Category: Writing as a Team

Two people writing as a team can have advantages over soloist authors. But to have a fruitful writing partnership we must adopt a process that utilizes our strengths, and we need a relationship that’s strong enough to support the endeavor. Here’s where we explore the matter from various angles.

A Progress Report from the Writing Cave

We passed the 60k milestone this week on Grandson of Science Novel, which is great! Of course, that leaves us only three weeks to hit our target of 100k by year’s end. Which would take an average of 2000 words per day. That’s only 1000 words apiece (have we ever mentioned that having a writing partner offers many advantages?), but that’s every day, and it’s significantly more than the pace we’ve been on. Like, very significantly. Back when work started on this one, we ran some numbers and came up with a plan that felt perfectly reasonable. And now, here we are, with nearly half of the book remaining to write and less than a month to do it.

So we’re a little stressed about missing our deadline. Life keeps getting in the way. We have all kinds of excuses, and we think most of them are pretty good. Unfortunately, we haven’t come up with the excuse that’s so good it lets us hit our deadline after all.

Thing about this deadline is, we imposed it on ourselves. Rune Skelley sets Rune Skelley’s schedule. So the consequences for blowing it are rather abstract. Assuming we do end up blowing it, we’ll miss out on the satisfaction of attaining it. And, the longer it takes us to write a book, the longer the gaps between our releases.

Setting goals and deadlines for yourself is vital for being able to measure progress, and even without a mean boss glaring at your tardiness, you need to take these things seriously. You need discipline, and you need to protect your writing time. You just can’t let deadline stress ruin the joy of creation.

It’s Good to Get Out — of the Country

The Writing Cave has been very quiet lately, because no one has been in it. Rune Skelley is only just returned from a seagoing tour of some of the birthplaces of Western thought.

We began in Venice, Italy. A fascinating and crowded place. If you go, wear your most comfortable shoes. Learning your way around the narrow, twisting streets (more like roofless hallways in some cases) is challenging, but finding Piazza San Marco is easy. If the crowds are getting denser, you’re headed toward San Marco. Also, there would seem to be exactly one music shop in Venice, and no two people will give you matching directions for how to reach it. We think it may be enchanted.

Next up: Dubrovnik, Croatia. A gorgeous place with a rich and tragic history (ancient and otherwise). It’s a major filming location for Game of Thrones, a show we don’t watch. But we know people who do, so now we get to tease them about this. Nearby is Cavtat, known as the Croatian Riviera. Due to extensive propaganda when we were young and impressionable, we had entirely the wrong image of Croatia in our minds. It has palm trees and crystalline waters. Some of the “roads” are… well, to call them inadequate would still imply that they qualify as roads in a meaningful way, and they don’t. How about, there are single-lane shared delusions that people drive on in both directions.

Then it was on to Kotor, Montenegro. Another ancient walled city with modern development surrounding it. The Montenegrin language is very similar to Croatian. Both are slavic languages. As one of our guides put it, the people from those countries can understand each other perfectly — when they want to. In Montenegro, we saw signage using three different alphabets (Latin, Montenegrin Latin, and Cyrillic). Sometimes more than one alphabet appeared on a single sign.

In Greece we visited Olympia and Athens. Our visit to the site of the original Olympic games was the day after the lighting of the torch. It was here that we started to slow down on taking pictures of olive trees, because we began to realize that they are everywhere. We visited a farm to learn about how they’re cultivated and processed, and had a nice feast and enough wine to get us dancing in public. We hit Athens during a strike that had the metro shut down, meaning the traffic was even worse than usual. But we still got to go up to the Acropolis and see the Parthenon. If you go, wear grippy shoes — the stones of the Acropolis are polished smooth and slick from the passage of millions of feet.

We bought lots of souvenirs and gifts. So many in fact that we needed to buy an extra suitcase to pack for the trip home. But the best item was one that we didn’t even have to pay for. The shopkeeper gave it to us for free when we bought something else at a store in Athens. It’s a CD of disco bouzouki music (stay with us) including, as a special bonus: recipes! Yes. Not a typo. And they gave us this treasure FOR FREE. We can’t promise such miracles will befall every visitor, but obviously we recommend that you go to Athens.

