07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Not Just Me - Books by Team

by M. L. Buchman

"Writing  is a solo craft."
"You must be an introvert to write."
"Every writer has spent at least a year essentially alone."

So writing a book is all about one person...? Say what?!

I'm about the most do-it-yourself person there is. I can design and build a house, fly a plane, and get stuck in traffic with the best of them. I've ridden my bicycle around the world and solo sailed a fifty foot sailboat. For my indie books I: write, layout (print and electronic), design covers, and maintain my own website.

If only it were so simple.

Not Just Me #1:
My wife is one of the greatest brainstormers on the planet. So, while she doesn't write a word, we spew ideas at each other until we're both in terrible suspense while the actual writing is occurring...we can't wait to see what comes out. She's also my first reader and her questions often add another 10% or more to the first draft, making it hugely better. She's also my #1 fan and has now seen me through 29 of the 30 books I've written (didn't meet her until the first one was done).

There is a secret to that level of collaboration...no ego! We've learned each others' strengths and weaknesses, and the key we've discovered is: we both care about making the book as good as my skill and our ideas can make it. So, when she says something doesn't work: I don't take it that I'm a bad writer, I take it that whatever that thing is doesn't work and I should go fix it.

Not Just Me #2:
Now my traditional books go through a similar cycle, except they then go to my editor at Sourcebooks (who also claims to be my #1 fan, but sorry Deb, that spot is taken). That fresh eye—once she too learned that I didn't have ego about story, only about writing the best book—has often opened up the story that I was trying to tell.

(A whole other stage of collaboration occurs for the marketing and distribution of a book, but I won't tackle that whirlwind here.)

Not Just Me #3: 
Every now and then, I know a story isn't working. This usually means that it is a totally pleasant book, but it doesn't do that jump-out-of-the-page-and-grab-you-by-the-throat that I'm always looking for (yes, even in my contemporary romances—maybe that's more grab-you-by-the-heart). If I haven't laughed, chortled evilly, or wept several times in the course of a book, I know I missed the mark. When that happens, I go one step further.

My wife, bless her, is a great brainstormer and copyeditor, but she can't stand back, look at a whole book and say, "Broken. Right there." For that, I go to a pro writer. I choose these folks very carefully. I send that one my SF, that one a romance, and that one a thriller. What I get back is pure gold. (Thanks, team. You're awesome!)

Here's a recent example. I just finished my second ever thriller, the first in a brand new series. My wife and I did our dance and I think we produced a good solid book. Then a writing friend, who has written dozens of these, offered to read it. Holy Chrome! That person gave me 11 notes—each just 1 line long. It took me 8 days, 10,000 words, and rearranging a dozen or more chapters to answer those 11 notes. But the differences are spectacular.

The Keys to Not Just Me:
Collaboration is a wild effort, one buried in the fine art of building the right team. Some as permanent fixtures others for the brief insights based on their specialties.

And no friggin' ego! It has no place in a writer when building a book. Yes, I am the captain of my ship and it is my story, but ego does nothing to help it be the best ride for my readers that I can manage.

My latest? Well, as I said, it's a thriller, rather than a romance. But if you want to check it out, it will be going on sale this week. (which day depends on which channel).

My next romance? Look for Light Up the Night in early September, the on-going lives and loves of the military's elite helicopter regiment, the Night Stalkers. Trisha has finally commandeered her own book and her story's available for pre-order now.

Check out more at: www.mlbuchman.com

I'm especially intrigued by the statement above:
"Every writer has spent at least a year essentially alone."

I think my love of story really traces back to when I was 12 and we moved into a new town and a new school. I was slow to be accepted into the neighborhood. Of course, when I really started writing? I was on a solo bicycle trip around the world for 18 months. I never wrote fiction prior to that trip.

If you are or know a writer, I'd love to hear if you/they had a "quiet year" before starting to write.


Sarah Raplee said...

Awesome post, Matt! I,too, have a Team that I can't do without.

I did not have a quiet year before starting to write; I had a year of major changes. My dad died. I had to give up a job I loved. We moved. I remember feeling like I desperately needed something for me, something nothing could take away.I'd always planned to write seriously 'some day.'

I guess Some Day had arrived!

Judith Ashley said...

Totally agree about the importance of leaving my ego at the door, especially when I ask for feedback! Having trusted friends and colleagues who will read our work and tell us what they think is a true gift!

I wrote adoption home studies which are mini-non-fiction short stories for thirty years. Towards the end, I started writing fiction.

The concept of a quiet year where I'm spending lots of time alone is a long held dream (I've had various family live with me since 1994).

Appreciate the opportunity to poke my brain into action this morning, Matt.

M. L. Buchman said...

Sarah, I like that idea (not what happened, but the idea). Right before that bike trip that dropped me into silence, I lost everything (my business, my career, even my house) to an unscrupulous partner. Big time changes and seeking self out the far side. Yea, that fits.

Judith, Some part of your brain sort of grew into it. Well, one of the few truisms about writing, everyone's path is different. And how!

Diana McCollum said...

No quite year for me! Like Sarah's comment above, I kept thinking 'someday' I'd write that novel. I finally realized "Someday" is not a day in the week. Started planning and writing while working a regular job, taking care of disabled husband and looking towards retirement. Retired now and have completed several very short stories and two longer ones published, and working on a novella and a historical Paranormal. Wish I had quiet time now, but Mom, 88 1/2 lives with us . I'm the chief cook, bottle washer, house cleaner and appointment maker and driver. Good luck on sales!!

M. L. Buchman said...

Yes Diana! That's a huge part of it. The time is now! I got serious about my writing 20 years ago while working 50 hour weeks. By the time I was selling, I acquired a wife, a kid, eventually designed and built a home, went through several jobs that built up until I was working 60+ hours, by then I had a contract, but I kept writing... So yes, I know exactly how huge it is to start writing when the world seems to fight you every step of the way. What you're doing is HUGE! Something for yourself! Hang onto that. It's critical. Way to go. Whoo-hoo!

Maggie Lynch said...

Congrats on both your new books releasing!

I don't know if I could say I had a year of quiet, like your 18 month solo bike trip. However, I've had a lifetime of making quiet alone time amidst chaos. I've always needed alone time in order to process the world.

It began as a child where I was the oldest of 9. I would escape to a tree in the backyard and climb as high as I could go (at least 20 feet off the ground). I'd go up there with a book or a diary or just sheets of paper and read and write and dream. Though I now write full time in my office at home, I still plan regular escapes each month just to be away from whatever is calling me at home. It's golden.