close

The Qwillery | category: Linesman

home

The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

qwillery.blogspot.com

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015


Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace. You may read an interview with Sherylyn and Karen here.



Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015




Writing a book together

The most common question we get as writers isn’t about our books at all. It’s “How do you write a book together?”

Some co-writers ‘share’ the writing equally. The story might have two protagonists, and each writes one protagonist’s story. We do that sometimes too, but it’s not our main method of writing. For us, sharing the workload doesn’t mean we each do half of everything. We have our own strengths.

We didn’t always write together. We began by critiquing each other’s stories. We were harsh critics—because we wanted the other’s stories to be good. Somewhere along the way we started editing each other’s work. After a while we realised that the stories we worked on together like this were better than the ones we worked on alone.

So we started experimenting with different ways of writing together. We’re still experimenting, but we’ve settled into the following method for our most successful stories. This is what we used for Linesman, and it’s what we’ll use for other stories in the Linesman universe.

For us, it is important we keep the same voice throughout the story. This means one main writer for the first draft. For the Linesman series, it is Karen.

We discuss the story as Karen writes it. Over breakfast, over dinner, in the car. It absorbs our life. Most of this talking is backstory, not plot. If we over-talk the plot before we write it, it stops us dead.

First drafts are ugly. Stories aren’t written, they’re rewritten. If a writer—even a published writer—shows you their first draft, your reaction is unlikely to be, “Wow, this is a great story.” It’s more likely to be, “Hmm, how do I tell them this story needs work?”

When the first draft is done, the second writer starts fixing things. We still talk all the time about what works and what doesn’t.

Once that’s done, we have a working story.

Then we start the rewrites.

This involves multiple rereads, multiple rewrites and a lot more discussion. Whole sections of the book are rewritten, story lines added, or even taken out. If we can’t agree, we talk until we get something we both agree on. Everything has to blend together as seamlessly as possible.

Usually one writer follows along behind the other, editing the other’s rewrite.

Finally, we have a story we’re happy with.

But it doesn’t finish there. That’s just the story. Next job is to clean up the writing.

The second writer takes over the bulk of the work. For the Linesman series, this is Sherylyn. Cleaning up the prose, getting rid of pet phrases, eliminating unnecessary words. Reading and rereading the text until she can almost quote paragraphs in bulk.

Once we think the book is clean we read the whole thing aloud. We pick up lots more errors doing this.

It’s intense, even claustrophobic sometimes, and we could only do it with each other.

We’re sisters, but we’re also good friends, and we’ve been sharing stories all our life.

More, if one of us doesn’t like something we know to talk it out because we trust the other’s instincts. Eventually we’ll arrive at a solution that suits us both.

We’re honest about what works and what doesn’t.

We like the same type of writing. If we didn’t both love science fiction and fantasy we wouldn’t be writing together. If we didn’t both like the same types of characters in a story we wouldn’t be writing together. You have to be able to read the other person’s writing and think it’s not just good, but great. You have to be able to reread it dozens of times and still think that.

You still get book fatigue, where you’ve been working on a book so long you get tired of it, and then you think ‘this story stinks’. Most writers do, but that’s part of writing. You get over that.

So given it sounds like a lot of work, why do we do it?

It’s fun.

Writing is something most people do on their own. You work on your novel for months, sometimes years. If you’re lucky, you have someone close who understands and supports you, but for many you’re doing it alone. When you’re co-writing you have someone as enthusiastic about the novel as you.

It doesn’t halve the work, but it helps cut the stress. You can’t control life. You can’t control deadlines. Work and family get in the way of writing. You will get stressed. Luckily for us we have our meltdowns at different times. Karen usually stresses early in the book, when the whole thing looks huge and undoable. Sherylyn stresses as the deadline looms. We support each other and help the other through.

Most of all, we enjoy writing together. We wouldn’t have it any other way.





Linesman
Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.





About S.K. Dunstall

Guest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Website


Twitter @SKDunstall


Facebook




Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015


Please welcome S.K. Dunstall to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Linesman was published on June 30th by Ace.



Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Hi. We are so happy to be here.