A writing partner is someone to help you see the world, and join you on inspiring journeys.

PS: back stateside, our rental car had this indispensable feature.

Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today we released our first novel, Miss Brandymoon’s Device. It’s been an exciting and momentous year for us. We’ve finally gotten our hard work out in front of an audience. The financial rewards are, so far, very modest. It’s the other, less tangible rewards that we’re basking in. We’ve racked up some reviews, we’ve added newsletter subscribers, we’ve enjoyed conversations with our readers. It’s been a really busy year, but an incredibly satisfying one.

Just a couple of weeks ago we released our third novel, Elsewhere’s Twin, in ebook format, and we’re thrilled to announce that it’s finally available in paperback, too. Since we’d been through the process twice before, we thought we were old pros. We thought that ordering a proof copy was a mere formality. So when the proof arrived and there was an issue with the cover it threw off our schedule. After a bunch of fiddling and phone calls and reformatting we finally have the cover looking how we want it. Which means it’s ready for you to enjoy!

Elsewhere’s Twin is the final book (so far) in our Divided Man series. Since we’re self-publishing, we do all the steps ourselves. Editing and polishing Divided Man has pulled us away from writing the new Science Novels more than we anticipated, and more than we like. We’re planning to slow our pace a little bit for the next set of releases so that we have ample time to make everything the best that we possibly can.

But right now we’re just basking a little bit in the glow of our accomplishment. Go Team Skelley!

Altitude 40k And Climbing

Manuscript milestone — we just hit 40,000 in Grandson of Science Novel. The previous book’s word count came in light (by our standards) but based on the progress so far it really doesn’t look like we’ll have such concerns about this one.

Obsessing over word count is silly, except that it isn’t. Genre conventions, reader expectations, pacing through a series, all are important considerations impacted by word count. In our particular case, we see it as significant because it is a deviation from our customary results. We’ve been regarding it as a symptom and trying to diagnose the underlying cause. The picture that’s coming into focus is something along the lines of, “Holy crap, there’s a lot of story here! We must be extra-laser focused!” And then succeeding a bit too admirably at that.

The other big news this week has been our internet being out. New modem didn’t help, so we’ll be visited by the cable gnomes soon in hopes of figuring out what’s actually wrong. Funny how not having access to distractions like Twitter and email doesn’t automatically make it easier to be productive. (At least Kent says it doesn’t.) That would have been a nice silver lining.

Anyway, if you need us we’ll be waving our phones at the ceiling in a futile quest for faster hotspot performance.

We Got Ya Covered (Well…)

The Writing Cave has lately also been a Design Cavern, as we try to get a jump on cover ideas for our next series. It’s as important not to rush the creative process for a visual product as it is for prose, and you deserve beautiful covers to look at. We won’t let you down.

Our preliminary brainstorming has given us several intriguing concepts, plus several lightboxes and pinboards full of images. It’s really, unbelievably easy to burn whole afternoons on image research.

We’ve thrown together a few mockups, nothing too fancy at this stage. Jen has collaged some rough comps in Photoshop, while Kent fills pages with hand-lettered variations of the titles like he’s daydreaming about marrying them.

The biggest challenge is coming up with unifying imagery for all three books. That’s not quite the whole problem, though. The three books form one large story, and there are ideas at both a micro and macro level that tie everything together. We easily made a short list of relevant symbols. What we want is for each book to have a distinctive main image, and all three of those images to work as a set that exemplifies the theme. (And expresses the appropriate mood, and conveys an accurate impression of the genre, all while looking awesome.)

It’s a tall order. But we didn’t let you down last time.

A Couple of Hours at IHOP

Another big storm rolled through our area earlier this week and knocked out our power. Again. This time it was only out for about four hours, so it was a lot less of an inconvenience than last time. We didn’t even lose our DuoLingo streaks this time!

