Writing our first full-length novel has been an interesting experience. Learning to work with my wife- and how much we enjoyed doing so- 99% of the time at least- was perhaps the biggest payoff.
When we started out writing our first novella for the Foreworld series (The Shield Maiden) we had no clue how to collaborate on a writing project. What we eventually found worked was that we would brainstorm and come up with the story and some plot details. Linda did a lot of research into Viking-Era society as well. Then I did the grunt-work of writing and we’d go back and read it aloud to each other. Linda would fix my broken sentences and we’d tighten up the writing. We applied the same formula to ‘Diaries of a Dwarven Rifleman’ except for the research part; we were operating in ‘my’ world after all. Having a partner really made this process work. When I was stuck we’d talk, do a little brainstorming and shortly I was off and running again. She was also helpful in getting me to keep the ‘geeky’ technical details down to levels that wouldn’t have the average reader rolling their eyes back in their heads. When something jarred her out of the story we would figure out why and work out how to fix it.
Even though I did the physical writing work Linda’s hand was in this throughout. I was always aware that she had to like it as much as I did, even though we like different things in a story. ‘Diaries’ would not have been nearly as good as we think it is without her presence and contributions.
A number of times the story surprised us with the directions that it took. I’d spent a year building the Rifleman’s world in my head; magic, technology, society, characters. Every so often we’d hit a point where the plot would wrench itself out of our hands and onto a new track, because the logic of the world, the character and story insisted on it. Or a character would suddenly loom up and go from bit-player to central to the story. Half the time we felt like we were writing to see what would happen next, and sometimes it was not what we expected!
At one point an event occurred much earlier in the book than it was supposed to and Linda protested. But when we read it back she agreed that it made sense for it to happen now rather than later, even that forcing it to wait would be jarring.
The book wound up going to some places that we never expected, and by going to those places we found the entire rest of the book would be different than we had originally conceived it. The book was originally going to be a coming-of-age/revenge story set in a mining boom-town. It wound up in a very, very different place, and is all the better for that.
These brainstorming sessions also led to as many as five more novels in the series, none of them direct sequels to ‘Diaries’ except in that the final book is the sequel to all four of the previous books. We hope to get at least one or two of these novels out this year. Whatever happens, it’s been a fun ride, and it’s not over yet…