Guest Post by Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger*
When we are introduced as a married couple who write together we often get puzzled looks. When we announce we’ve written four mystery novels together, the first question is always, “How exactly does that work?”
It has worked well for us. But many want to know exactly how this is done. Do we alternate chapters? Does one write and the other edit? Do you write in the same room with one looking over the other person’s shoulder? One person even said, “I don’t see how this could work. Why haven’t you killed each other?”
The answer to those questions are unique to each set of writing partners. For us and others who’ve written solo before teaming up with another writer, the most important thing is to check your ego at the door. Remembering that can help your story in so many ways. Your goal is to write a good story.
If you keep egos in check with one mind toward the goal, any discussion or editing session will be less dramatic. Since we were both published prior to our partnering this was a must before we even start to develop each character’s back-story or plot our first novel.
Writing is storytelling and the two of you must first agree what story you want to tell. What do you want to say? Before you sit down to write, first you have to talk. The upside of this is that you’ll be on the same page when you begin.
Writing with a partner is not for everyone. A problem can arise if your writing styles are different. For instance, Janet is an “outliner” extraordinaire, while Will has always been a “seat of the pants” writer or “pantser.”
When it comes to writing a mystery, the process can be quite complicated. We have to keep track of timelines, alibis, names, character details, red herrings, which character is telling what lie, who said what to whom and details of each characters quirks and relationships.
Both writing partners need to understand that the story has a life of its own and the type of mystery/story can sometimes be determined by the outlook of the characters. This is when the partners have to let go and let the story be what it needs to be.
Amazingly enough, some of that ego checking has filtered into discussions of everyday life. We notice a decrease in misunderstandings and quieter discussions at home. This can be very rewarding.
When editing, the challenge of giving up scenes one of us puts time, energy, sweat and blood into may have to be cut. The standard answer for each partner is: “It’s for the good of the story”, or “We want to write a good story, right?” It’s these reminders that help the partnership move forward rather than having arguments about whether or not one scene out of hundreds should stay in.
Our characters sometime remind us to stay on track and they are often more aware of what will make the story great than we are.
Throughout life people see their glass as half empty or half full, depending on the episode of life they are experiencing. But why see it as negative or positive? Why not look at the journey of each book as being full of rewards and challenges? This process can make the co-writing journey a successful and enjoyable one.
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn www.janetlynnauthor.com
Website: Will Zeilinger www.willzeilingerauthor.com
About the Authors
Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and two short stories. Will has published three novels plus three short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.
SLICK DEAL, The fourth Skylar Drake Mystery in the series was released on April 16, 2018. And yes…we are still married!
*This blog article was posted for Janet and Will by Jackie Houchin.
9 thoughts on “The Ins and Outs of Partnering”
Thanks for sharing how you do your STUFF. I’m not sure I could share like you do. May you have success both in your writing journeys and your life together.
Thank you, Jackie, the post looks good!
Thanks for your support Jackie!
An absolutely fascinating journey you two are taking. You point out the pitfalls, but you also show that keeping a level head and the plot in mind will get you to the end of the story without too much bloodshed. And since I have recently read Desert Ice and got to meet Skylar Drake, I can see that your method really works. Thanks for dropping by our blog. All the best with your collaboration. You just might get other folks to think about co-writing something.
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Thank you gb. It amazes us sometimes too! I think agreeing and working toward a specific goal is the key to good partnering and certainly in co-writing.
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Welcome to The Writers in Residence, Janet and Will! I’m impressed by your work, and it was fun to read how you achieve it together.
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Thank you, Linda, and we’re still married too!
Great meeting you, Janet and Will. I found your post most interesting, especially how well you both work together–process and result. For myself, just can’t imagine writing fiction with a partner, especially the pushing aside your “ego” part (smile). Thinking you both are very skillful in building on each other’s ideas and melding two literary visions into one. Kudos, and glad you stopped by Writers in Residence. Just downloaded Slick Deal, looking forward to meeting Skylar.
This was really fascinating, Janet and Will. I would half expect to recognize two different styles of writing within your books, but I don’t. They are seamless. And what a great way to keep a marriage alive: instead of arguing over who is going to take out the trash, you’re discussing how to get away with murdering someone! Thank you!