Wednesday 13 July 2011

Behind the Scenes with Carrie and Nerine

Yesterday I posted my review of Just My Blood Type, the collaborative piece by Carrie Clevenger and Nerine Dorman. Today I let them take over the Blunt Pencil to take us behind the scenes of the creation of JMBT. Nerine, over to you...

Behind the Scenes with Carrie and me
By Nerine Dorman

Nerine Dorman
There’s no doubt that when a writing partnership works, it’s a definitive case of “two heads are better than one”. This was underscored for me yet again in interviews I’ve conducted with South African author Sarah Lotz when discussing two of the writing partnerships in which she’s involved (SL Grey and Lily Herne).

My first attempt at a writing partnership happened about two years ago and, while the end result was great--we both took turns writing each other’s characters with a high degree of authenticity--it never amounted to much more than a short story.

In my mind there’s an X-factor that results in a mutual explosion of creativity, where one feeds off the other.

To be honest, this year I wasn’t looking to collaborate but perhaps why this situation is so special is that it happened of its own accord. A few musings about shared ideas resulted in a proposed “short story” turning into a not-so-short story of more than 8 000 words. This has obviously led me to consider the most important aspects about forging a collaborative writing partnership.

In my mind, common ground is vital. Some shared literary interests as well as background. Carrie and I found each other on the A Pale Horse Named Death forum, and our love for this band, as well as Type O Negative, and vampires, gave us a lot to discuss at first. I pretty much fell head over heels for Xan, Carrie’s creation, and was totally blown away when she allowed me to take a peek at his world.

Carrie Clevenger
Carrie adds, “To be honest, most of my writing partnerships have been forged by mutual adoration and respect with another person for one another’s work. Not to mean entirely accidental. I don’t go out trolling the internet to look for someone to write with. I have to start a relationship with the person before I even consider going any further. To me a writing partnership is very much like a marriage: there’s give and take. I think the biggest indicator of a good choice is when the other person excels in different areas of writing mastery. Take you and me for example. You’re good at extended plots, technicalities and description. I feel my strengths lie in sharp narrative, realistic dialogue and crafting unique twists for plotlines.”

Okay, so this brings us to mutual respect. I listen to Carrie’s vision and see where I can fit mine around it. Likewise, she considers my ideas. I can only compare it to playing with building blocks. If stuff doesn’t work, tear it down. But yeah, Carrie sees stuff I don’t, and vice versa. She’s good at plot points, characterization and witty observations whereas I’m more of the grammar Nazi who looks at overarching structure and content layering.

Another point I reckon is vital is to know where you’re going, to have an outline so that you don’t end up trying to pull a story in opposite directions.

Now the thing is, Carrie’s in the States and I’m in South Africa. Time zones can be interesting. We spend a lot of time to-ing and fro-ing on ideas so it helps that sometimes we’re on Skype or email in “real time”. I prefer “talking” in text so it gives me a chance to mull over a response, if need be. But ja, I don’t think either of us sleeps much. I get about five to six hours a night, which suits me fine. My body clock is so messed up I find it very hard to sleep for longer than that.

Carrie says, “Geographical distances and time zone differences mean nothing to me anymore—I just never sleep on a regular schedule! But seriously, I work for a European division so I’m up while most of my American neighbors are sleeping, and I rest while they work the daylight hours. When I worked with another publishing company before, the only real difficulty was synchronizing with the Australian counterparts because they are so far to the other extreme as far as the clock is concerned.”

For me the nuts and bolts of a writing partnership have always been how well I know the character my partner is writing. I’ve found it helps to have a list of facts that I add to, that cover everything from favorite music through to when their birthday is. I add to the list as I work and share it with Carrie. Also, plotting dialogue ahead of time in factoids, if I’m not sure what her character’s response will be. Sometimes we’ll layer a scene three or four times before the dialogue and action runs smoothly. I like to know where I’m headed in a story so I generally create an outline, even if it’s just point-form information that shows a logical progression.

Carrie says, “I only outline when I’m writing a longer piece, and by that I’d say over five thousand words or so. If I happen to be planning a novel my outlines look more like organized synopsis points. It helps fool me into thinking it’s not work, because outlines are work but entirely essential for many people to get a plotline straight. In narrative, I play off the other person, just as I do with dialogue. It’s entirely dynamically tuned to a balance between me and the other person. In a collaboration where there are two distinct voices, I like to give each author equal amount of time at the mic, so to speak. With revisions, one of the best things I’ve learned from you is that you might have one another but it’s still wise to reach out and seek a second, unbiased review on what you two have produced. Beta readers are invaluable in this process to ensure that each author has stayed true to their own voice and that neither one is drowned out by the other.”

I’ll close by saying it’s important to keep up the energy, to not let a document sit for too long. Writing a collaboration is a little bit like playing tennis. Right now Carrie and me are having a great time lobbing ideas at each other and, judging by some of the readers’ responses to Just My Blood Type, we’re providing a very entertaining match of wits.

Download Just My Blood Type here.
Follow us on Twitter @CarrieClevenger, @nerinedorman and @crookedfang.

Or see the Crooked Fang website or Nerine Dorman's Facebook page.


Dorothy F. Shaw said...

Great post! So proud to know both of you.. You too Icy!

nerinedorman said...

Thanks for having us over!

Carrie Clevenger said...

Proud to be featured at Icy's Blunt Pencil. Good luck with your upcoming release doll. For those curious about JUST MY BLOOD TYPE, I'll say it's 21 pages long and you can kill it in an hour. It's also free, so you're out of excuses. So give us some love, and don't forget to review it. I don't go for ass-patting so be honest:
You can also help us out by recommending it to your friends. I appreciate your support.

Angel Zapata said...

Free?...well, love is indeed coming your way, Carrie.

I love to read about how other writers create and collaborate. Knowing your personal strengths is such an important point.

I’ll definitely be adding this to my Kindle today. Congratulations to both of you.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Truly an honor to have your eyeballs on my words Angel.x

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Again, thoughtful, inspiring dialogue between two brilliant women. Icy, this series has been fabulous.

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