The Collaboration Process in E-Mail: You Really Shouldn’t Have Asked To See It

Somebody here asked to see the collaboration e-mails and I said something like, “They’re not that interesting.” So here’s proof.

On Wednesday, Bob e-mailed me at 9:06 AM about publishing. I got back to him at 10:15, which is the crack of dawn for me, and agreed with him. Forty-six e-mails from me and fourteen from Bob later, it was 4:48 in the afternoon. Bob was finishing up Acts One and Two, getting ready to send them to me, and we had some back and forth trying to figure out how some things worked (no conflict, just discussion). Omitting spoiler e-mails, here’s how the rest of the day went (warning: it’s chaotic and boring, but you asked):

Bob pointed out a glitch in a scene (very common at this stage, clean-up in rewrite)

Jenny: (4:48) I’ll get rid of all that in the Act Three scene

Bob: (4:49) Leave it for now. Remember– cut later. Also, cut material is great for marketing.

[From 4:49 to 4:51 Two more Jenny e-mails, one from Bob]

Bob: (4:51) Okay. I’ll have two to you shortly. You’ll see more plot stuff.

Jenny: (4:51) Oooooh, I love new plot stuff.

Jenny: (4:52) I’m also drinking a chocolate milkshake which will put me to sleep since I’m diabetic, so if I disappear from here for a couple of hours, I’m just unconscious.

[From 4:52 to 4:55 One Bob e-mail, four Jenny e-mails, one Bob e-mail]

Jenny: (4:55) In Book Two, Anemone has rented the Blue House for the summer, so she’ll be around for another four months.
I think in Book Three, Anemone buys the house, and Liz has to decide whether to leave Burney, Vince, and Anemone or stay (three guesses what she decides).

Bob: (4:56) The big Blue house? Faye’s house? Or Margot’s?

Jenny: (4:56) The big Blue House.

[From 4:57 to 5:16: Two Jenny e-mails, one Bob e-mail, four Jenny e-mails, Bob is trying to finish Act Two but e-mails back, 3 Jenny e-mails, two Bob e-mails as he’s rewriting a scene, 3 Jenny e-mails, Bob e-mail, two Jenny e-mails]

Bob: (5:17) Let’s think on it– the dogs are whining since it’s time for their drive down to the river. Back in 30 if you’re not asleep.

Jenny: (5:17) Tell the dogs I said hi.

[From 5:21 to 5:26: One Bob e-mail, six Jenny e-mails)

Jenny: (5:27) I am excited about the next two books. I know, finish this one first. Going to sleep now.

SILENCE (From 5:28 to 7:12).

Bob: (7:12) We need to make a story bible.

SILENCE. (From 7:13 to 7:46)

Jenny: (7:46) What’s a story bible.  Like a wiki?

Jenny: (8:38) This is a great page on Valentine diners (URL)

Jenny: (8:40) This part is kind of neat:
“What to Look For
There are two distinguishing characteristics to look for on the interior of a diner that can help identify it as a Valentine.
The first is a small wall safe located just inside the door (top right). Operators would put a percentage of each day’s profits in the wall safe, and a Valentine representative would make regular rounds, removing the payment from each diner on the route. Wall safes were phased out on new models by around 1960. Many of these safes remain intact inside Valentine diners.” (Picture of wall safe.)

Jenny: (8:42) No idea what we’d do with that but still a great detail. If Vince has two keys and he gives one to Liz, that’s a way to . . . I have no idea.

Jenny: (8:54) I have a ton of stuff, but it’s all old. Here’s the wedding party. (jpg attachment)

Jenny: (8:55) And a chart for family dynamics. (curio zip file attachment).

Jenny: (8:56) Rats. I thought that was an image. (jpg attachment)

Jenny: (8:58) What do you need in a bible? A list of characters I can do. List of settings?

Jenny (9:00): This is the town I based Burney on. Originally it was Birney, after the abolitionist. No idea why I changed it. (URL)

Jenny (9:01) You have walked the terrain. I used to live there.

Jenny: (9:02) Here’s the police department web page. (URL)

Jenny: (9:05) Here’s their Facebook page (URL)

Jenny: (9:09) The department evidently has 10 officers for about 3000 people.   (URL)
So George, Mike Crider, Dumbfuck Nephew, Vince, and . . .?
That’s your playground.  Want to put Mac on the team?
There’s a fire department, too.

Jenny: (9:10) So now I’m awake and you’re probably asleep. Or super annoyed by all these e-mails. I’ll stop now. You have a good night.

Jenny: (9:13) Wait, I was wrong.
4 Fulltime officers: George, Vince, Mike Crider, ?
4 Parttime officers: Dumbfuck, Banky, ? ?
Get some women in there, probably in part time since George is in charge, although Lavender made him hire Vince so maybe she made him hire some woman.

Jenny: (9:14): I’m wired from the sugar in the shake. Sorry about this.

Jenny: (9:19) Well, crap, that’s not right, either.
“The [Burney] Police Department is staffed by 18 sworn Police Officers, including the Chief of Police, Deputy Chief and 2 Patrol Sergeants.  We also have three Detectives, one School Resource Officer, and a K-9.  The Department is supported by two civilian staff members.”
I like the idea of a K-9.
So George is Chief.
Is Vince Deputy Chief or is that somebody who’s going to get fired and George gives Vince the job?  Patrol Sgts are Mike Crider and Dumbfuck?  Or is Vince a detective?  Why would Burney need 3 detectives?  The School Resource Officer could be fun, especially in Book Three.  You know the School Resource Officer would know Walt.  Maybe that’s Mac Blake? Civilian Staff Members: Dispatcher and Secretary?

