We’re very pleased with the process we’ve developed over our years of writing together, especially our secret weapon: stubs. They offer multiple advantages for anybody working on a large-scale project, and provide a crucial foundation of common understanding for anybody working as a team. Taken together, they form a kind of first draft of the first draft.
We don’t create all the stubs up front. Typically Jen will write a dozen or so at a time, and then when we’ve used most of them up she’ll do the next wave. Our main reason for this is for continuity. The progression from outline to stub to prose brings an increased level of detail and reveals decisions that get made on the fly. If we did stubs too far in advance, by the time we got to the later ones there’d be inaccuracies.
But the other reason for doing the stubs in waves is so that the material is fresh for us as we tackle the scenes. Our current work-in-progress has fallen just a tad behind schedule, which has undermined this notion of freshness. Jen did the stubs all the way out to the end a while ago, part of a push to get the manuscript finished up more quickly.
So, it was time to remind ourselves how this thing’s supposed to end. Over the weekend we devoted a chunk of time to reviewing all the stubs, reacquainting ourselves with the shape of things in the finale. We also wanted to decide whether or not to be a bit more vicious in our treatment of one character. It felt like we probably ought to, but before committing to that idea we had to check ahead for what actions might become infeasible for this person, so we could have reassigned or reengineered tasks if necessary.
Luckily for us (unluckily for that character) the adjustments were minor.
It felt great to read the ending of the story, even in stub form. We both got a nice jolt of, “I want to read that book — guess we’ll have to write it!”