Writing with a Buddy

A while back, I read an interesting article in the Writer’s Digest. It was an interview with Doug Preston and Lincoln Child about writers combining knowledge and forces to write together. Their bestselling novels include Relic (which was also made into a movie) and at least fifteen other titles. In the article, the fab two expressed the idea that two minds are better than one. I agree to a point, as there have been times I asked a friend to read a chapter or two of a current project and give me an opinion. Her suggestions were something I hadn’t thought of or she pointed out an obvious flaw in the flow I wasn’t aware of.

So how does it work if two writers set about writing a book? Assuming that one partner’s ego is not bigger than the other, who then makes the decisions of what stays and what goes?  Certainly the partners are going to have to be compatible in their thought process, particularly where editing is concerned. They are going to have to rein in their automatic inner editor, or set down a set of guidelines before they start writing so any disagreement doesn’t end up demolishing the project and the friendship.

At one point, you know someone’s going to take out a red pencil and start editing. How open will the other be to having whole paragraphs shaved down into one sentence? On occasion I have overturned a paid editor’s suggestion because it changed the way I visualized the character. He consistently tried to add a hand crawling up the woman’s skirt or inject a slimy remark into the dialogue.  I am no prude as far as intimacy is concerned, but there are certain things that annoy me as a reader, and one of them is very explicit sexual scenes which leave nothing to the imagination. Most everyone has had sex in their lifetime, so unless they’re looking for a turn-on, they don’t need everything spelled out, and if they are looking for a turn-on, they’re probably not going to find it in any of my writing unless they can read between the lines. I prefer subtle nuances which allow the reader to take it wherever they want to go. As in real life, a kiss doesn’t have to be a slobber fest.

I have found that it’s best not to ask friends for advice on writing. You never know where they’re coming from. A friend made a suggestion along lines similar to those in the previous paragraph, believing that I should include his suggestion because it would “spice things up.” My character, Gilda, found herself leaving a bar with Bart Wolfe, obviously headed for some hot sex in the back of Bart’s van. My friend proposed that I should have her hang her panties on the door handle. It was an interesting visual, but this was the first time Gilda had ever stepped out on her husband and she was a bit apprehensive about it to begin with and surprised that the encounter would even take place. Toward the end of the story, however, there were no holds barred and she would have swung from a chandelier if the occasion arose.

So let’s go back to this subject of dual writers. If a writer is so possessive of their ideas that they can’t or won’t listen to a second party, then it’s not a good idea. There is always someone out there who has a more interesting way of setting the scene, writing the dialogue, and in general balancing out the story, whether they are a published author or not. If you happen to be lacking in these categories and are willing to embark on the adventure, I would say – go for it. You could not only improve your own story, but your co-writer might just turn out to be an ideal person to work with and the two of you could end up with the great American novel. On the other hand, it might be like having your teeth pulled.

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