Please help me welcome today’s guest, Min Edwards. She’s talking about a subject that has always intrigued me…
Co-Authoring a Novel
Up until my recent work-in-progress, I was an author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. The scene of each novel was set in the fictional village of Stone Bay, Maine, a place loosely based on my own village of Lubec, Maine, the most eastern town in the U.S. People flock to our lighthouse on New Year’s morning, if they can make their way through the snow, to view the first light falling on America. We’ve had some pretty severe winters lately, so the ‘flock’ is more like a ‘meeting of friends’, a very small meeting.
But I’ve left Stone Bay behind for a while for my true passion… Archaeology. And I’ve taken on a co-author, L.W. (Linda) Ellis. We’re both professional archaeologists with advanced degrees, mine from The University of Texas at Austin and hers from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Linda is semi-retired and continues to do work as an analytical specialist under contract with other archaeologists. I retired from archaeological illustration a couple of professions ago when I decided to open an independent bookstore/wine bar in 2004. But our passion for the profession remains undimmed.
This sounds cool, doesn’t it? And it is, or will be when we’ve ironed out all the wrinkles and finished the book, The Ruby Eye, Book 1 in the TARE: Talon Archaeological Research and Exploration Series. The problem as I see it is that we started off with a complete novel—that doesn’t work, or isn’t working for us. I’m a ‘fill in the blanks’ writer, leaving lots of holes in a story to fill with description or characterization later. My co-author is not a ‘fill in the holes’ writer. It makes her crazy I think when she sees a comment, ‘fill this in later.’ So this was our first stumbling block, but we’re getting through it and have learned a lesson.
Also, I struggle with description. My descriptive black hole is probably because during my years in archaeology I spent most of my time at a drafting table drawing maps, cross-sections, artifacts. I never actually had to describe anything with words! I illustrated them! Yes, I was an archaeological illustrator, one of the few in the country who actually had an advanced degree in Archaeology! And I worked in a repository (The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin) used by the entire State of Texas… a place where archaeologists stored their artifacts and notes for their projects. They’d done this for decades and our collections were incredible. I was immersed. Really, I never thought about context; I focused on the physical. I needed to feel that stone tool in my hot little hands.
Linda on the other hand did field work and wrote reports about what was found. She also studied ceramics, both from a descriptive macro view as well as looking at the clays microscopically. She knew how to describe what she was seeing so that the rest of our colleagues could understand without having been on site what the importance of the project was. She’s the perfect person to write an archaeological adventure novel. She can describe a site in words that will make the reader believe they’re sitting in the dirt with their Marshalltown Trowel and a paint brush, whisking sediment away from a 13,000 year old spear point, the sweat running down their face, the sun beating down on their back, fire ants making a home in their shorts!
So Linda was the perfect choice as a co-author. She not only made her living describing things… with words… she’s a genius in detecting holes in a plot and when to kick my fanny for not using my words. She brought this home to me not long ago with this email: I know this scene is clear in your mind, but readers can’t get these descriptions by osmosis. You need to use your words! What does the village look like? Was the morning cloudy or crystal clear? Can someone standing on the beach see the mountains across the waters of the bay?
And she’s correct. I spent time in the location of this story, Lingayen Gulf, the Philippine island of Luzon. I remember every leaf, every grain of sand, every snake slithering out of the cane fields. We just need to make sure our readers can see these things, too.
So here we are, muddling our way through this ‘finished’ novel—adding, subtracting, polishing. And we’re saying to ourselves… co-authoring has to be easier than this.
And we’re correct, it has to be. Not only do we love the way this story is going now, and it’s a relief that so much dialogue and plot are already in place, but we’re beginning to get an idea of the organization that we need to write the next books in this series.
And you might ask, “You didn’t have any idea of organization when you started?”
Nope, I didn’t. Linda probably did because she thinks differently about writing than I do. She’s a plotter, an outliner. I’m a ‘sit down at the computer and jump in’ kind of writer. I don’t have a clue where the story will go until it gets there. This is probably the reason why my debut novel needed 17 versions before my editor deemed it ‘done.’
So the first things on our To-Do list before starting the next novel will be:
1) Plot the whole story including all the characters and their development. We’ll do this by writing a ‘bible’ of the story, building the hero, heroine and secondary characters’ personalities and histories even though we’ll probably never use this information in the novel. But we’ll know our characters, by gum!
2) Decide on our individual roles. Each take a character? Each take a chapter or scene? We’ll probably do this for each novel so we don’t find ourselves stuck in just one role.
