Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Co-writing part two: Finding a match
[My author-friend Lisa Amowitz and I are co-authoring a book. We'll be alternately blogging about the book and our process as we write.]
When Lisa Amowitz proposed a co-writing project—a YA historical/ paranormal novel about Nathan Hale—my gut reaction was heck, yeah. But after the initial giddiness faded, cooler thoughts prevailed. Yes, I was still interested, but only if we did it right. Could we be good writing partners?
It’s been a while since I had to find the perfect match in life, love, or career. I’ve been married a long time, I’ve worked for the same software company even longer, and I’ve lived in the southern US for most of my life. How was I going to figure out whether a match between me and Lisa would succeed?
My books are like my children. They take energy, emotion, and effort to produce. I’m obsessive about their care. I don’t want just anybody messing with my babies.
I needed to approach this match like a dating process. How were Lisa and I compatible—and how were we not? Could we tolerate a long-distance relationship? Between the two of us, did we have the correct set of strengths to create something wonderful? Would our flaws drive each other insane?
Because, ultimately, the book is the important thing. Nathan Hale was an amazing guy, living in a crazy time. Colonial Americans had a radical dream and pulled it off against incredible odds. If Lisa and I were to write that book, it had to be good. No, really—it had to be breathtakingly great. We were honor-bound to do the story justice.
So what would it take to make our “relationship” great?
Ideas. Yeah, no problem there. Lisa had been thinking about this for so many years, she had lots of ideas. The hard part would be to pare them down—and to get my ideas added. Would she listen to me? (‘Cause let me tell you; the girl can talk.)
History. Historical research was a strength that I could supply. I love the history of 18th century America, and I’ve been immersing myself in it for years: the food, clothing, politics, religion, transportation, housing, education, treatment of women, and plight of the working class/ laborers. From that research came my YA time travel series, Whisper Falls. But my attention had been focused on the southern colonies, like North Carolina and Virginia. Could I rely on Lisa to represent the eccentricities of colonial New York / New England?
Voice. Our writing styles—our author’s voice—worried me the most. Lisa’s Breaking Glass is YA Horror, and it has this dark, biting, twisty edge. My books are magical realism, and so the tone (naturally) is more magical and realistic—but definitely lighter. Could we make both voices work for the same story?
Personality. Lisa is extroverted. I am not. Lisa is high-energy. I am not. Lisa thrives on the vibe in NYC. I live far away (on so many levels) in the slower-paced south. Lisa likes to plan out her entire fabulous project and then bulldoze through it in sequential order. I like to bounce around, creating little islands of goodness—and I worry about building bridges between them later. Were we going to be an example of “The Odd Couple” or “Opposites Attract?”
Passion. And there, my friends, is where we hit the jackpot. When it comes to things we care about, we are both deeply passionate. (I understand her obsession over Benedict Cumberbatch, really I do. I think he’s pretty amazing too. Perhaps not as amazing as Michael Fassbender— but to each, her own.) Whatever Lisa and Elizabeth created together, we would do it full-steam, all-out, bleeding-our-hearts-onto-the-page. But would passion be enough to make up for the distance between us?
It was time to start answering these questions. Could we make co-writing work?
Adventures in Co-writing with Lisa Amowitz and Elizabeth Langston
Part One: Genesis of an idea
Part Two: Finding a match