Collaborating: Evolving Story

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Writing Together During First Draft Stage

Alright, so starting a novel. Takes a lot of planning, something Hannah and I handle very differently. Hannah maps everything out with what she calls a ‘bible’ of her stories, which are usually over fifty pages. Meanwhile, I like to detail about two pages that give a general timeline that usually goes completely off the rails, so that’s where I like to keep detailed notes as I write each chapter that I can go back and evaluate. 

That first spark of an idea for a story is exhilarating. Many ideas pop up, I feel I’ll never be able to write it all down with all the creativity flowing, but once it gets to writing everything brainstormed, I’ve found that it’s all about feeling out the story setting and protagonist. I usually start out with a scene where my character isn’t moving around, but thinking about the things they like to do, how they’re feeling given the starting point to the story, and move forward from there. 

When Hannah and I started our YA fiction, we promised each other we wouldn’t make it too complicated since we are already working on our own worlds that will take many years to complete as they are so intricate. Yet, I think we can both agree that Mazy and Holden’s chapters grew with intensity and we both complicated things, our outline was a mess with ideas, and we had to meet up in person to organize the main plot points needed discussed if we were to make it slightly more complicated than originally intended. 

Now we’re halfway through our collaboration, and we’ve grown more attached to our own characters. I’ve been writing through a brooding teenage mind since October, and can promise that while Holden remains angry about his life like many teenagers are, he’s deepened with time. I’ve thought out his childhood, the traumas he’s witnessed and must live with each day, many of this not being something that will be a part of the story but is a major part of knowing him and who he will grow to be in this series. 

I know the person I want him to be because of his disapproval and longing for certain things, though his journey must show the struggles of getting to that point and that’s where mine and Hannah’s collaboration and cooperation with one another comes in. When we first started writing our story, each of us wrote out a chapter for Holden and Mazy, feeling which character we felt drawn to and after reading our test chapters, we didn’t have to fight about who would be which voice for either. Hannah was always in tune with Mazy’s mind, and I have an understanding for brooding teenager minds similar to the one we wanted to give Holden. 

Whenever we get stuck with a chapter, we’ll have the other read what we have so far, make sure it’s staying on point with the story and doesn’t seem like a filler. Making sure each detail adds value and isn’t being written to just go on the page. With only a few chapters remaining and a general idea of what book two will entail and how their relationship will grow, I think I can speak for both of us when I say what started out as a fun side project between two writers has quickly turned into an adventure of a lifetime with my best friend and we’re excited to share it with you. 

-J.E.

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