A couple of scenes in Rabbit in the Road were written alone. I really had almost nothing going on there, so I gave it to Oliver and we turned it into something. I talked a little bit about that in these posts, The Novella, and Partnership. Now that we’re done, Oliver asked me talk a little bit about what I learned in the process. The list of things I’ve learned is pretty enormous, surprising even. But let’s talk about the most important.
I mean this in so many ways. We write as partners, and I know my strengths and weaknesses. Even so, when I was clearly out of my depth, it was hard to yield and trust someone else’s judgment. I was a big baby about it a lot of the time; I was always so unsure. But the times when I really collaborated, when I surrendered to the process and just stopped fighting, those are the parts of the story people like the best.
It didn’t stop there. Long before I really thought we were ready, Oliver had pushed our work out to test readers. I wanted to freak out all over again, but instead, I yielded. Test readers proved to be the best thing we ever did. I learned more from their feedback in two weeks than I’ve learned in years of trying to write in a vacuum. I got so much valuable feedback. I just needed to be flexible.
I had to bend on titles, on structure, even on character names (You guys know how it is to fall in love with a character’s name…but that’s another story). The ending, the release date, the editing, everything required me to be flexible and not be some giant ego-monster. It was hard. I wanted to believe that I was some expert on my own story, that no one could possibly bring it forth as well as I could. I was so wrong.
The myth-character of the writer is always some bohemian hepcat pounding away at their Royal typewriter, drinking and smoking into the wee hours (the modern-day take is the same hepcat, trade the Royal for laptop, throw them in a Starbucks and add a sarcastic t-shirt). The details aren’t the myth. God knows we did enough drinking and smoking while we wrote. It’s the solitary writer that’s the myth. Even if you don’t work with a partner, good work will still need help. Editors, publishers, test readers. Even if you self-publish, you’ll still turn to a trusted lover or friend and ask them to put some eyes on your work. Our project needed lots of other eyes than mine. I had to work as part of a team in every part of the process. Learning to be flexible was the most important lesson for me so far.
Want to hear more about what we learned? Throw a comment in and we’ll post more on this topic.