On writing

Revisiting Do You See What I See

We spend a lot of time with each other as co-writers, which means we share a lot of things, including bugs.

A rather nasty cold-like thing (too nasty to be an actual cold, or otherwise colds are becoming a lot more vicious) has downed both of us this week. We haven’t done much writing. Not even a blog, and to be honest it’s hard to dredge up much enthusiasm for a blog post, so today you get a recycled one. This is from back in 2006.


Because it’s so old, I need to give you some context on the novels we were writing back then.

Potion is a massive, sprawling epic fantasy. It’s the second novel we finished and rewrote enough to be respectable. It’s a trunk novel, but one day, if we ever get time, we’d love to rewrite it, just for fun. We have learned so much since then. It’s the type of fantasy you’d write twenty years ago. Fantasy has come a long way since.

Trivia fact for you. We did send this to our now-agent, Caitlin, and she asked to see the full manuscript. Nothing came of it, but it’s funny how things turn out.

Shared Memories is science fiction. Sherylyn calls it young adult, I call it adult with a young protagonist (but I think Sherylyn’s probably correct). Right now it’s a trunk novel as well, but it was a great idea. If we ever get the time we’ll revisit the idea.

Satisfaction is another fantasy. This one is still in the story folder. We remember this one particularly because when I described the original idea to Sherylyn it was an edgy, sexy adult novel, but the actual story we plan to write is the story Sherylyn saw after I described it to her. A whimsical coming of age tale. She took my idea, turned it around, and in half an hour we had a story we both wanted to write.

Also, we mention writing as a team. How we co-write has changed since this post. We still do some of what we mention in that link to another old post, but an article we did recently for Qwillery describes our current process better.


Do You See What I See?

It wasn’t until the fourth draft of Potion that Sherylyn and I realised we didn’t see the characters the same way.

Tegan, one of the point-of-view characters in Potion, has long dark curls that frame her face. We mention her eye colour—blue—when comparing her to someone else but that’s pretty much all the description you get of Tegan’s physical features.

We were talking one day and realised that Sherylyn’s Tegan had rich, chocolate brown hair with chestnut highlights. Her hair fell half-way between her shoulder and her waist, and the curls were quite, well, curly. My Tegan, however, had hair that fell past her waist. It was darker, and the curls were more waves than actual curls.

In another story, Shared Memories, the point-of-view character comes from a world called Nuan. Sherylyn pronounces it “Noo-one”, I pronounce it “Nah-wonn”.

Does it matter?

Not in the least?

The vision we share for a book depends less on the physical than on how the characters act and react. Yes, there are some physical things we know about each character—Tegan’s long dark curls, for example—but it’s more, “Tegan wouldn’t muck around like this. She would unleash a magical firebolt instead, and it would all be over in minutes”, than “That’s not how Tegan looks”.

We do, however, need to share a common vision for the story, and where it’s going. I mentioned in an earlier blog about writing as a team, that before we start writing we talk about the story, finessing it until we have a story we can both visualise and are prepared to work on. Satisfaction is the most extreme example of this to date, where my original idea was changed totally. Changed for me, that is. The final concept of Satisfaction, the one we’re going to write, is the picture Sherylyn saw in her mind in the first five minutes as I described it to her that first day.

That was unusual. Normally we meet somewhere in the middle.

Writing a book with a writing partner is a lot like reading a book you both love. What each of you gets out of a book when you read it is totally your own. But it doesn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story for either of you.

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