Official site for the high/dark fantasy books of authors Barb Hendee and J. C. Hendee, including the Noble Dead Saga (a.k.a. The Noble Dead series), the Mist-Torn Witches series, the Vampire Memories series, and TNDS: Tales from the world of the Noble Dead Saga.

Q&A: Writing (Collaboration / Process)

qa_1One of several things we get asked about again and again is collaboration. The other part is just how do we do it. And then comes the further detail of how it has (or hasn’t) changed over time.

To many people, there’s something rare — or just odd — about spouses who collaborate. Possibly more so than with other collaborative teams who don’t live on top of each. All writers differ a little or a lot in their processes and ways of looking at story-making and story-telling. Since that difference is hard to show with one voice…

How has your writing process matured from the saga’s first novel to now?

Barb:  I’m determined never to mature... hah-hah-hah!

JC [whispering]: You all have no idea.

     The fairy cast one of her rare glares at the dragon, who quickly tried to duck under a table, though only his big head would fit.

Barb: Now, where was I…? I do think our process has changed in some ways — become easier with each book.  For example, we started off trying to plan a novel, like S1B1: Dhampir, by one of us beginning an outline and then passing it to the other, back and forth between our computers. That’s still the general way we work, but for S1B5: Rebel Fay — and parts of other books — J.C. sat on the floor next to my computer while I typed.

JC: She’s got those dainty, little fingers as opposed to my big claws.

     At that errant puff rising around the table, the fairy raised one thin eyebrow in a sidelong glance. The smoke quickly thinned and was no more.

Barb: We just came up with a basic story, only about seven pages to begin with, covering “what really needs to happen in this book.”  And after that, fleshing out the outline went much more smoothly.

JC: But we always have a Planning phase before beginning the Rendering of the first draft. With each book, our outlining became more precise in the parts, for on the whole, the multiple layers of story (book, series, saga) grew evermore complicated.

Barb: The actual drafts (minus later changes) deviated less and less from that finished outline. We foresaw the main story more completely from book to book.

JC: Of course, now there is more than one plot to plan, even in most single books.

Barb: Also, with books like S1B4: Traitor to the Blood, once we decided it was as perfect as we could get it, we printed the whole thing and went through it with a red pen before even sending it off to our editor. By the time we finished that pass, we were surprised by how much we changed, even after all the planning and drafting.

JC: Yes, there are always changes — and then even more.  But less and less with each volume on its superstructure; more and more in the details as plots and subplots link together more and more under the saga’s main storyline. As our ability to formulate the main book plot(s) became more precise, we had more time to play with secondary plots and then subplots to accentuate or better augment the saga as a whole.  All this is doubly important now, for the days of one primary plot, and maybe two subplots, are long gone.

Barb: It has reached a point where sometimes we have to pick and choose which subplot, or even plot, might have to be moved on to the next book.

     “You’re always making things complicated,” accused the fairy. “You are a messy little lizard!”
At which, the dragon dared a rumble.

Barb: A touch of this started between S1B5: Rebel Fay and S1B6: Child of a Dead God. The former had two parallel but unlinked plots, one major and one minor, while the latter had three main plots that intertwined… and some little subplots that came and went along the way or continued to the end of that first series.

JC: So in the end, yes, our process has matured… because it had to! We couldn’t imagine working on the current third series, and the coming S3B2: The Dog in the Dark, the same simple way we started ten plus years ago. For S3B1: Between Their Worlds, we even had to lay out a map of the sage’s keep and use little pieces of paper with character names to keep track of who was doing what, where, and when.

Barb: Yet it’s the same process. Describing it is the part that we can’t really do. But the same skills, organization, and bridging of the phases between story-making and story-telling are there. What’s matured, if anything, is how well we do those at a more complex level. That’s pretty much the same for solo writers, too.

JC: It’s not so much that the process changed but that we learned how to use it better to accomplish more. I guess that’s the mature part.

     “Was that a shot?” demanded the fairy.
     The dragon grew very quiet. There was nothing more humiliating than being zapped into a toad, even if it was well deserved. And afterall, he wasn’t really the mature one.