How we do it

Some folks have had questions about The Book Presently Known as George, also known as TBPKAG and, more familiarly, as George. Also, I am reminded that I promised to talk about our “process,” which I feel may not be as interesting as expected, but a promise is a promise.

Firstly, yes, George is the book I wanted to write, as opposed to the next book due. It helps to bear in mind here that I am an extremely flighty person with a brain that craves candy. Happily for you, I also possess a degree of low animal cunning and am therefore able, pretty often, to convince my candy-loving brain that the next writing project, whatever it is, will be sweet as no project has been before. Many writers deceive their brains this way; if they didn’t, nobody would ever write anything.

Unfortunately, my brain, addicted to sweets as it may be, isn’t a total schlub — and memory is on its side. My brain therefore remembers that Ghost Ship did not write easily. Remembering this, and as it has done many times in the past, it demanded something different, to sort of clean its palate. I wave my hands around, showing that, Something Different, I have it not.

At this juncture, the back brain, which plays both sides against the middle, can usually be counted upon to toss out something Completely Off the Wall which I then persuade the brain to view as new and exciting.

In this manner, Some Writing gets done, which is good, rather than No Writing getting done, which is bad.

Now, sometimes, we don’t have the luxury of writing what we want, when we want, no matter what our brains crave. There are contracts, for instance; and the House gets to say which of multiple books pitched it wants next. So it is with the contract just closed with Baen. We pitched three books: George, Dragon Ship, and Trade Secret. I hoped that we might be able to convince Toni to take George first; she wanted Dragon Ship, which makes a Great Deal of Sense in terms of preserving the momentum of the Ghost Ship sequence, and so the delivery dates were set.

…Some of you may recall a fluffy confection called Mouse and Dragon. That book was also a Sweet of a Different Flavor. We had just finished writing, in very short order and several simultaneously, four novels: Duainfey, Longeye, Fledgling, Saltation, and we were just about out of energy on all levels. Writing M&D was fun; it was everything we low authors tell our brains that writing a book should and will be. It served to renew our energy, and our faith in our craft; and gave us the courage to pitch Ghost Ship.

You’ll note that the new contract came with rather tight deadlines; there are reasons for that, having to do with keeping new stuff with “Lee and Miller” on it on the shelves — career building stuff, which is not always the same as writing stuff.

Steve and I talked about how we were going to handle a slightly increased pace of writing, noting that five books in 18 months was not supportable. This new contract will have us writing three books in 19 months. Should be doable, barring excessive amounts of Life.

In our scheme, Steve will be doing the first draft of Dragon Ship while I work on George. On July 1, when my day-job goes to the Summer Schedule, I’ll get the draft and do my various things, while Steve moves on to Trade Secret. My hope and plan is that George will be finished in first draft by the time Dragon Ship hits my desk, and that I may have time to squeeze in another Archers Beach novel. I’m not quite confident that I can pull that off. We’ll see.

…which kind of segues in to a discussion of our “process.”

There are two of us, which is a blessing. If there were one of us, and it was me, with three books due in 19 months, and the one my brain really wanted to do right now slated for second, I’d either try to placate my brain with some Utterly Trivial short stories before I kicked in to pay copy, or try to write the first and second books simultaneously — which I feel might not be entirely satisfactory for anyone. So, it is a blessing and a mitzvah that there are two of us.

In case there was any doubt.

Alert readers will have noted that the kinds of stories told within the Liaden Universe® vary wildly. We have action! We have adventure! We have romance! We have YA! We have milSF! We have comedy of manners! We have, well…space opera, really.

This diversity of story within a single fictional universe is a direct result of there being two of us.

Our “process” consists of one of us bumping into a story idea. We may live with it for a couple days, to see how it wears, or we may blurt it out the instant it occurs. Once the idea is out there on the creative table where we can both see it, we talk about it, role-play a few possible scenes, try out some dialog, and in general kick it around to see if (1) it’s viable as a story, and (2) we really want to do it, because life is too short to write books you don’t really want to do.

Once we’ve determined that the story is one we want to tell, we rough out — verbally; our “process” includes a great deal of role-playing at all stages — a storyline. At some point, one of us will begin typing. The day’s pages are typically given to the non-typing partner at the kitchen table before the last meal of the day. They are read; the meal and its aftermath usually taken up with discussion of future scenes and dialog.

Because there are two of us, and because we do, occasionally, disagree, the person who first brought the story idea to the table is what we call the “cop” for that book — essentially, the “cop” is the third vote; the tie-breaker, in case we can’t resolve a difference of vision in some other way.

Usually, we do manage to resolve differences in vision without resorting to the cop’s vote. We do this by deferring to the characters; their necessities and the events they have set in motion. This works 99% of the time. In the whole course of our writing partnership — 18 collaborative novels and counting — the third vote has been invoked. . .twice.

Once the first draft is done by whomever is doing that, it goes to the other partner, for reading, comment, adjustment. The manuscript then goes through one more, clean-up stage before it’s put on the bus to the publisher.

…and that’s it. Exciting, no?

One thought on “How we do it”

  1. Sharon, Thanks So MUCH for sharing these insights! As a struggling writer, I find a lot of comfort in the fact that what I face on my small level is indeed common – and may be overcome. And that the practical things you and Steve do might work for me. “Exciting”? Oh yes! Especially when I get to read your (plural) work. Just finished Carousel Tides, drinking in every sight and scene in vivid imagery, and am starting the second read. Oh yes! More from Archer’s Beach, indeed! And I haven’t read M&D for a couple months, so that should satisfy a gap or two.

    … (Would pay good money to see you two role playing 😉 … just a nudge, there.)

    Go forth and “find the sweet stuff”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.