of the basic needs that had motivated me to first become a scientist. One was the adrenaline rush that comes with each new discovery. The other was the constant intellectual stimulation provided by the many mysteries and puzzles that needed unraveling.
I have always been a huge fan of historical fiction, especially the works of Sir Walter Scott and Alexandre Dumas. The thing I have always enjoyed about the work of these two masters, was their depth of research, and their ability to wrap a fictional narrative into a historical framework that can leave the reader wondering whether the work is fact or fiction.
The Raven Stone is my attempt at a historical fiction of sorts. Although the setting for the story is modern, the real story is in the research and the history uncovered by the main character John Ridley, much of which is the culmination of several years of research into the ancestry of my great grandmother, Nellie Ridley. The modern characters are fictional, but the places and most of the historical figures are real. Although the story has its own mystery to be uncovered, the real mystery is left for the reader to determine which part of the histories, legends, even documents, are real and which ones are fictional.
Meet our Contributors:
Wendy Picard Gorham
Having a fascination with books and writing all her life, Wendy finished her Master's Degree in American Literature and now lives out her love of words daily by teaching high school literature and creative writing. After completing her first joint writing project, with her father Greg, she is happily working on their two sequels as well as various short stories.
Love of writing came early to Greg and he specialized in creative writing while finishing his Bachelor's Degree in English. Later, after earning his Master's in education and counseling, he worked as a high school and college teacher, counselor, park ranger, editor, firefighter/medic, railroad brakeman and historian. He has written travel articles, essays and now spends his time collaborating with daughter Wendy on novels, as well as continuing his own writing projects.
Science and the arts don't always mix well, but Michael's proficiency in both makes for an interesting combination, as does his eclectic background in lab science, teaching, and high school administration. He currently divides his time between his love of teaching chemistry and physics to his students and his love of oil painting and writing. His most recent projects include a trio of science fiction novellas and a historical fiction novel set in England.
While attending Bible College, Janet Rea developed her love of learning about God’s Word. First, in children’s ministries, and now in teaching adults with her husband, Michael, she endeavors to make the Bible and Christian truth understandable to laypeople. As a librarian, she seeks to integrate her love of literature and thirst for information with Biblical Christianity. Janet has completed one book on Christian apologetics, is working on another and blogs on route239.blogspot.com. She has also written several stories for children.
Find out more....
Interested in finding out more about what we are thinking about, talking about and doing? Check out some of our other affiliated websites and blogs.
Upstream at Bittercreek
Honest and gritty, Greg tackles some of the difficult questions in a thoughtful and forthright way, offering real and practical insight into belief, morality, the world and our place in it.
Home to all things Greg, this site links you to his editing business as well as his music album sales.
Whether she is blogging her way through the Catechism or discussing the most recent class she is teaching, Janet's musings and instruction in Route 239 (named after the Dewey Decimal System location for books on Apologetics) are always interesting and insightful.
Mrs. Gorham's Literary Life
This is the home of the teacher side of Wendy. Follow this link to peek into the more literary side of this mystery writer. Read about her classes and see what her students are studying. Who knows...you just might learn a little something!