Jenny: (9:20) You know, this is a lot more interesting when you’re here to fight back.

Jenny: (10:18) I’m putting some of this on the blog. That’ll teach them to ask for a look inside our process.

Jenny: (10:35) Does this take place in 2021? 22? Are we dealing with the pandemic? We can put it any year we want, just not the Trump years. I’m not dealing with the trauma that asshat inflicted on the country, not to mention how he’d divide the town in the story.

Jenny: (10:36) Aliens kidnapped you, didn’t they? Or zombies. If it’s just aliens, all you’ve got to worry about is anal probes, but if it’s zombies, you’re dead to me now.

SILENCE. (From 10:37 PM Wednesday to 5:35 AM Thursday) [No, I wasn’t sleeping, I was working on other things.]

Jenny: (5:36 AM Thursday): Must be zombies.

Note: Bob wrote back at 8:55 AM Thursday to say that the book takes place “in the un-named present. So we ignore the pandemic and politics.” That works for me. And also that he was stuck on a scene, and I can sympathize because it took me forever to finish that damn wedding scene and then it was lousy.

The point is, the e-mails are mostly us saying “I think this happens” and “Why does this happen?” and “Who the hell is (some character that plays a very small role)?” and “I just put this in” and “I just took this out” and . . . well, you get the idea. So not of interest. I’ll let you know if we have any conversations that would actually help writers or readers. Or be interesting.

34 thoughts on “The Collaboration Process in E-Mail: You Really Shouldn’t Have Asked To See It

  1. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I actually found that fascinating. Keep ’em coming.

    1. I will volunteer to be the first reader of the emails. I’d be good at that. Because: a) I get a lot of emails, and b) I will find them all fascinating.

  2. “Jenny: (9:20) You know, this is a lot more interesting when you’re here to fight back.

    Jenny: (10:18) I’m putting some of this on the blog. That’ll teach them to ask for a look inside our process.”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. Not only was it entertaining, it made my office job look much easier than it was seeming before my lunch break. We play “where’s the ____” a lot, but at least we can keep track of the characters.

    1. Jenny posted the link to her and Bob’ dinner with Russ Parsons on Good Book Thursday (at almost the very end). If you have not read it, you should do so. It will help hold us over until this book is finished.

      And, Bob, deciding to eat a squid is nothing after you have already decided to eat a raw oyster, aka oysters on the half shell.

  4. Fun read.

    Shoutout to Bob for the “un-named present” observation. This framing helped me with something I’ve been debating in my own books so thanks muchly, Bob. And Jenny for passing it on:)

  5. We’re discussing putting another dog in the book now. There’s already one, but I was thinking two would be better. Bob was thinking two would just be more complications and a higher word count. Bob, as usual, is right, but I still think a K-9 officer dog in there would be good.

    1. Save the K-9 officer dog for book 2/3/whichever future book you know in your heart is lacking the chaos a new dog could cause. Especially if someone got the K-9 officer dog at a bit of a discount, because there’s normally such a waitlist for departments to get those, so maybe this pup is perhaps not *ideal* for the job, but dammit he’s trying.

  6. Or a mutt. One of my favorite dogs in literature is the mutt in Arabella, by Heyer, the one with the damaged ear. Ulysses, I think. Loved the dogs verbal abuse of other dogs, or at least the hero’s interpretation of same.

  7. The Bob and Jenny show, just like old? times. At least you are not threatening him with your keyboard this time. Older and wiser? or just because you are further apart?

    1. Older, wiser, AND farther apart.

      We have the first two acts done. As some of you know, I like my first two acts to come out to about 55,000 words, maybe 60,000 at a stretch. This is 74,000. I am keeping my witts off for now because Bob is right when he says finish the book first, but I have no idea how we’re going to cut 20,000 words. That’s 80 pages.

      1. Easy. Print it out, take the first 80 pages, run them through the shredder. That’ll take you to where the story really starts, right? Right? *cough* I’ll be over here. (Points to corner.)

        1. Well,no. The story actually starts on page one. I’n going to have to go through and see if I can cut paragraphs or, if I’m lucky, scenes. Sigh.

          1. Not sure anybody would be willing to publish it at a long length.
            Also, books can go on too long.

      2. What if you move the 80 pages to the side for the publishers… and then present to us like a director’s cut of a film? I’d be all for that!

  8. Jenny on a sugar high from chocolate milkshake–certainly worth reading! Go, team Lavender!

  9. So Birney has 21 cops + detectives for 3000 people? Wow. New Zealand averages 6 per 3000, and I think small towns have a lower ratio still.

    1. That seems out of line to me, too, but then I found three different places on the web that gave the statistics for the town I based Birney on, so who knows.
      Needless to say, we won’t be having 24 characters in the police department.

      1. This is partly why so many people say defund the police…it would be really interesting to see comparisons by country

  10. Thank you for this. It’s my reward for working on election board minutes all afternoon and into the evening-conflict, drama, passion, thwarted hopes. I just wish we could acomplish all of that in 2 hours instead of 4 1/2.

    Bob’s so right about cut material and marketing. I love the ‘extras’.

    Now I need dessert; the milkshake has ispired me.

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