Collaboration: A Recalibration

In spite of all the off-the-wall State of the Collaboration posts we’ve been doing, most of the time Bob and I are pretty serious in the exchanges we have because we’re both very serious about the books. One of the problems we have is that we’re very, very different in the way that we write, but it’s also one of our strengths. And what we’re doing now, in our eighth book, is recalibrating the process. Well, I’m recalibrating and Bob is being flexible and understanding and patient as all get out.

We can get around the fact that he’s a day person and I’m a night worker. (It’s 6AM as I write this and I still haven’t slept because I didn’t wake up until noon and then there were naps.) I have no idea why I’m a night person, I think I’m just wired this way because every time my body has a chance to sleep the way it wants, this is where we end up. Bob, on the other hand, was trained to rise with the dawn. I’m pretty sure that even if we were in the same zip code we’d never see each other. He likes the sun and I like the stars. But all of that really isn’t a problem; we overlap enough that we can still talk in e-mail/text, and that’s plenty.

The bigger problem is our processes.

Bob is very organized, very clear-thinking, very linear, which is no surprise to anybody here. He’s a lot more intuitive now than he was when we first started working, which is fun because he comes up with stuff that surprises us both. For example, there’s a cottage in the woods in this book. You’re probably about to point out that there was a cottage in the woods in the last book, but that one was mine. Bob came up with this one out of left field, a different kind of abandoned living space, a Bob cottage, and it’s right for this book, so even though we’re going to get snark from reviewers on it–if they call us cottage core, I’m gonna have words–I mostly don’t care. It fits perfectly into this story, so Bob is right again, even if this isn’t a logical move. See, he can grow, he can change.

Unfortunately, I can’t. It’s making me crazy on this book trying to be linear. I am not linear. I need to see patterns, relationships, motifs. So Bob writes words and I look at them and do diagrams and collages and tell myself the story as I go. I pull scenes out of the story and see the relationships, doing documents that are all the daughter’s POV scenes, or all the Rose and cottage scenes, or all the love scenes, so I can see the arc. Meanwhile Bob is reading my Scene One and writing Scene Two and leaving a space for my Scene Three, and writing Scene Four and . . .

You see the problem.He’s trying to finish Act One (he doesn’t write in acts, I do) and I’m writing scenes that will go in Act Four. He’s figuring out the consecutive clues to the mystery and I’m making floorplans with characters talking in my head as I draw. It’s impossible, but it works because Bob has the patience of a saint and I’m trying really hard to be more linear. I might as well try to be shorter and more organized because it’s not within my reality, but I really am trying.

OTOH, at least now we have a floor plan.

You might not be able to tell by looking at that, but I know three more scenes in the book because I drew that. I just have to write them now.

Please send good vibes to Bob. He’s suffering silently, aside from the occasional sigh. But now he has a floorplan! Yeah, he’s not excited, but his patience is endless, so there’s that.

36 thoughts on “Collaboration: A Recalibration

  1. We have been doing yoga via Youtube videos from Yoga With Adrienne and this weekend there was one with core strength where she had us whisper “I am strong” and “I am flexible” at certain points. I am envisioning you and Bob using the mantras, but especially Bob.

  2. I would have the same wish if I were you, to get down the environment of all the inside world(s?) of the characters so I could envision it. So, cool!

    Are Oz and Rose sharing the shop, or does it belong to one or the other of them?

    I am wanting to see the traditional triangle of any kitchen, i.e. the stove, sink, and fridge, all adjacent so you can move easily from one to another while making food. That design along the left wall of the kitchen looks sort of like a stove, but I don’t see a sink, which just kind of nags at me.

    Is Bob planning to have his character out in the woods shooting at one another during the whole book, or does he ever expect to go into the house him- (Character) self?

    1. Rose had the upstairs apartment on the left as long as she worked for Oz who had the apt on the right.
      Then Oz died and (SPOILER) (SPOILER) (SPOILER) Rose inherited.

      It’s a galley kitchen. I didn’t put in the sink etc but it’s all long that wall with the long farm table on the other side as a work table. I’d actually prefer that to a triangle.

      Bob’s characters stays in Oz’s apt for awhile (Oz had already died when RS opens).

      1. Oh good! I’m glad he’s out of the woods and into the picture. And they can still wash their dishes! Yay!

  3. Also, I am all in for cottagecore. When I am a grumpy little old lady I fully expect to still be dressing like a hedgewitch because if I have to grab on to the fashion of my youth and keep it for the next 60 or so years, it’s going to be that.

    But neither you or Bob fit those vibes for me. And if it is Bob, I fully expect it to be a Justified style holler complete with bodies dropping left and right and getting sent down abandoned mine shafts. Because Appalachia, you know? Lots of possums and such.

    1. Well, it’s an abandoned, derelict cottage in a forest that backs up on a National Forest, just outside a town of retired spies. Bodies definitely dropping, no mine shafts. Unless Bob decides to install one.

      The floorplan above is not the cottage, that’s the store and apartments above it on the Main Street of the town.

        1. Oh, good point.

          Apparently Ilona Andrews is looking into Vikings too, so there is a theme going on.

    2. Paul and I just finished watching Justified. I do have to admit to wondering what Bob would do in Elmore Leonard/Graham Jost’s Harlan County.

      1. It’s so good, right? I was so impressed with the storytelling and how really nuanced the view of the people in the hollers was. It would be easy to make them all flat, but even Ellie May, the drug addicted prostitute, has depth, things to like, an arch… And I really appreciated that the writers chose to walk away when they felt the story was done. Although I did enjoy the new season. But the originals? Kisses fingertips.

