Behind the Book: Why Write with a Friend?
Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan locked themselves in a hotel room to write Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man on sale May 24, 2011. They wrote this post to tell you why.
Writing is a lonely job. You spend your days inside your own head. Your workplace is a room in your house, or sometimes a coffee shop if you can’t stand the isolation any longer. Your workmates are imaginary. You type endlessly into a machine and it just seems to soak up the words without giving anything back. Even after an idea is fully developed, which takes many weeks, a book can take 200 to 300 hours to write, 100 more to rewrite and edit—hours a writer most likely spends alone.
That’s not to say it’s a bad job. It’s wonderful. We get paid to make things up. We don’t have to put on adult clothes very often—in fact, I think most of us live in sweatpants or pajamas. We don’t have a daily commute and if we have children, we see them a lot. Our lunch breaks contain marshmallow fluff sandwiches and cartoons. No one cares if we take a sick day or two—or ten.
But it is a very solitary way of life.
So if a friend—one who writes wonderful books that are smart and funny—calls you up to suggest writing a book together, and she has a really good idea, and together you make it a great idea, and your agent loves it and your publisher loves it—well, you can see why we had to give it a try!
Mornings that used to be spent staring out of the window while the coffee turned cold—or sometimes spinning in the chair while staring at the ceiling—were then spent brainstorming on the phone, laughing and gasping (“Oh my gosh! That’s genius!”) our way through a story that set our imaginations on fire.
We traveled to Denver for RomCon and stayed on, developing the story, drinking wine and laughing until we had every scene in the book mapped out. We met in New Mexico and we holed up in Santa Fe, drinking coffee and writing and reading and discussing—and shopping (Duh!)—until we had a first draft ready to turn in.
Susan is an early bird. Celeste is a night owl. Together we managed to work nearly 16 hour days. If you’ve ever wondered how much you could accomplish if there were two of you, we can testify that it’s amazing.
Then for the revision stage. We met in Maryland where we sat in Susan’s beautiful dining room (with original hardwood floors!) and sometimes on her porch (due to doggie flatulence!) and drank tea and wrote and rewrote and asked each other random questions like, “What kind of marital aid would you take to a Regency orgy?” until we had a finished book that we eyed with wonder.
How could this fun-filled holiday with a girlfriend have created such a great book? When had we forgotten how hard writing is and remembered to simply play?
The book is finished and is nearly on the shelves. The friendship not only survived the process but grew and deepened. New books are being written by us as individuals, although we hope to repeat the co-writing experience very soon.
We learned a lot from each other. Susan is a consummate professional who works steadily and great discipline. Celeste is wildly creative but practices neurotic avoidance until the last possible moment. We stretched each other boundaries in both directions and still ended up friends!
Celeste discovered that what she was avoiding was the isolation itself. It was a revelation to realize that we don’t have to be alone to write good books.
Writing has become fun again. The childish joy in “playing pretend” has been returned to us. More than that, we are better writers, happier people, and a better friends from this experience. Having such an amazing partner in imagination makes the creative act more than a duty, even more than a simple pleasure. It makes it a celebration.