| David Gane
The most common question Ang and I get is “How—?"
This could be interpreted to mean "How do you two work together?” or "How do you two not kill each other?"
It's a question about process: Who writes? Who edits? How do you keep the voice consistent? How do you not step on each other’s toes?
I believe the simple answer is that we've developed how we work through trial and error, learning what works and what doesn't along the way, developing a process over time, and putting a plan in place. Our end goal is always the work and we try and dismiss ego out of the equation.
Yet, this doesn't always work!
Early on, Ang and I found we could seamlessly shift between roles during writing. After our first script, we learned to build an outline so that we both had a clear idea what the story was about before we started writing, as well having a clear idea where it was going while in the depths of writing it.
We'd also work in the same room together, discussing the upcoming scene, what was needed of it, what would happen, and how it moved the story forward. Ang would often type as we talked and I would pace the room, acting out the scene in her small kitchen.
As technology improved and the ability to collaborate on the same document at the same time became available, our process changed. We could sit at different computers, talking out the scene, sometimes still acting it out, or using little toy figures to sort out the blocking, and then one of us would write. When somebody was slacking, the other person stepped in and took over.
The typical process for the novel has been that I write during the day and Ang writes at night or on the weekends, usually in the late evening. Sometimes, I'd go in and edit chapters above while she works, and this process has worked for a long time.
Until it didn't...
How Ang Pissed Me Off
It was a long weekend last week in Canada. I travelled to the family cabin and told Ang that I’d be away if she wanted to write. On the day I was coming back, I asked if she was writing that evening, and she said yes, so I avoided the page. I let her know I would work the next day.
I decided to work on getting out our first newsletter. Yet, I needed Ang’s help to fill in some of my pressing questions, so I kept texting her. This threw off her process and by the time we were done, she never got her night of writing done.
The next morning, I woke up and was ready to write. Unfortunately, Ang was also wanting to work that morning to make up on lost time, and we both showed up at the page at the same time. As I slowly worked to build the story, Ang was working behind me, catching my mistakes. Yet, for me, it was frustrating.
I often bounce around the page, slowly putting my sentence pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. A noun here, a verb there, moving clauses and punctuation and story bits all around until I can see the picture clearly. I often push bad sentences below, then pilfer them, and delete them when I've moved past that idea.
Unfortunately, Ang was taking out my bits before I was done with them, so my personal process was broken. After a few minutes I tersely texted her:
D: You writing?
Can't you feel the drama? No? Oh....
Ang wanted to write. She wanted to work on the story, whether it was writing or fixing the story. But it didn't work for me, so I signed out. Also, she had no clue I was annoyed. She had put up with me doing the exact same thing to her and she had made it work.
I didn't tell her until the end of the day how frustrated I had been, partly because I needed time to process it. Even now, as I write this post, I am still slicing the moment open and finding new parts on how I felt and what Ang might have been thinking.
I'll admit, a part of my ego felt hurt because what I wanted to write and she had interrupted that process. I didn't care about an apology, because as Ang and I have both said, the writing is not about the ego. My underlying thought was that I had to let the ego go because the work was getting done and we were moving forward on finishing the novel.
Yet, I needed to figure out how we could fix the problem so that it wouldn't happen again.
Originally, I wanted a schedule, with set times for each of us to write or edit, so we don’t interrupt the other person. Yet, it felt too rigid. Sometimes we don’t always have the writing in us. Sometimes the people around us piss us off and we can’t focus.
What we have come up with is a shared calendar where we claim our days. It's not that much more than what we used to have, but it has a physical presence on our phones and computers. It stakes a claim to that day. It tells the other person to stay away, the creative process is churning.
The important thing is that it reminded me of the partnership. Now, when Ang is writing, I don’t stick my head in on the page and disturb her process. Afterwards, I edit and change things, clarifying ideas and story beats, trying to make it a strong read, but I avoid it until she tells me she’s done.
Also, I spoke up. I could stewed about it, never said anything, but it would only have broken the partnership in the long run. It's hard to address issues when the issues aren't discussed. As a long time passive-aggressive, this was an important step for me.
Lastly, we found a solution that works for both of us. This was my problem, but Ang worked to help resolve it. She told me to come up with the answer but I knew adding something inorganic to the mix would mess up the mojo of the relationship. Also, Ang hates me adding more technology and making her sign-up for new accounts, so I tried to work with someone that we both used. We each gave a little to find the win-win.
Although stressful at the start, problem help us grow and strengthens the writing relationship. It builds the process more and makes us that much more durable and resilient for what lies ahead.
And that is how we write.
Since she is a painter, I think she might equate this to having someone trying to clean her brushes while she is still working on the canvas. ↩︎
This is what happened to me after this incident. It took me almost three days to get back in the groove of things. Thankfully Ang came in and wrote and saved my ass. ↩︎
For those of you who haven't figured it out, Ang fully supports this blog post. Before I even considered the title, I pitched her the idea. I added the picture just to make sure that's understood. I will say though that Ang doesn't think this is the image of writer's of a YA murder mystery and I say, "pish-posh." ↩︎