Sherylyn:  I have never known a time when I didn’t write or tell stories. Even in primary school, Karen and I wrote stories for each other. I used to tell stories at night to my younger sisters to send them to sleep – or until I fell asleep. During the day, I would tell stories to other kids at primary school. I just loved telling stories.

Karen:  Being one of those younger sisters, I was obviously indoctrinated at an early age. Like Sherylyn, I’ve been telling stories ever since. I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing.



TQAre you a plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

S. K.:  Pantsers, without a doubt. Although we came across George R. R. Martin’s ‘gardeners and architects’ (via a You Tube lecture by Brandon Sanderson) and think gardener suits us better. We’re constantly rearranging the garden and trying out new plants. Rewriting parts of the book, moving things around. And weeding. My goodness, weeding words.

We plot by talking ideas. We don’t actually write these down, just get the ideas and let them percolate.

We have found that we can over-talk things and when that happens we don’t write it. So we have to balance the talking and the writing.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you both about writing? What is your co-writing process like?

S. K.:  The most challenging thing? Time. We like to leave our writing sit for as long as possible and come back to it fresh. Ideally, we like to write one book, put it aside and write another. Then go back to the first book and rework the whole thing. Having a contract—as wonderful and fantastic as that is—means you can’t do this. We are not fast writers, and both of us work full time.

Co-writing is so much fun. We spend hours talking stories and ideas. We’ll try different ways of co-writing, too. Sometimes we each write a different character, sometimes we write the same chapter and pick out what we want to keep. Other times one writes the first draft while the other edits.

We always talk about a story as it progresses and if one of us doesn’t like something, we talk and come up with new ideas until we can both agree.

For Linesman, we wanted to keep the voice the same across all three books, so we wrote/are writing all of them the same way, as the person who writes the first draft sets the tone for the whole book.

Every day we’ll discuss what has happened so far, and what we think might happen next. Then Karen writes a rough first draft, with Sherylyn following behind, adding comments and rewriting sections.

Once the first draft is written Sherylyn takes over the bulk of the edits, while Karen comes along behind and works on what Sherylyn has edited.

As we fine-tune the story, Sherylyn takes over more of the work. In the end, for every one time Karen reads the book and makes changes, Sherylyn re-reads it at least five times.



TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Sherylyn: I read anything I could get my hands on; school adventure stories, Australian stories, science fiction, westerns. Anything except horror. Some of my favorite authors today are Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Diana Wynne-Jones, Robin Hobb, Anne Bishop, to name a few. There are so many writers I love. The list would fill the page.

Karen: Likewise, anything. We’d both read out the library at our primary school years before we moved on to secondary school, and ditto there. As a child I remember reading my way through every one of those yellow covered Gollancz science fiction books I could get my hands on. Some of my favourite current authors today are Diana Wynne Jones, Robin Hobb, Vernor Vinge, Connie Willis. We both read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. We also read mysteries and thrillers. And anything else that takes our fancy.



TQDescribe Linesman in 140 characters or less.

S. K.:  A guy who repairs ships gets caught up in the discovery of an alien spaceship and the fight between two warring factions who want possession of it.



TQTell us something about Linesman that is not found in the book description.

S. K.:  Is it cheating if we say ‘sentient spaceships’? It’s not part of the description, but one of the blurbs mentions it.



TQWhat inspired you to write Linesman? What appealed to you about writing Science Fiction, especially Space Opera? What is a 'Space Opera'?

S. K.:  Space opera is science fiction action adventure in space. There’s usually a war, or fighting, and it’s not too heavily scientific, although it can be. Most importantly, it is based around the characters. Star Wars (the original) is the classic space opera. Guardians of the Galaxy is also space opera.

We love both science fiction and fantasy. There’s something about creating worlds, and making everything fit, that’s so much fun. Plus, it allows us to write things we can’t if we’re restricted to our own world. Equality, for example. A world where anyone can be an admiral and no-one cares whether they’re male or female, or white or black or purple or green.

And to explore ideas. Linesman, for example, started as a “what if” dinner-table conversation. What if humans found alien technology in space? Would they know what to do with it? What if they worked out how to use part of it, but not all of it? It’s a bit like using a Swiss army knife. Suppose you learned to use the corkscrew to open bottles of wine, but didn’t even realise anything else on the knife existed? Then, as time passed, how would what they learned about the original technology diverge into something else?



