Partners in Planning

Partners in planning doesn’t have quite the ring of partners in crime, but even the most successful of these do the planning first…

Graeme (Simsion, author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and yet to be released The Best of Adam Sharp) and I don’t make any secret of the fact that we are planners. I spent my teens writing beautiful first lines and my twenties writing beautiful first paragraphs and that was all they ever were.

You can’t edit or publish a first line or paragraph. Okay, for those pedants out there, I have seen a competition for both, but you know what I mean.

Before I write…well sometimes I can’t stop myself and just have to write a bit…so let’s say, before I’ve written very much, I have my characters and story outline, right down to chapter breakdown with a line or two minimum saying what has to happen in each chapter. This can change—I often find I need to add or combine chapters, when things happen faster or slower than I thought, or I get a great idea for a scene, but it gives me direction and structure—and I always know where I’m going and have something to write. I never get to 20,000 or 30,000 words (the most common spot for authors to dry up) and get stuck. And remarkably, my books always seem to end around 90,000 words.

Both Graeme and I talk over the plot and character’s motivation over dinner/when we drive/ when we need a distraction and are making coffee…he more than I from at the start, but both of us when there are problems! It’s great having your own writer’s group on hand. Though when he read my latest Natalie (not Dangerous to Know which is out March 23rd, but This I Would Kill For, which is on draft three) the WHAT! YOU CAN’T DO THIS IT’S IN MY BOOK and AWK (awkward) in the margins did threaten to disrupt our otherwise harmonious working relationship. Can I hasten to say that the “you can’t do this it’s in my book” was especially irritating…I was writing mine and Graeme asks “what’s a modern heart break song” to which I naturally replied Someone Like You (Adele) – which was already on my page. Now it’s on his and his book is going to print prior to mine. Grrr.

To restore harmony, I did acknowledge Adele’s song hadn’t been perfect for Natalie to sing in order to convey what I wanted, and Graeme came back five minutes later with Christina Aguilera’s Just a Fool, which was perfect!

Now though we are about to enter a new phase in our writing partnership. Not just planning our books together…planning the same book, current title Left, Right. First of March we are off to the UK (meeting publishers and sitting in on the mist covered Isle of Skye to plot); as of March 23rd we start walking (again) the Camino De Santiago starting from Cluny in central France, on which our book (fiction) will be set. This time we are finishing via the traditional route, the Camino Frances (as seen in Martin Sheen’s movie The Way), rather than the coastal route and Primatevo. Five years ago when we did it, we covered 2038km; this will be a piece of cake at a mere 1900 km. Er…except I’ve had a back operation since that walk, my bunion is killing me from being crammed into my Manolo Blaniks last night (it was Valentine’s Day, what can I say?) and I have had the osteopath strapping my knee, my girlfriend thrusting magnetic soles to stop the blisters the new shoes have given me and a podiatrist provide an array of lotions and potions as he shook his head at my boots ($300) while wondering if I might not like to also take a second pair (I am already a kilogram over in the pack compared to last time…the bloody huge iPhone 6 isn’t helping!).

So the challenge. Not the walk—I mean planning the same book.

We have a draft—alternating chapters, male and female. Should be no problems. Not as if we’ll be tired or anything at the end of the day.

We decided my character needed to be American—in hand, trip last year to research, tick.

Now we’re thinking maybe Graeme’s character can be…well maybe he should be American. Hold on, that won’t work with the last scene.

Do we change the last scene?

No. Agreed.

So far, so good.

His character is getting boring and mine is really pissed off at him. This book is meant to be Graeme’s genre (Romantic/Comedy/Relationship)…couldn’t I just squeeze a little murder in? What better place to be stalked…mist covered mountains of France and Spain…

His character walks with a GPS. Mine doesn’t. I don’t want one; does this mean Graeme and I aren’t going to walk together? Oh, and mine stays in hostels as she doesn’t have any money and he stays in top hotels. Hold on…this is not going to work! Rethink.

Do I really have to suffer for my work? Couldn’t I just stick my head in and look at the hostels (and we did stay in a couple last time we walked…)? A nice warm hotel with our own shower…much more conducive to our planning. We have to decide from our draft, what to leave in, what to take out, who should write which bits as we don’t want to double up (currently it is doubled up and 130,000 words!) except where the two points of view are opposed.

And that last scene. My character…hell, no way.

Maybe we will rethink that after all. By which time we’ll have to rewrite it again changing the nationalities again.

Or else maybe we’ll decide a lot of this in Skye before we start!

A challenge? Yes…but what would life—and writing—be without it?


About annebuist

Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has 30 clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Medea’s Curse is her first mainstream psychological thriller. Professor Buist is married to novelist Graeme Simsion and has two children.
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2 Responses to Partners in Planning

  1. megdunley says:

    Really looking forward to hearing about the travels and the whole process of writing together!


  2. You two are freaking inspirational. And really…you are having TOO MUCH FUN!


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