3) Before going further into plotting another story in the series, we’ll need to plot a novella setting up the TARE company (Talon Archaeological Research and Exploration), a division of Talon Global, Marc Talon, owner. And we’ve already begun his ‘bible.’ We’ve learned something already.
4) We’ll be talking to other authors who’ve attempted co-authoring. Tips are always appreciated.
Follow along with us on our Facebook page at TalonArcheo to see what we’re learning along the way. There’ll be excerpts, triumphs and failures (we hope not too many of those), and of course, interesting stories about archaeology.
Oh wow, thank you, Min. This is fascinating, helpful information. I’ll be sure to file it away in case I decide to collaborate on a novel. Speaking of novels…OMG…your cover…a shark!! LOVE it!!
Min Edwards is the pen name of Pam Headrick, owner of A Thirsty Mind Book Design. She holds advanced degrees in Anthropology with a focus on archaeology and geography as well as geology and art. She’s published four novels in two series: Stone Bay Contemporary Romance and High Tide Romantic Suspense. And later this summer will publish the last (perhaps) novel in the High Tide series, Precious Stone.
You can visit with her or contact her on her website at www.minedwards.com or her business site at www.athristymind.com. Her Amazon Author’s page lists her current titles published in digital and print format, Stone Bay, Stone Cold, Stone Heart and Stone Fall.
You can also find her on social media:
Twitter @ MEdwards Author
Facebook @ Author Min Edwards
Facebook @ TalonArcheo
Goodreads @ Author Min Edwards
Pinterest @ Min Edwards
As a professional archeologist, Linda (the L. in L.W. Ellis) spent more than 25 years delving into the interesting nuances of past civilizations. She’s a contributing author to more than 100 professional reports and journal articles, and writes an educational blog that she hopes will encourage people to explore and appreciate the world’s varied cultures. Recently, she’s taken her knowledge of science and history and ventured into the world of historical and women’s fiction. In addition to co-authoring the The Ruby Eye, she has a novel currently under review by a major publisher.
You can find her on social media sites:
“Juan,” Bryn Carmichael said as she pulled up short on the pier just out of earshot of the rest of her dive crew. “Who’s the new guy?”
“That’s Ford Sutton. The new Brit.” Juan’s brow furrowed when he glanced at Bryn. “You don’t know him?”
“No. When did he show up?”
“He walked into the village last night, while you and Bert were taking Stevie into town to the doctor.” Juan’s jovial mood evaporated. “Sorry, Bryn. You didn’t get back until so late and since he had a hiring form from Talon, I just assumed…”
“Wait… he has a hiring form?”
“Well, it’s more like a letter of introduction, but it’s on Talon letterhead and Marc’s assistant, Della Cameron signed it.”
“Well, damn.” The mumbled curse was punctuated by an aggravated burst of air. “Marc didn’t tell me he was sending a new crew member.” Now, her temper was threatening to get the best of her. This was her project. She was supposed to be in charge. If Marc valued her so much then why was he hiring someone without even discussing it with her… and for the guy to just show up…? Bryn swallowed another curse.
Juan quickly added. “He has a resume and a list of references.”
“What does his resume say? Does he have some special skill?”
“He has a BSc in Maritime Archeology from Oxford, but it doesn’t say he has any special expertise. He’s definitely experienced—the letter from Talon lists quite a few projects he’s participated in.
Bryn cast an irritated glance in Sutton’s direction trying to decide whether she should delay the work day while she tried to reach Marc and find out what the hell was going on. Maybe she was just being overly cautious, or a bit defensive, but she didn’t like Marc hiring some guy without consulting her or even letting her know he was coming.
“Sorry I didn’t mention it sooner.” Juan apologized. “What do you want to do, Bryn?”
Bryn drew in a steadying breath, trying to tamp down her anger. She shouldn’t be taking her frustrations out on Juan. “Maybe I’m just being overly suspicious, but it seems odd that he’d show up just when we’re suddenly down a man. I’d like you to stay in today and check him out. Put in a call to the Talon office and find out what’s going on. Then check out those projects and his references. I’ll call Marc tonight.”
“Sure thing, boss. I’ll email the people he used as references, and I’ll follow up with Della.” Juan swiped a hand through his thick dark hair. “Sorry, Bryn,” he said again.
“No need to apologize. It’s not your fault. Marc should have told me.” Bryn muttered as she glared down the pier toward the tall man leaning against the railing of the boat. “I’ll let him ride along today since he has the letter from Talon, but I don’t want him diving until we’ve checked him out.”