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Linesman?

S. K.:  The brain is a fascinating part of the body and there’s so much we don’t know about it. For Linesman we looked at how the brain worked—particularly how it interpreted music. Plus a bit about synaesthesia, and handedness.

We also looked at spaceship design, and realised that provided a ship didn’t need to land on a planet it isn’t constrained aerodynamically. The limitations are air and power. Thus we came up with the idea that the ships in our universe will be large, any shape, with lots of levels, and modules that can be attached as required. And anyone who’s been following Commander Chris Hadfield (excellent source of research, by the way), would know that null-g in space is undesirable if you’re going to be on a ship for long periods of time, so we had to have gravity too.



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

S. K.:  Jordan Rossi was easy to write because he could be unpleasant and it didn’t matter.

Hardest character? That’s difficult. Each character had a life of their own and wanted to be written.

Ean was fun to write because he is such an unreliable narrator (and because he’s great), but he was probably the hardest to write too, because he could be such a wimp. He isn’t helpless, but he lets things happen to him. We had to be careful because that’s very frustrating for the reader, who just wants him to do something. It was a hard balance. We hope we got it right.



TQWhich question about Linesman do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Karen:

Q. Will Rossi have his own book?

A. I’d like to think so. I would love people to want a Rossi story.

Sherylyn: You wish. I might let him take part in another book, but he will not have a book to himself. You will have to work hard to sell me on this one.

Karen: Jordan Rossi is an unpleasant man. Confident, arrogant, always putting other people down, but I love him. Most people hate him.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Linesman.

Sherylyn: “The lines were crying out to be heard and no-one was listening.” Karen wrote that line and when I read it, I went cold. It held so much emotion for me.

Karen: I love the clever lines. The ones they say you should get rid of, because they’re not in the book to further the story but simply because you think they’re good. For example, after Michelle tells Ean that Abram likes him, and Ean thinks, ‘yes, and everyone sang to the lines too’. Which is a lie, because no-one except Ean sings to the lines.



TQWhat's next?

S. K.:  We’re contracted for three books in the Linesman series.

We just got the editor’s feedback on book two (Alliance), so we’re about to start working on those. Before that we were in middle of the first draft of book three. The next six weeks we’ll concentrate on Alliance, then it’s back to book three.

After we finish book three? Who knows?

There are so many books to write, so many ideas. We have a couple of science fiction stories we would love work on. One set in the Linesman world, the other a separate series. We also have an Australian fantasy we would love to finish, but that is for a distant future.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

S. K.:  Thank you for having us. It was a pleasure to take part.





Linesman
Linesman 1
Ace, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
First in a brand new thought-provoking science fiction series.

The lines. No ship can traverse the void without them. Only linesmen can work with them. But only Ean Lambert hears their song. And everyone thinks he’s crazy…

Most slum kids never go far, certainly not becoming a level-ten linesman like Ean. Even if he’s part of a small, and unethical, cartel, and the other linesmen disdain his self-taught methods, he’s certified and working.

Then a mysterious alien ship is discovered at the edges of the galaxy. Each of the major galactic powers is desperate to be the first to uncover the ship’s secrets, but all they’ve learned is that it has the familiar lines of energy—and a defense system that, once triggered, annihilates everything in a 200 kilometer radius.

The vessel threatens any linesman who dares to approach it, except Ean. His unique talents may be the key to understanding this alarming new force—and reconfiguring the relationship between humans and the ships that serve them, forever.





About S.K. Dunstall

Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015
Andrew Kopp ©2015
Karen (left) and Sherylyn (right) Dunstall
S. K. Dunstall is the pen name for Sherylyn and Karen Dunstall, sisters who have been telling stories—and sharing them with each other—all their lives. Around five years ago, they realised the stories they worked on together were much better than the stories they worked on alone. A co-writing partnership was born.


Website


Twitter @SKDunstall


Facebook




Guest Blog by S. K. Dunstall, author of the Linesman seriesGuest Blog by S.K. Dunstall: Writing a Book Together - July 17, 2015Interview with S. K. Dunstall, authors of Linesman - July 3, 2015

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?

Cancel
×