Krissie just left, Toni should be home in New Orleans by today, and I’m back in bed, which isn’t as slothful as it sounds because that’s actually a healthier way to write than sitting at a desk all day. Okay, and because I need more sleep, but still we worked hard this weekend, so no guilt. It’s amazing how much we accomplished, how many blanks we filled in, how much ground we covered, especially when you consider how much time we spent shopping and eating. So here’s what worked for us this weekend:
POST-DISCOVERY SCHEDULING: This was the time to meet. If we’d gotten together any sooner, it would have been a waste of time and money, but because we’d socked away six weeks of intensive discussion, brainstorming and discovery, running into walls and doing detours, solving problems and discovering our characters, we had a massive amount of data that needed organized, and you can do that quickly when you’re in a small living room with four white boards, four dogs, and a third party who says, “Uh huh,” a lot. We also knew the big things we had to get down–the turning points, the laws of magic, the antagonist’s escalation, etc.–so we could work for four hours, go out for lunch, come back and say, “What’s next?” without missing a beat. The prep for this kind of meeting is crucial.
CHANGE OF SCENERY: I think going somewhere else to talk about something new is just smart. Krissie and Toni did that while I stayed home, but just having them here is a change of scenery for me. The context in which we do things changes those things, so changing the context meant looking at things in a different light. The best example of this happened when we were talking about the geography of Monday Street, how it’s the lowest part of the city, the land that it’s on sloping steeply down to the water so that the street behind it is a full story higher. We’re trying to visualize it as we walked down to the lake at the bottom of the property here (which is NOT EASY so another breakthrough was “forget reclaiming the stone steps and just put in all new wood steps”), and I’m thinking how Monday Street is a semi circle off the main street because the coastline is uneven there, and then we get back to the house, Toni goes back to the hotel, and it hits me: I live on a semi-circle off a main road because the shoreline of the lake I live on is uneven, and my house is way at the top of the hill. So I e-mailed Toni and said, “You know the church yard on Monday Street? We just hiked it.” I could have written that whole book without realizing I’d modeled Monday Street on the geography I was sitting on if we hadn’t walked down to the lake. (Big props to Toni for risking her life and limb to do that.)
WHITE BOARDS: I went to Home Depot and bought four 2’x4′ white board pieces for ten bucks each. They’re not framed or fancy, but they meant we could think out loud while organizing thoughts and keep an ongoing record we could both see.
It’s that “both see” that’s key. We can keep notes in our computers and both look at the screen, but the white boards meant that we were looked at them and each other, not staring into another damn glowing rectangle. It also meant that we could each see how the other worked, which is key because Toni and I have never written together. And it gave Krissie a chance to see the world and what we’ve done with it so she’s familiar with it when she wants to write in it later. Which brings us to . . .
KRISSIE: Having somebody who knew the original world, who had a familiarity with the world as it’s developed, and who plans to write in it in the future meant that we had a sounding board who was already invested. She became a touchstone–“Does this make sense?” “Is this any good?” “Is this confusing?”–and that was a huge help because this world is complex as all hell. I’m okay with that–hey, worlds are complex–but I wasn’t okay with “confusing.” At one point, I said to her, “Is there too much stuff in this book? Because there’s a lot of stuff in here,” and she said, “No, it’s just rich.” One of the many lovely things about Krissie is that she tells me the truth, so if she says something is okay, I stop worrying about it.
So those are my conclusions: Do the prep, change the scenery and walk the terrain, use white boards, and invite Krissie.
Also, make bunnies, but that’s a different post.