Monday, November 9, 2009

Going the Distance

In the past Evelyn David has posted two blogs a week at The Stiletto Gang. That was because Evelyn David is really two people: Marian Borden and me, Rhonda Dossett. We write under the pen name "Evelyn David." Going forward, we will just be writing one blog, on Mondays. We're hoping to use the extra time to write our next novel. So how do we write together? And why?

In addition to the obvious perils of two people working together on any project, much less a book, we also live half-way across the country from each other – Marian in New York, I'm in Oklahoma. We haven't met in person. For the past ... I'm not sure how long now, five years? Six years since we started writing together? I just know we were both younger when we began and had no idea of the possible pitfalls. Because we were clueless about what could go wrong, we just did it. We wrote a book together. We wrote together just using email. No phone calls until after we had sold our first story. I think that made a difference. Writing to each other is different than placing phone calls. Exchanging emails gave us the time and space to put down our ideas and respond to the other's questions and concerns in a fuller manner than what happens when we talk on the phone. Plus, with emails you have a record for reference later.

We had fun during the writing process. The pain came later when we got involved with publishers, agents, and the business side of writing. The publishing world is not for wimps! And definitely not for quitters! You have to really want to see your book published to go through the pain of rejections from agents and the sheer mind-numbing, snail's pace of getting a simple yes or no from a publisher. Four to six months for a response is not unusual. In what other industry or profession is that kind of time delay even a possibility? And royalty payments to authors? If you're lucky and your publisher pays on time (which is apparently not the norm), you'll see a check every six months. Often it's more like nine months between checks. And if you're not getting four figure advances, that's a long time between paydays. Don't quit your day job.

Publishing isn't fun, but writing is! Especially with someone who shares your sense of humor and work ethic. We divide up the scenes, then pass them back and forth so much that in the end, it's "Evelyn David's" writing, not Marian's or Rhonda's. We both love writing dialogue – that's the candy for us. Setting the scene, plotting the action sequences, that's more difficult and rewarding in another way. I write by seeing and hearing the words in my mind first, much like watching a movie screen in my head playing in my head. Then I put the words down on paper – or rather use a keyboard to type them into a Word document.

We each write all characters, although I confess to having favorites. "Mac Sullivan and Rachel Brenner" are our main human characters, but I love writing "Edgar" and "J.J." best. It's always a treat when I get first crack at one of their scenes. If you ever watched the old tv series, Gunsmoke, you'll understand when I say that "J.J. and Edgar" are Mac Sullivan's "Doc and Festus." On the surface they argue and appear to dislike each other. But underneath everyone knows (except maybe the characters) there's a bond developing.

There's a bond between co-authors. If you write a book with another person, at the end of the process you will have traveled a journey together that is unique and not completely understandable to friends and family looking on. From start to finish, it takes "Evelyn David" about 8 months to write a book. We both have day jobs and we're terrible procrastinators, so we probably, if pushed to meet a deadline, could write one in half that time. We dither a lot before we get started, try to solve the world's problems, angst over the stresses of the publishing world – then finally settle into writing a couple of chapters a week. Around the end of the first third of the book, we crash headlong into a wall (others call this writer's block). It might take us two or three weeks to get past that wall, or around it. Then things usually move much quicker, with the last few chapters coming in a rush. Believe me, there is nothing better in the world than typing the words "The End" on that last page of your finished novel.

Well, one thing is better ... having someone to shares that long journey with you.

Rhonda
http://www.evelyndavid.com

6 comments:

  1. I am amazed that the two of you did this without talking on the phone. Best of luck on the new book.

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  2. Yet another reason for the Stiletto Gang to get together one of these days...so the Evelyn Davids can meet! Ah, maybe in 2010! (I'll put that on my list of New Year's Resolutions.) :-)

    Cheers,
    Susan

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  3. I'd love for the Stiletto Gang to get together--we could try for Mayhem in the Midlands.

    Marilyn

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  4. Just finished Murder Takes the Cake. I loved it! The writing between the two of you flows seamlessly. And I did especially love the interaction between JJ & Edgar in this book. Keep writing!

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  5. Thanks Mason for reading our blog. I don't know how Marian and I wrote the book without talking either. My best explaination, "We didn't know we couldn't?" Today, we talk often and get less work done. Of course it's more fun now.

    Rhonda
    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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  6. Nancy,
    Thanks so much for the kind words about Murder Takes the Cake. Today was one of those days where I was questioning everything in my life, including writing. You'd be amazed how a comment like yours can bring out the smiles, the sun, and a whole new world view!

    Thanks from both Marian and me.

    Rhonda
    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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