If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Group Writing by Nancy Raven Smith


It’s a pleasure to be here with Writers Who Kill. Thank you for having me.
 

Although I am a mystery writer, I released a lighthearted memoir, The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill, that I co-wrote with my husband, Brad, and daughter, Lynn. Our other daughter also participated but did not wish to be credited. The question I keep getting asked is how does it work writing a book with three writers? Since the question is applicable to any genre, I’d like to share our process in case it helps other writers.

Lynn and I first wrote as screenwriters. In screenplays, multiple writers are common. There are those who write in partnerships and those who are hired to replace writers whose work has  been rejected. Some movies can have as many as 13 writers even though only three or four are credited. As you can imagine, the movie often ends up a mess. The vision, the theme, and the heart of the story disappear - a classic case of too many cooks. Partnerships, however, can work very well. A general process for partnerships, even though they vary widely, is to do a detailed story and character outline and then each write alternating scenes. Then the partners smooth and polish the scenes together.

For my family’s memoir, we approached it both similarly and differently. Brad, Lynn, and I had weekly lunch meetings at the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills near where Lynn worked. The people there were wonderful and always gave us a quiet table in the back room. We’d discuss the homework established at the last week’s lunch, followed by anything that occurred to anyone during the week between. Finally, we’d agree on next week’s homework. For example – title ideas and log lines or ideas on a specific chapter. Many times different jobs were assigned to each of us.

Our original concept was to gather our family stories, have Lynn, Brad, and I write separate short stories, and end up with an anthology. We quickly found that that left the book with a confusing timeline and storyline because the stories had three different, jumbled points of view and frequently overlapped. It just plain didn’t work.

In the end, we settled on creating a spine for the stories, telling the story from Brad’s fish-out-of-water point of view. That worked. In keeping with the spine, we picked the theme that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch)

We reorganized the stories to follow the new spine for the book. It traces Brad’s agreeing to live on a farm against his wishes through to his decision that he loved the farm and the animals.

But here’s how we physically handled the writing. We wrote chronologically as fit the spine. We’d choose the story and bring all we had written about it and any thoughts we had about it to meetings for discussion. Next, Lynn and I would interview Brad for his version of the story and his word usage.  Brad and Lynn both had full time jobs, so I was elected to do the first draft. Brad would go over my draft, rewrite and give notes. I would do a second draft, Brad would again rewrite, and we would pass it to Lynn for her notes and a rewrite. As we went, new things would be remembered, discussed, and added. It actually got very easy as we went along and fell into a rhythm that worked well. When we finished, we all read the full book many times with notes and rewrites on different sections. Then the book moved on to a group of dear friends, some with and some without writing experience, for them to beta read. When the beta reader’s notes came back, we discussed them and made decisions. I’d do another draft, followed by Brad and Lynn, and around again if necessary.

The readers, of course, will be the final judges, but I felt that the writing stayed in a consistent voice, even though it was a blend of the three of us. And the narrative had a flow and direction. It was not the most conventional system to write a book, but it seemed to work for us.

NANCY RAVEN SMITH grew up in Virginia where she ran horse sport events. On her farm, she, her husband Bradford M. Smith, and their two daughters rescued horses, dogs and cats. They are advocates for animal rescue. Later in California, Raven Smith traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays have won numerous major awards. When a mentor suggested she write one idea as a novel, she discovered a passion for writing mysteries. Raven Smith is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America. Her debut mystery, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Selection Winner.

http://www.NancyRavenSmith.com
http://www.Facebook.com/NancyRavenSmithWriter
http://www.TheReluctantFarmerofWhimseyHill.com
The Reluctant Farmer – http://Amzn.to1XoblsP
Land Sharks – http://Amzn.to/1JuIHku

8 comments:

Julie Tollefson said...

Your process sounds so smooth and productive! Given how my family works together on much simpler projects (DIY home improvement, for example), I can imagine we'd devolve into a chaotic mess if we tackled something so huge. I like the idea of weekly homework and weekly lunch meetings - a tasty way to be accountable for getting the work done.

Margaret Turkevich said...

I'm fascinated that you found a writing process that worked with family members. Can't imagine doing it with my family.

Grace Topping said...

Thanks, Nancy, for an interesting account of your process. I particularly liked that you interviewed your husband to pull out more information and details. That probably enabled him to remember far more than he would have on his own. Terrific idea. I'll have to see if that will work with my characters.

Warren Bull said...

I have never tried writing fiction with another writer. Your process sounds like a workable model.

NAncy Raven Smith said...

WE were lucky because we were all writers and used to the give and take with decisions.But we were also surprised that our system actually worked.Working that way also kept the voice of tHecharacterc consistent..

Gloria Alden said...

Welcome to WWK, Nancy. As someone who has always lived in the country and now has a small farm of her own with two totally useless ponies except I love them, a small flock of old hens, a collie, two cats and an old guinea fowl he patrols my farm, I can't wait to read this book. I wrote it down to order it.

I have to admit that a sister and I tried writing the first mystery I wrote together, but we lived 50 miles apart and couldn't get together often enough. Also, we have totally different voices. So after the first four or five chapters, I wrote the rest on my own as well as all the revisions. I was lucky enough to have wonderful Guppy critique partners, who are still with me.

Nancy Raven Smith said...

Hi Gloria,

I'm personally too much of a control freak to regularly write with a partner. That's one reason this was such a unique exprience for me. My mystery is a solo writing job, although my hubby and daughter edit everything I write and vice versa.

I hope you enjoy The Reluctant Farmer. I envy you living on a farm. We're 'retired' from ours and there's so much we miss about it - especially the animals.

Thank you for the warm welcome to WWK. It's been my pleasure.

Nan

KM Rockwood said...

Interesting approach! I admire you and your family for making it work. The book sounds delightful.