My Writing Life – Tina Folsom

Tina started writing in earnest in 2008 and is the author of nine full length novels and a number of short stories  in the paranormal and erotic romance genre. She’s a self-publishing success story, having sold more than 450,000 copies of her books in both print and eBook formats. Her most popular series, Scanguards Vampires, is sold in 4 languages (English, German, French, Spanish) all over the world, and she has hit the top 100 Bestseller lists not only in the US, but also in Germany and France.

Here’s a sampler of her Scanguards Vampires series:

Samson’s Lovely Mortal (Scanguards Vampires #1)

Amaury’s Hellion (Scanguards Vampires #2)

Gabriel’s Mate (Scanguards Vampires #3)

Where do you usually write?

Ever since we moved into a larger apartment about a year ago, I finally have my own office. I converted one the bedrooms that looks out on the porch on the fourth floor into an office.  It’s south facing, so I get a lot of light and have a wonderful view of the greenbelt between the homes. I live in San Francisco, but it almost makes me feel like living in the countryside.

I’m using a TV screen as my computer monitor, and I’m set up on a standing desk. I hope to really be writing standing up (it burns more calories, and as an author glued to the computer, any extra calorie I can burn, I’ll take it!).

How has the ability to publish and control your eBook entirely affected your approach to writing and publishing?

In a short sentence: it’s liberated me. I don’t have to write with a certain formula in mind, I don’t have to hit a certain word count. I can stick to my guns when it comes to a story line and not have an editor cannibalize my book and turn it into something that I don’t believe in. I think self-publishing has also made me more efficient and hard-working. I don’t get any big advances on my books; I’m relying entirely on my sales. Therefore, the success of a book is paramount to me. With every new book I create my best work possible, put everything in there that I’ve got. It’s my baby, and it will die if I don’t take care of it properly.

Tell us about your most memorable fan encounter?

When I was at BEA in New York in 2012 I arranged for some fans to meet me for drinks. Eight of them who lived in the tri-state area took me up on the offer and met me at the roof terrace bar of my hotel. We had a blast that night, talking about books, about families, about everything. It was such a great experience to meet the women who read my books, to talk to them about what they like. Two of them even brought their husbands with them, and it was funny to hear them talk, saying that whenever their wives are a little down and stressed out, they tell them, “Honey, why don’t you take some time out and read one of Tina’s books?”

Do you believe in writer’s block?

For me personally, writer’s block is an excuse to procrastinate. Sure, there’ve been times when a story just didn’t want to flow and come along as easily as others have before, but that just means I have to think about the characters some more and try to understand what they want. Most of the time when I feel I can’t continue with a scene, it’s because I don’t understand the character. In cases like that, I talk to my critique partner Grace and discuss the character with her, run ideas by her, explain where I’m with the plot. And in all cases so far, I’ve always found the solution. So, in effect, I’ve never had writer’s block.

How important are beta readers to a self-published author?

Very, very important. They are your front line. They are the ones who should tell you immediately if your book sucks, where the weak points are, whether they hate the hero. Those are the things you need to hear before publishing a book if you want to succeed. I personally don’t have beta readers, however I have a critique partner who does the same for me. In addition I have a freelance editor who doesn’t only do copy editing, but also some developmental editing, so he looks at the story and tells me what’s not working. Every writer needs that.

How do create your covers?

I work with a wonderful cover artist, Elaina Lee from For the Muse Designs. She’s created great covers for my Scanguards series and my Out of Olympus series. I do however get very involved with covers: I generally pick the couples I want on the covers myself, Elaina takes care of the layout and all the fancy stuff. Covers are so important. On the last cover she did for me, Quinn’s Undying Rose, we went through four different designs (and four different couples), before we found the right one. I can be demanding at times, but Elaina never complained and in the end produced the perfect cover.

What advice would you offer to up-and-coming writers?

To be successful in self-publishing you have to be prolific and hard working. Writing one book, slapping a cover on it and uploading it, isn’t all there is to it. There’s a lot of hard work involved, long hours of marketing and promotion. You have to be prepared for that. At first, until you’ve learned the basics, your time spent on non-writing tasks can easily eclipse your writing time. If you’re not into the business side of it, self-publishing might not be for you, and it might serve you better to go with a publisher.

Find more eBooks by Tina Folsom here.

