Guest Post from Pat Lawrence author of Jarred Into Being
‘Pat Lawrence’ is part of the fiction. ‘Pat Lawrence’ is a pseudonym for our husband and wife writing team of PAT Adsit Burke and Daniel LAWRENCE Burke.
People often ask us, “How do you do that? How do you collaborate?”
• Do you each write a draft and then combine them?
• Do you write alternating chapters?
• Does one of you write the descriptions and the other write the dialogue?
• Do you sit and write every word together?
The answers to these questions are: Not really, No, No, and Definitely Not.
Collaborative writing is like riding a tandem bicycle: one author steers, but both authors provide the energy to move, watch to avoid the hazards, agree on which direction to turn, and settle on the final destination.
Our novel collaborations begin with agreement on a single idea that serves as the overarching theme of the entire work. That theme for Jarred Into Being was that each individual life is profoundly influenced by the lives which intersect and surround it. Next, we agree on the major plot elements that need to occur to craft an interesting story that will illustrate that theme. In Jarred, a young girl’s loss of her parents places her in great peril because the characters now intersecting and surrounding her life want to possess her rather than protect her. The conflict in the novel arises out of the fact that our main character, Eva, is unwavering in her determination not to be possessed, and she continually battles for independence and freedom from the powerful and corrupt forces who would dominate her.
After that, draft one begins in earnest. We create the incidents and the characters which dramatize the main character’s plight. One of us (the partner who steers the bike to continue the analogy above) writes sections—maybe a chapter, maybe several—and submits those to the other partner. That partner reads, edits, searches for flaws, plot failures, and adds suggestions for additions or deletions and returns the sections to the other partner who incorporates the suggestions into the ongoing manuscript. That process continues section by section until we reach what we agree is a satisfying conclusion to the book.
For draft two, we separately read and revise the entire work from beginning to end, and then we each submit our suggested revisions to the other for consideration. Finally, in draft three, we collaborate and discuss all the suggested revisions we have both made and ultimately agree on what emerges as our final version.
This collaboration process works well for us. We enjoy it, and we agree on the most important aspect of writing: always make it interesting. In fact, throughout the entire process we constantly challenge ourselves and each other by asking: “Is that last sentence, paragraph, chapter compelling enough to capture and hold the reader’s interest?” The answer MUST BE “yes.” If the answer is “maybe” we immediately employ our ironclad rule: rewrite.
Ultimately, we both have learned that the two most important words in a husband-wife collaborative writing team are—“Yes, dear.” Happy reading.