Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ON TEAMWORK





"It takes two, baby..." Tina Turner


"I am a rock...I am an island." Paul Simon



RO: Chinese or Italian? Your relatives or mine? Wuthering Heights or 40 Year Old Virgin?

With all the choices that couples have to make - and all the agonizing that can go into even small decisions like what toppings to put on the pizza (at least in the Harris household)how in the world do couples actually write together. My husband (poor guy) can't pull out of the driveway without my editing him. How can there be so many successful writing teams? Married or not, I've got to think that a writing partnership is like a marriage, with all of the attendant give and take, joys and frustrations. Could you ever do it? Do you?


HANK: I always write as a team. A team of three. The real me, then the me who thinks I'm a good writer, and then the me who thinks I stink. We all talk. Oh yeah, there's also the Me who answers for the writing mentor I sometimes wish I had.


But I actually have written with a real other person. I've been a TV reporter for thirty years--for maybe 15 of those, I've had a producer, and we do investigative reporting as a team. Usually, we chat about what the point of the story is, and come up with a sort of thesis sentence. Then I write a rough draft. I give it to her for tweaks and adds and comments and fact checking. She gives it back to me, and we go back and forth with it. Finaly I say, OK, this is done. And get her to read it one more time. In the edit booth, when I hear how it sounds out loud, I often change it again.


It truly works. I think it all hinges on respect. Knowing each other's strengths. That the goal is to have the best story possible and that it doesn't matter whose idea anything is. That laughter is good. Could I do it writing fiction? With someone good? Hmm. You know, I think yes.
(Choosing a movie with my husband? We take turns.)

JAN: Definitely yes. Like Hank, I'm used to the collaboration of a newsroom. I also wrote a screenplay with a good writing buddy, and although we never sold the screenplay, we had a hoot writing it. It was a comedy we called Fatal Feng Shui, and I don't know how effective our humor was in the screenplay, but we cracked each other up writing it.
I also have tentative plans to write a thriller with my brother, who is an avid mystery reader (much more so than me), a chick lit book with my daughter, who will be home this winter on a college break, and the great American novel with my son, who doesn't know about this plan yet. Okay, maybe not with my son -- he probably wants to write the great American novel alone.
But it gets lonely writing alone. I'd love to try writing with a partner!

HALLIE: I have a series of 5 Dr. Peter Zak mystery novels from St. Martin's that I wrote with a writing partner, Don Davidoff. Our shared, authorial pseudonym is G. H. Ephron. Don is a neuropsychologist who runs a unit at Harvard's McLean hospital and he's also often called as an expert witness in criminal trials. So, roughly speaking, our model for Dr. Zak was Don.
Don took the lead on plotting, I did all the writing. Supposedly that's how the cousin partners who were Ellery Queen (Frederic Cannay and Manfred B. Lee) collaborated. It was a great partnership--we had virtually no overlapping skills. Working together for 8 years was enough. Now I'm working on my own nonfiction projects and novels.

HANK: I remember the Marvin Gaye version of It Takes Two, Ro, and now it's incessantly going through my brain. (cf. our blog on earworms...)

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