Our Writing Process

We’ve both written apart before writing together, and the writing process as a single author is somewhat different, not to mention that it also varies depending upon the particular form for the story.

For a novel, for this novel in particular, part of the challenge and part of the fun was developing a new writing process that worked for us, part inspiration, part necessity, especially since neither one of us had written a novel before as our focus had been mainly on screenplays and plays.

Stargazing Manuscript 2

{Completed manuscript of our novel}

Since this book is based on one of our screenplays, we took the screenplay three act structure and adapted it to book form. We essentially kept the three act structure common in screenplays and kept most of the story elements and characters. It turns out that to write the book, we had to flush out everything a lot more.

We love outlines, especially the Harvard outline on Pages. It’s really been helpful to begin with an outline, even if you chunk it. When we chunked, we’d do the outline to fit the structure up to about three chapters. Doing more than that would taint the creative impulse, and we wanted to keep the novel fresh and fun and true to the plot and the characters. It really helped with continuity and there’s nothing like a good outline to show you if your logic, and character motivation make sense. Then when we’re editing and re-editing, we drop the outline and focus on the sentences and the dialogue and the descriptions. But, before finishing the novel, we go back and do a reverse outline. A reverse outline is a really handy trick that we learned from our writing teacher, Nika Rylski, and it’s one of the most helpful things a writer can do. It’s a little different for a novel instead of a screenplay, so we adapted it. When the book is very close to done, you go back, scene by scene and do a point form Harvard outline, just focusing on the plot of that scene, including all things that happen that are relevant.

Outline

{In progress…Our Harvard outline}

A lot of writing partners work separately and then come together to add to each other’s work. For us, that doesn’t work. We did try doing that, but it didn’t really work for us.

We like to be in the same room, and we take turns typing. It really helps with consistency and it means we’re both really present in the life of the story, which gives it energy in a sense. We brainstorm a lot, we throw out ideas, we stay focused (neither one of us likes to procrastinate when it comes to writing, okay, ever) and rarely get off-topic. We always start from an outline and sometimes we have bits of dialogue as well, along with what we need to have in that scene, but usually the dialogue sprang from the situations. We’d take breaks now and then and go on celebrity gossip sites to stay in the mood of the world of the novel. We write everywhere: at home, libraries, coffee shops (for editing mostly), and for this one, for our first draft, we were in Cuba. We’d write most of the day, and then grab food when we were hungry and then just went to jump in the ocean to balance out all the hard work. Looking back, it was a really good decision because it was work that needed very little editing later on. It took tremendous discipline to stay in the room, looking over the ocean, but we yearned to do this book so much. Once we stayed in a hotel in Ontario for the weekend to get a couple of chapters edited, and they barely needed any fixing later on. We did more in two days than we had in 11 in trying to work from home. It’s all the wonderful distractions that can really inhibit your writing.

Marilyn at Library

{Marilyn taking a break from writing at the library}

View from Room in Cuba

{Our view from our room in Cuba}

Because we have a performer’s background, and also because we are used to having our work read by writers and actors, we really think listening to work read out loud is really crucial. That’s a final test all work needs to pass. If you don’t see what needs editing (which is a challenge the more edits you do), you will certainly hear it.

Other actors are a lot more valuable to the writing process than they are given credit for. They can ask some good questions after a reading, and if they’re smart actors (and believe us, there are a lot more smart actors than people would think), listening to their interpretation as well as hearing what they thought about their motivation and relationships are especially helpful to a work’s success. We don’t know why so few writers do this. In our case, for the novel, we asked former students of ours to read it. We wanted them to be as objective as possible, so we first told them it was a novel by a friend of ours. We used that old writer’s trick–from Hollywood, of course. The saying goes that if you really want an honest opinion about a script, don’t tell them you wrote it, only that you’re the producer deciding on whether or not you’re going ahead with it.

We started with a group of girls and two separate scenes that we wrote, one in the first person, and the other in the third person. We knew the advantages and disadvantages of both, and we were kind of stuck. This first group read both, and overall, they preferred the first person narration, so that’s the way we decided to go.

Then we had another group read the finished novel after it had been edited a lot. They had great feedback, just small things really, but in tweaking them, it improved the character’s relationships and motivations a lot. What was really nice was the consensus that the novel was really relatable, and that was really significant for us.

We took longer than we had anticipated to get this book ready. We ended the book with a bang, or rather, a flood. Toronto was hit with a very bad storm and thousands of people had their basements flooded, and we were one of them. Our entire office was damaged, and we had to pack everything up, throw other things away, have it gutted and are waiting to get it back to normal. Since then, we’ve moved upstairs to the dining room as we got out book out. If we wanted our book out, we had to preserver.

Post Flood

{This piece of furniture took so long to put together, now it’s in the trash from water damage}

Office Post Flood Marilyn's Side

{Our now empty office, post-flood}

Dining Room Office

{Our temporary office space in the dining room. There are also tons of boxes around the house}

YA’s don’t change the world, but they are enjoyable and they can get people in a better frame of mind, and that’s always a good thing. In writing this book, we treated it with all the love and seriousness in the world, and we truly love the world we’ve created and hope that our readers will too.

Shipment of our Book

{Shipment of our novel}

Stargazing on Amazon Screen Shot

{A screenshot of our Amazon page the day our paperback was available}

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