There are lots of couples where both partners are writers—particularly if under the term writer you include journalists and maybe those who write speeches, and academics who write journal papers. It makes sense—you are likely to meet your partner while studying, or at courses. You’ll be attracted by similar interests. Easy.
Except when it’s not.
Seems to work okay for Michael Chabon, American novelist and Pulitzer prize winner whose wife Ayelet Waldman is also a novelist, and who we heard declare him the greatest writer in English alive today. Well in public anyway; I wonder if in private she ever says not up to your usual standard darling to which he replies you’re so right honey bear. It does highlight one thing though—what of one of you is a lot more critically or commercially acclaimed than the other? Marriage/relationships are hard enough; does this add more stress?
[I’ve written before about how when The Rosie Project hit the bestseller list Graeme and I were equally dumbstruck—and thrilled. I was—and remain—delighted for him. To be honest I’d have found it overwhelming. I get a lot of attention as a leading perinatal psychiatrist within my field—but that’s fine. I spent eighteen years of study (and a string on initials) to get there—I know my stuff. In writing? Past perfect? Misplaced modifier? Mmm…bit like I am with stats. Get the general idea but not so great on specifics. And all my learning had been vicariously through Graeme’s courses, reading fiction, reading a couple of brilliant texts (Screenplay and Seven Basic Plots), as well as two courses as evening classes over 10-12 weeks and a one-week master class. Not at my 18 years worth yet.]
Then there is another aspect of writing. Graeme and I physically write together in the same room, talk about characters and plot each of our books together. This is unusual enough. But even more unusual among the many author couples are those that write the same book. Nicci French is the only one I know of (bound to be more)—Nicci Gerrard and husband Sean French. How they manage it I’m not sure; presumably like us with plotting and characters, but does one write the first draft and the other then edit and re-write?
This isn’t what we decided you’d write petal.
Oh I’m so sorry I wasted the last three months perfecting it but I know you’ll do soooo much better?
We’re in dangerous territory…but forge on intrepid writers! We at least are writing alternating chapters. Should be easy, right?
Left Right is due at the publishers in February. How many days is that again? (and I have a third Psychological Thriller due in January…)
So I combined our first two drafts (we had thought originally it would be great to have too separate books on same subject. The publisher thought otherwise. Hard enough to get people to buy one book let alone two…and there’s the other problem of sales comparisons. Mmm.). Graeme was too busy on The Best of Adam Sharp to do much else. I rewrote and re-vitalised it (my chapters) as we re-walked the Camino earlier this year. I got bored waiting and re-wrote This I Would Kill For (thank god—its way better). Graeme then needed space after five editors had finished with him…so I started adding footers (scallop shell), my idea of a cover for Left Right – a photo of one each of our feet either side of a scallop shell—which will I can confidently say will be ignored/removed before it goes anywhere. Then had lots of fun finding quotes for my chapters. Finally…we had a two week intensive writing.
And I mean intensive. Eight to ten hours per day, both of us. On one manuscript. Started at 130,000 words, now down to 100,000. Okay, my chapters are longer…
No, your chapter was meant to flow on from mine and start with the note, remember?
What do you mean you took out the scene where…?
What do you mean it’s boring?
She isn’t miserable!
Actually that’s been it. We’re still in love with the project; well the idea of it anyway. I have the answer now to how it works for us too…psychiatry has a term. Folie à Deux. In this case maybe a folly rather than a joint delusion (though Camino walkers can get a bit evangelical…)
And wine helps.
Final edit now…er of first draft that is. This is about the time we start thinking maybe it isn’t as good as we think… Onwards to make it better…