Monday I had Part 1 of the Van Dyken/Saunders writing team here. Today you get to hear from the other half.
Rachel Van Dyken and I have written two books together. Our first endeavor was The Parting Gift, which released on Black Friday. A Christmas novella about the power of forgiveness and love. This first book was my idea. I hadn’t published before, but Rachel graciously consented to writing with me (after much twisting of her arm). It took us about two and a half months to complete the first draft.
Our second story was Rachel’s idea. Waltzing With the Wallflower only took about two weeks to write. It is a Regency romance novella, which (at the time) was out of my usual genre. I had read all of Rachel’s previous work, but the very idea of writing a Regency was a bit scary for me. Unfortunately, I accepted her suggestion to write together again before I realized what she was wanting me to do. Ended up working out in the end though. Thank goodness!
Currently we are working on a sequel to Waltzing With the Wallflower. We had so much fun with the first one, we just couldn’t resist the temptation to write Anthony’s story.
Honestly, Rachel and I consult on everything we write anyway, so it was a natural progression into co-authoring. We have a flow of writing together that works well. I don’t know that it would work for everyone to write in a partnership, but it works for us.
Anyway, here are the:
Top Ten Reasons I Write with Rachel
10. Sanity: We kind of provide this for each other. Whenever I go off the deep end, she slaps me back into reality. Whenever she goes off the deep end, I give her a blank stare and she quickly repents and looks chastised (the head hang of shame). We have a good support system, actually. We encourage each other to keep going.
9. Fun: Rachel and I worked together in a middle school for about three years, so our co-suffering gave us a peculiar sense of camaraderie. We have a similar sense of humor, and for whatever reason it is compounded when we are sleep deprived (which is most of the time).
8. Brainstorming: Regardless of what we are working on, Rachel and I are constantly conferring on our plots, characters, settings, conflicts—pretty much everything about our writing. As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” I can’t tell you how many times one or the other of us has been stuck on a plot point, and one well placed chat session took our story in a whole new direction. One we never would have thought of if left to our own devices.
7. Honest critique: Both of our names will be on the finished product, so we both know that we aren’t going to let something through that one or the other of us is unhappy with. Fortunately, our experience working with the sensitive middle school age group has given us both a diplomatic approach to critiquing each other. That’s probably why we are still friends. J For my part, I trust Rachel to give me honest feedback, but she’s always nice about it.
6. Coffee: I never drank coffee until after my third child was born—now it’s kind of a necessity. I think Rachel probably started drinking it when she was a baby. J Regardless of the age of our respective coffee habits, we often meet at the coffee shop to do our writing. We aren’t always together when we write, but we seem to get more done when we are (at least from my perspective). I’m pretty sure it’s because we can just hand our computers across the table to check our work and we don’t feel like we have to carry on a conversation. We can focus on what we’re doing. If we are doing a virtual write-in, we spend more time making ironic comments to each other. Mostly my fault though, I must admit.
5. Schedule: When you write with someone else, you can’t just put your manuscript on the back burner for months at a time. Rachel is depending on me to get my part done, and she can’t do hers until mine is finished. It’s just enough pressure to get me to follow through in a timely fashion. And I work far better under pressure.
4. Steel Sharpens Steel: Working with Rachel makes me a better writer. She challenges me to write outside of my comfort zone. I do my best work because I don’t want to ruin the story. We spend a lot of time discussing where we want a story to go and how we can get it there. People tend to work to expectations, and when you’re working with a partner, the bar is set higher. You don’t want to disappoint the other person.
3. Respect: Not to sound like a commercial for Rachel, but she is an amazing plot weaver. I know that if I get stuck in a story, whether it is a solo piece or a co-op work, she will be there with a handful of suggestions to get me over the writer’s block. I value her input. The stuff she offers me is always constructive. Of course, I don’t always take her advice, but I do always consider it. Fortunately, she doesn’t feel offended if I don’t take her suggestions. She just moves on and offers other ideas that might work.
2. Blame: Let’s face it. I come from a conservative background. When my mom reads something I’ve written with Rachel, and she doesn’t like the kissing scenes, I am going to throw Rachel under the bus. She’s an easy target. J And I have her permission to point fingers, so it’s all good.
1. Yin and Yang: We each have certain strengths. Like I said before, Rachel is amazing at plot. I’m an English teacher, so I edit in my sleep. Rachel writes (and reads) super fast. I’m slow and pay close attention to details. Rachel writes an incredible kissing scene. I can infuse tone and deep emotion (I also am pretty good at keeping her from crossing the line). I think we’re both pretty good with dialogue. For the most part, where my writing is weak, Rachel’s is strong. And vice versa. Makes for a good combination. So we can say to each other, in the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.”
“Shut up. You had me at hello.”