  4. I don’t know what “cottage core” means. Did reviewers point out the “mothers-in-law core” of your earlier books? Besides, the home I think you’re calling a cottage in the Liz Danger books isn’t what I’d call a cottage. Isn’t Liz’s house on stilts from the back and overlooking a river on the front? I think of cottages as being simple and square.

    1. The only mother-in-law-to-be I remember was the one WTT. Oh the one in Bet Me, too. The one in The Cinderella Deal was a sweetie. For the record, my mother-in-law in real life was a darling.

      Liz’s house is a cottage. I forget how many sq feet it is, but it’s under 1000, main room, small bedroom, bathroom. I can’t find the floorplan now (it was a real cottage you could buy blueprints for). I think “cottage” is about size mostly, although there’s also a style called cottage.

      1. And Maybe This Time. But what is the “core” suffix?

        Now I understand that you and I have different definitions of cottage. My definition limits the shape, so the stilts on one side would make it exceptional.

        I like your mother-in-laws and cottages.

        1. The core suffix is a relatively new thing, mostly with youngish people on social media.

          Cottagecore was the start, I think, during lockdown. It’s a sort of embracing of an aesthetic. Cozy living, slower pace, lots of books and knickknacks and tea. A more classic style of dressing… Studio Ghibli movies are often referenced, the way the side characters quietly sew or bake bread and seem slightly outside of time with simple, practical dresses.

          Since then people have added core to everything. Balletcore, Faeriecore, Hobbitcore, etc. It’s shorthand for a vibe or aesthetic. Like Steampunk?

        2. I think that the Cinderella Deal might conceivably stretch to fit the vibe of Cottagecore. A quiet, wonderful little life and a rejection of modern stylistic choices. Lol. And the simpler scope of the story. Cottagecore is calm. I would call Maybe This Time a gothic, for example. High stakes, dark forces at play.

          1. Cottagecore seems to be the cozy lifestyle, but most of the pictures I saw were light and airy and… Beige. Cinderella Deal is cozy, but 100% not beige!

          2. Lupe and Phyllis — Thank you for the info. Good to know.

            Makes me feel kind of queasy.

            No, I don’t see any of Jenny’s works as cottagecore.

        3. “Core” is slang term:

          “Core refers to the suffix “-core,” which is used like “-oholic” (as in “chocoholic”) or “-tini” (as in appletini). The slang “-core” predates meme history, with the word “hardcore” entering popular discourse as early as the 1930s. The suffix “-core” has since been used extensively in modern internet aesthetics discourse, with the term normcore being popularized around the year 2014, and the words cottagecore, “goblincore” and the meta “corecore” becoming popularized after the year 2018.” https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/core

  5. … and I’m a night worker. (It’s 6AM as I write this and I still haven’t slept because I didn’t wake up until noon and then there were naps.) I have no idea why I’m a night person, I think I’m just wired this way because every time my body has a chance to sleep the way it wants, this is where we end up.

    That’s me! I just got up at 10PM. I take naps. Of course, the nearest thing to collaboration I do is to email the dotter (who lives upstairs) or when the grandkinder come down to raid my fridge. Right now I’m mildly annoyed because it’s too sleep out to run my vacuum.

  6. Two things to consider: first, you have successfully written how many books? (I have them all, not gonna count them right now) in your non-linear fashion. I’m guessing it’s part of your creativity and writing style, and I’ma guess that none of us want that stifled again. Lol.
    Second, part of what works so well in your collaborations is that your female MCs tend to also be creative and non-linear, while Bob’s male MCs are linear and practical. And, the MCs appreciate those characteristics in each other, while remaining true to themselves. So maybe don’t be too hard on yourself. Be who you are. (Maybe too simplistic-I’m not a morning person, either. But I hope you get what I mean.)

    1. You sound like Bob talking me down, which is good.
      I think with the Liz books, I’m at 23. Bob’s number is in the thousands by now.

  7. I read somewhere recently that people with Neanderthal DNA in their genome have faster Circadian clocks than people who don’t, so they’re more likely to be morning people.

    They also have a tendency toward pot bellies. (Although I saw Bob a few years ago at a workshop in Cleveland and I don’t recall any hint of a pot belly.)

    So thanks to whichever ancestor decided it would be fun to get some strange.

  8. I saw the Kindle version of Rocky Start advertised on Amazon for pre-order. Can I hope that a trade/paperback will be in line for publication shortly? [I really don’t care for reading on Kindle and use it mostly for travel, although I’ll break down and buy RS as Kindle if that’s all the choice I’ve got. ;-)]

    1. There will be a trade pb and a hardcover and probably an audio version too.
      You know, as soon we get them done.

  9. I love your posts on collaboration. I’ve always been fascinated by two authors writing together – seems impossible to me. Reading about how the two of you make it work is wonderful.

  10. I play quordle most days, plus websudoku, but the problem with the latter is that I can get lost in the infinite sudoku puzzles available that it’s hard to stop. I have to save the sudoku for nonproductive times of the day, but I use the quordle as my signal to go from frittering time away to setting the timer to start writing/editing. Solve the puzzle, start the timer. For procrastination, I like to critique query letters at AbsoluteWrite, and that’s a form of puzzle too. Queries need to have all the elements of story, just in an abbreviated form, and I like puzzling out what’s missing/weak and how it could be fixed.

    But my most compelling daily puzzle is always working on my own mysteries — brainstorming the plot originally, and then figuring out how to lay out the clues so they’re not too obvious. With all my recent secret projects, so I’ve been working on multiple WIPs simultaneously, I’ve had a lot of puzzles to solve lately! Including, this week, what I want on the cover of the no-longer-secret A DOWRY OF DEATH (Helen Binney mystery). I love my cover artist, and she has great ideas, but I still need to give her something to work with, which is hard for someone like me who is just not visually oriented.

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