Monday, November 12, 2012


Hey, It's your cabin girl again, and it's my week to post. I'm actually posting early in the week because I really have something to post about.

So, last summer, I decided to try co-writing something with my friend, Carina Aldrich. We started it just after I got home from Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. And I'm almost surprised, but it actually worked. We finished it on election day, all ninety-something thousand words of it. And the plot holds together wonderfully, better than any of the plots in my other stories. It's a paranormal dystopian spy story, heavy on the dystopian-spy part, with only a little paranormal.

One thing that made it easier was that our minds work almost exactly alike. Before we even knew each other very well, we would accidentally say something at exactly the same time. It got kind of scary, actually. Another thing that helped was that we live only a few houses away from each other. We're also both on our emails all the time, so communication was reasonably easy. Even at eleven o'clock at night.

We had a wonderfully loyal test reader who helped Carina pester me to write whatever part I was writing next. Because where Carina would always have her chapter done a day after I sent her mine, I would take up to two weeks on my chapter. Our wonderfully loyal test reader also proved to drive us up the wall by guessing exactly who was going to die and constantly calling our plot twists. 

The writing part worked well, because Carina's better at female pov characters, and I prefer writing from male pov. So since we had one main character of each gender, we just each took the pov most comfortable for us, and alternated chapters between them. My character was more the main character of this story, but when we eventually write a sequel, if we eventually write a sequel, her character will take center stage.

So, here's what I learned about co-writing:

The great stuff about it:
-You have someone else who cares about the story and the characters as much as you do.
-You can bounce ideas off of each other and work out plot problems three times as easily as on your own.
-You have someone to tell you honestly when the chapter you've just written stinks and you need to fix it.
-If the other person has a job and you don't, you have someone to buy you ice cream.
-You only have to write half of the scenes.
-When you get stuck, the other person pesters you and gives suggestions.

The less great stuff about it:
-Killing characters hurts more.
-Petty revenge on your test reader becomes a serious and amusing possibility.
-You end up wanting to kill each other. (Actually,  I think it was Carina mostly wanting to kill me).
-The story doesn't feel like something that is yours as much as it does when you write it on your own.
-When you get stuck, instead of sympathy, you get pestered.

And here's some of the other things I learned.
-Carina likes to temporarily kill her main character, no matter what she's writing. Every. Single. Time.
-Flying trains are just not cool enough to be covered by the rule of awesome
-Even mint chocolate-chip ice cream can be ruined forever.
-When Indians (from India, not America) get married, they only get a party if it was an arranged marriage
-Do not name one of your characters something that sounds like a common object you see every day, and then kill that character.
-I cannot write on demand. At all. It ends up horrible when I try.
-laughing gas is very deadly
-I am good at writing torture scenes. And I instinctively know how to brainwash people.
-Do not write what you dream. Make your co-writer write what you dream, because then it won't be so cheesy.
-My pov character is pretty cool when he's depressed, but really weird when he's happy.
-When your test-reader figures out your plot twists BEFORE you do, you want to kill them, or at least get some sort of petty revenge on them. 
-Petty revenge is a whole lot of fun.
-Ice cream fixes everything. Unless it's mint chocolate-chip ice cream. Don't even mention that.
-The worst thing that can possibly happen after killing your comic relief character is to realize that he had a wife and kids.
-I have a bad habit of systematically making my main character destroy everything they care about, mostly by coincidence and bad luck. (although I should have known this one already).
-I should not write dystopia. Because of the torture thing. It's just too easy with evil governments.
-I honestly can't face the death of my characters. The only scene I wrote in which a character actually died was from that character's point of view and the other characters didn't know he was dead yet. He didn't even know he was dying.
-Co-writing takes a lot of energy, a lot of tears, a lot of near-murder, and a lot of work. We are not going to write that sequel for a LONG time.

But overall, it was great. Another manuscript completed is one step closer to getting published! And working with Carina was far too much fun, even if it was emotionally taxing for both of us. We'll get to that sequel eventually. Someday. Maybe.


  1. Amber. Wow. Thanks for the glimpses into a very interesting experience. You had me laughing, and very, very curious as to what actually happened with the mint chocolate chip ice cream. (But don't tell me, because I DO like it.) But I do want to wish you a huge congratulations on an amazing feat that most adult writers won't ever dare try. You're leagues ahead!

  2. Flying trains are just not cool enough to be covered by the rule of awesome

    Ha! I love this! And I agree with Jonene - you've tried something that would scare the wits out of me. Well done!

  3. It's been fun to watch this process first-hand, with all the late-night meetings, late-night chapter finishings, and volumes of e-mail. One of the best things in this world is cooperative imaginative play, and that's what's going on when we co-write a book, put on a dramatic production, make a movie, or participate as reader or audience in any of the above. I'm glad you got to experience this.

  4. Hey! Congrats on the new manuscript! And how cool that you got to do it with a friend. (Although I agree with Jonene and Susan about the scare the heck out of me thing.) Well done indeed!

  5. Thanks people :)

    Yeah, it was definitely an experience. I was planning on co-writing something with another friend as well. She asked me today whether I wanted to start working on it soon and I was like. ', not yet.' but what I was thinking was 'forget it, not for another ten years at least.'

    Susan: the flying train was my idea. But no, apparently it just wasn't practical enough.

    1. All your really need for that flying train is to power it with Steampunk. :) "Steampunk runs on Rule Of Cool."


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