Evolution of a collaborative novel, part one
So as I mentioned, Jak and I are writing a novel together. Technically, we’re not actually writing yet, and it’s no longer just one novel, but the phrase will serve.
This is the first in an open series of posts about that process.
The seed of this particular story was planted in February 2005, at around 11p, in bed in our hotel room at Radcon. By 2a we had a decent-sized sapling — several characters, a magic system, and some key plot points.
We made a little more progress on the worldbuilding after we came home, but soon we were both working full-time day jobs with long commutes — lovely from a financial standpoint, lousy for our energy level and available time. So after the initial spurt, our little tree lay dormant for another four years.
This year, thanks to a crashing economy, we are once again in a ‘low employment’ situation, meaning that one and sometimes both of us are working fewer than 40 hours per week. Also important: Claire is now ten and requires less constant attention than she did at six. If we were ever seriously going to do this thing, now seemed like the time.
We started slow, making Monday evenings ‘Novel Night’: takeout dinner and several hours of brainstorming and development. About three weeks in, I suddenly went cold-turkey on WoW, which freed up a non-trivial amount of my time*. Some of those hours went into research; others went into reading, as I decided I should have a wider knowledge of successful fantasy fiction from the current decade.
Jak ramped up to match my involvement, and our one day a week became three to four. Many long conversations — ideas tossed back and forth, ideas shot down mid-flight, ideas transmuted. Meanwhile, my market research led me to accept that our chances of selling even an excellent standalone novel were slim compared to the chances of selling a series, and we agreed to expand the story across multiple books.
So now our little sapling must become not just a full tree but an entire bloody grove. For someone whose prior comfort zone stopped at ‘shrub’, that’s more than a little daunting.
* I’d guess I average at least 30 hours a week on the game when I’m playing. Yeah, I know.