Updated: Aug 4, 2021
When Planner met Pantser
I met Joe five years ago, though I was first aware of him several years earlier after reading his brilliantly funny memoir More Ketchup Than Salsa. As an aspiring author living as an ex-pat in Tenerife, I was intrigued by this fishmonger-come-barman-come-bestselling author who resided in a very Spanish village with a coop of chickens. It wasn’t, however, until our paths crossed at a local bookfair, that our co-writing adventure was birthed… and subsequently died (see future posts for more on that false start!)
After a catastrophic failed attempt, three further years of friendship and enough cava to induce permanent writer’s block, we finally decided that yes, we were going to become co-authors.
And I had just the idea…
After meeting Gemma at the local book fair, like all author geeks, we started talking about what we were currently working on. For me, it was a story about God buying a timeshare in Tenerife (currently on hold), while for Gemma it was a split narrative thriller also set in the Canaries. 'Trouble was,' she said, 'I'm struggling writing in a male voice.'
That's was the lightbulb moment.
Several days later, we began what I thought would be a plotting session to create an outline and establish deep, three-dimensional characters. 'Sod that,' said Gemma spluttering out a mouthful of sparkling wine. 'I can't be arsed with that.' (She has a way with words, obviously.) 'We'll just sit down and write it.'
And so we did.
Until we didn't.
Ten thousands words in, we'd written ourselves into a literary cul-de-sac from where half-baked characters glared from the screen and demanded 'what do we do now?' Fighting every urge to say ' I told you so,' I took another sip of red wine and said, 'I told you so.'
We needed to plan it, to focus on creating characters first, strong characters that will drive the story. Admittedly, I was a bit OCD on this, which is why I have many, many developed characters running around in my head, but no finished fiction to date.
Of course, Gemma being Gemma, her admitting she was wrong was not quick in coming. Instead, she did what all professional scribes do in times of trouble - scrapped the project and went home to sulk.
Inside, I had to admit something that pained me greatly - Joe was right. Before my co-writing journey, I had written, and traditionally published two-thrillers, Trust Me & A Mother’s Sacrifice. Both were written by the seat of my pants, and although they were a success, there’s a dozen unfinished manuscripts gathering megabytes in my ‘This is the one’ folder. In comparison, Joe has more character profiles than Dexter.
It occurred to us that our contrasting approach to book-writing could work in our favour. But how exactly did we work it all out?
This is what we hope to answer in this blog, along with writing tips on plot, character, structure and bagging that all-important publishing deal. For our readers, we’ll offer behind the scenes exclusives, interviews with your favourite authors and vlogs showing just how incredible co-writing in the sun with your best mate really is!