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Give and take

Chinese New YearPhil: Our session at Stratford Literary Festival is going to include something about “the challenges of writing together”. While we might not be married, despite what the early publicity might suggest, I have a feeling that it probably has some similarities.

On Tuesday, Candice mentioned that “Phil will be asking me what we are doing about marketing the first book or writing the second” and she’s right. However, Phil knows that his writing other half is a busy lady. A high pressure job and child, not to mention the temptation to stay in the newly completed fancy-pants shower all day, steal time from her literary pursuits.

He understands this completely while recognising that at this stage, Book 1 is all about the publicity. He might joke that marketing is all colouring in and playing with glitter, it does actually require quite a bit of skill and only one of us is a black-belt in the subject.

So it’s time to be understanding and go away to do something useful instead. After all, there is a second book to write and so I’d better go away and re-read what we’ve done, then add to it.

Of course, I’m not sitting around idly all day no matter what it looks like. January saw me slogging my way through a number of projects, all of which had to be delivered at the same time. February felt a lot more like the turn of the year than January 1st, but I still have one big event this weekend, maybe I should take up the Chinese calendar rather than the western one! Hopefully, from Monday, things will look a bit clearer. Mind you, I’ve said that before.

Like all relationships, there is give and take. We both bring different skills to the partnership. We also encourage each other and that’s going to be a big part of our talk.

Writing on your own must be a slog sometimes. It would be all too easy to stick the book in a drawer and forget about it for a few days. Those days turn into a month and the month a year.

If I want to enjoy cake with the Nolan, this can’t happen or I’ll get “the look” from the other side of the table. She knows that if we don’t meet up for a while, or there is no blog post on a Tuesday, I’ll be nagging. We cajole each other and thus the project makes progress. Maybe not as quickly as it might but there is progress and that’s the difference between writing a book and wanting to write one.

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You can’t say no to the Nolan

5/4/2010: To-Do ListPhil: When Candice asked last Thursday, referring to reaching the half way point writing Book 2, “Are you up for it Phil?”, my first reaction was,


Right at the moment, I’m busy. OK, I’m always busy, even if it’s not what people might refer to as “proper” work, but right at this moment a major project has just taken off, I’m embarking on another for a different publication and some deadlines for the same people have crept up on me. And there is a little cluster of tiny deadlines to look at that I’m trying to ignore for a few days by not opening an envelope.

A bit of midnight oil is being burnt at the moment but despite this, and mindful that I don’t have a husband and child to run, I console myself that at least, unlike my friend, I’m not in training for some sort of fun run. If I’m busy, there’s one less trip to the gym which is (mostly) fine by me.

Truth is, a change can really be as good as a rest. Last week we met up for lunch in John Lewis cafe (posh or what?) and quickly fell into book chat. Looking at the manuscript with all the bit’s we’ve written in place, the story is really coming together. It’s following the plan we produced months ago and generally, we’re happy.

I wondered if one area we were lacking was the big “set piece” comedy scene. Book 1 has 3 or 4 of these and we love them all. Book 2 was shaping up to be more conventional. Funny in lots of places but without a real blast. Candice suggested that this wasn’t a problem and could partly be down to the much more professional way we are working. Maybe as we go, we’ll find a place to build those belly laughs in as we put the detail together.

And she was right. As we talked through some of the future writing, one of us came up with an idea. A little bit of revenge gone wrong.

And then the other took the idea an pushed it a bit.

For a few minutes we played plot-writing ping-pong with ever funnier ideas. Ignoring the glances of the pensioners enjoying modestly priced refreshment nearby, a few minutes saw at least one set-piece all but written.

If you’ve not worked like this, I can honestly say you don’t know what you are missing. People ask us how we write a book as a partnership. I can’t think how it’s possible to write one when you aren’t working with someone else.

For a start you can’t give up easily as there’s someone else to chivvy you along or pick up the baton and run with it for a bit. Mostly though, we develop ideas quickly and kill bad ones nearly as fast.

So I might be busy but up for the 40,000 word target. Just not this week.

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