For some reason the fact that we’re going to want to eat every day takes us continuously by surprise and we often waste a good half-hour taking an inventory of our pantry and debating the merits of various take-out options. Just as we were getting warmed up for our daily dinner negotiations, the lights went out and the battery backups all started chirping, and thus our decision was easy. We shut down all of the electronics, grabbed our trusty steno pad, and absconded to IHOP.

After stuffing our faces, we got down to business. It was our waitress’s birthday, so we tried to be easy customers, demanding only endless coffee (for Kent) and water (because Jen actually has tastebuds) refills. We spent the next few hours reviewing the notes we’d already made about Sibling of Music Novel. There were some points that are already moot, and some sidetracks we’ll probably ignore. We thought of a few things that had been discussed but never written down, so we added those. Some characters have already been renamed. It was interesting to find so much progress on a project that’s still really in its infancy. And it felt really good to see how much material we already have.

Eventually our electricity came back on and we were able to go home, but even so, progress was slow this week. Kent had a business trip, and instead of writing in his absence, Jen used the time to binge a whole bunch of stuff he’s not interested in watching.

And speaking of binging, we finished up the program we mentioned last time, and are happy to say that we don’t have to replot anything. We’re sure you’re as relieved as we are.

Shifting Gears From Revision to Composition

Last time we gave you an update from the writing cave, we were deep into a revision pass on Elsewhere’s Twin. This week, Kent wrapped up his edits. Jen had crossed the finish line well ahead of him, as was the plan. That manuscript can now take a well-earned rest before its final read-through and polishing.

We’ve already returned our focus to writing. It’s sometimes tricky to get the brain back into writing mode after dwelling in revision-land for a while. (Yes, just the one brain. We share.) The road trip must have been just what we needed, though, because this time we seem to have hit the ground running with it. Grandson of Science Novel just crossed the 20k word mark. Woohoo!

Now to write some more.

The Surgery Was a Success!

It took a week longer than we had hoped, but Jen just completed an editing pass on the Science Novel. It had been through the ringer at least once before, and she still managed to smallerize it by 7,000 words. Meanwhile, our current manuscript-in-process, Grandson of Science Novel, has topped 11,000 words, most of them from Kent. It feels really good to have such a solid start on the new book. It feels even better to have a net gain in word count. We’ve added more to this series than we’ve taken away.

While Science Novel lays in the recovery room for a bit, waiting for the bandages to come off, Jen will turn her attention to Divided Man Book 3. It’s called Elsewhere’s Twin, and its release date is on the horizon. We’re hoping to go through the whole thing twice more before sending it out into the world, which means we have no time to waste.

That extra week we devoted to Science Novel makes the schedule a little tighter than we would like. Jen won’t get any downtime between the projects to clear her head. She’s already eyeing up a fresh scalpel. The last time through Elsewhere’s Twin she was still wielding her chainsaw. This time should see fewer huge cuts and much more finessing. Another difference is that this time, Kent will follow along a few chapters behind Jen with his own surgical tools. Having a coauthor means having more eyes on the words at every step in the process. It means a better finished manuscript.

Prosing Has Commenced

Grandson of Science Novel is underway!

As we talked about a while ago, we rainbowed and outlined the two sequels in tandem. The first draft of Son of Science Novel is complete, although we are still tinkering with it. But for the immediate future, our focus will be on book three of the series.

Jen has been a stubbing maniac. She set herself a target of writing stubs up through a certain point in the plot, and this week she attained it. Yay! The word count just for this first wave of stubs is over 18,000. Yowza.

Meanwhile, there were enough stubs stockpiled for Kent to jump in and begin writing actual scenes. He had some leftover assignments in the other two Science Novels, but now all that’s cleared away and the first couple of scenes are in the can.

The trick, at this point, is to get ourselves into a good rhythm to keep cranking the words out. Real life and Netflix have a way of interfering with our good intentions, but we will see it through. As a team!