Diary

Collaborating

Ari and I have been writing together since August, 2004, and we like to joke that our writing partnership has lasted longer than some celebrity marriages. Although we moved in the same fandom circles, we hadn’t really interacted much before we started writing together, but we’d read each other’s solo stories. For my part, I thought her writing style and preferences were similar to mine, and what she wrote hit my reader buttons in all the right ways, so I felt pretty confident that we would write well together.

Once we did start writing together, we developed a smooth collaboration process that still serves us well all these years later. Because we don’t live near each other, we use Google Docs to write our drafts. The benefits of using a collaborative writing tool is that we can both access the documents at the same time and write together in real time when we’re online together in the evenings, and we can access the draft and take our turn in the current scene when we have time during the day. It saves drafts automatically, and the draft can be downloaded as a Word document once we’re ready to start editing and formatting in preparation to submit the story.

Recently, we’ve begun using Evernote to organize notes about our stories, clip webpages and photos we can use for inspiration, write up character bios, and keep an on-going plot bunny list (39 bunnies and counting!), among other things. We give our novels their own notebook; the Recipe for Romance series has its own notebook, and our short stories all go in the same notebook. It’s been a very handy organizational tool, and the best thing is that we can both access it from our computers, our smart phones, or our iPads.

Our writing process is pretty simple, and we’ve got it honed to an art form at this point. First we decide on the overall plot, which is determined based on whether we’re writing for a specific call for submissions or we’ve been attacked by a giant, rabid plot bunny that’s sunk its teeth into our ankles and refused to let go. Sometimes, it’s both!

After that, we discuss the main characters. Sometimes, a character will pop up and start yakking at one of us. At that point, deciding who writes whom is easy. For example, Cal Monroe from “Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows” sauntered up to Ari and informed her that he wouldn’t look out of place tossing cabers at the Highland Games and let her know he’s tall and broad-shouldered with auburn hair and green eyes, and he looks dead sexy in a kilt, thank you very much.

That meant I would be writing Dane, the other leading man. He’s shorter than Cal and blond, and he’s been under his father’s thumb his entire life. Although it was Cal who stepped forward first, the story ended up being primarily about Dane’s emotional journey as he learns to accept himself and start living his life on his own terms.

We stick to single POV within a scene, but we do alternate POV from scene to scene so that the burden of exposition doesn’t fall entirely on one of throughout the story. We did have single POV through the whole story in a few works — Caribbean Blues, Steam Heat, On the Rocks, and A Hundred Lonely Halloweens — for one of two reasons. Either the story length requirement was so short that we thought it wouldn’t be worthwhile to switch or we thought the story would work better seen through the POV of a single character.

After we finish the rough draft, Ari takes the first editing pass. After she’s done looking at it, I format the work to the publisher’s requirements and take my editorial pass through it. Sometimes, we get someone else to look at it as well if we’re worried about any particular aspects of the story or we want to make sure it reads well. We’re pretty much a well-oiled machine when it comes to writing the rough draft, but we do tend to get bogged down in the editing and revision stage. That part always seems like a necessary evil when we’d rather be starting on the new shiny!

To read Cal and Dane’s story, check out Torquere Press on Wednesday, February 13! Or sign up for a chance to win a free copy of “Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows!”

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