Muse vs Market – The Best Path to Indie Success

Indie superstar turned publishing house darling Amanda Hocking was highly tactical when she set out to be successful at writing books.

She did field research – studying bookstore shelves. She did industry research, and studied sales data. She read the competition. According to a New York Times Magazine profile, she figured out that romance was “an evergreen when it came to popularity”, so, check, romance it is. She noticed, too, that paranormal elements helped lift books off the shelves. And so she set out to write vampire romances, and moved beyond into trolls, a wide open field that was pretty much hers alone.

Hocking is a good writer, but so are a lot of poor and unread people. She became a millionaire writer by adhering to the market as much as the muse.

Bella Andre is another millions-of-books-later indie author who applies market savvy to her art. For her, the breakthrough idea is that of the “series” – rather than trying to write, or sell, one-offs, she creates a series of books revolving around engaging characters. She learned the value of the “series” idea with her fifth book about the fictitious Sullivan family – that was when sales really popped for her. Her novel  If You Were Mine became an immediate global bestseller, debuting in the Top 50 at all major eBook retailers.

The key really is that a series can gain followers who not only want to buy the next installment as soon as it’s out, if they happen to hit on the series midway it means multiple sales.  Each book lives longer than it would have if it were published as a stand-alone.

Meanwhile, author Hugh Howey found his way to success by trying a number of options, measuring results and honing in on what seemed to be working best.

“It’s what publishers do: they take a chance on a handful of things, not knowing what will work and then pounce on anything that does,” says Howey. His most successful work, a series as it happens, is WOOL.

“It is quite different from my other books, both in content and tone. When I saw the reviews and sales, I turned my attention onto that series. Think of the old classic board game Battleship. You take wild guesses, but when you get a hit, you narrow your focus.”

Here are a few additional tips from these superstars:

Find your market. Howey suggests writing a lot of short pieces rather than put all your energy into a massive tome. “You’ll get more practice, develop more ideas, and plant more seeds. See what works. Have sequels in mind for everything you write. Experiment.”

 

Follow the market. Howey’s advice is, if you see a market exploding, try your hand.  For example, on the heels of the Fifty Shades phenomenon erotica is booming. “If you are weighing between a romance and an erotica novel as you lay out a story, edge toward erotica.” In other words, while you are taking your scattergun approach, be sure to aim at a few big targets.

 

Dare to go where no publisher has gone before. Says Howey: “Be brave and bold with your writing. Try to stand apart. Mix genres. Do all the things publishers frown upon; you’re taking a much smaller risk than they dare.”

Measure, revise, perfect.  Andre is a veteran writer but that doesn’t stop her from trying new things. “With every eBook, I’m constantly experimenting with new ideas, studying the results, and making adjustments,” she says. “All of this has enabled me to jump from the mid-list to bestseller lists around the world with my indie releases.”

Finally, Howey has a few last words of wisdom: “Above all, make sure you’re writing something you love. You can’t fool the reader if you can’t fool yourself. You have to dig your story, your characters, your settings. If you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to? So have fun. Write at least a little bit every day. Think of these as muscles you exercise. And if you’re having a blast, how can you lose?”

Find out more about Bella Andre here.

Find out more about Hugh Howey here.

My Writing Life – Hugh Howey

20131011_153130Hugh Howey has spent time as story-spinning yacht captain before settling in Florida. He is the author of the bestselling Wool series — originally just a novelette, the demand from reviewers sent him scurrying to write more tales of this subterranean world. The resulting Omnibus has been optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a potential feature film, and Random House will publish the hardcover version in the UK in January 2013.

What was the first eBook you published on Kobo?

The WOOL OMNIBUS. I had several readers get in touch and ask me why my books weren’t on Kobo. At the time, it required publishing through other resources, which I never felt comfortable doing. When Writing Life opened up, it was like a brand new and shiny bookstore suddenly sprouted up on every block around the world, all willing to carry my works. Better than that: I was now in every home that had an internet connection.

When I first started self-publishing four years ago, I agonized over not being able to get in physical bookstores. My, how times have changed. I no longer give it a second thought. Instead of being spine-out in a few hundred bookstores, my works are available everywhere. And the same is true of anyone dedicated to writing and publishing their own works.

What is the most interesting thing about eBook publishing?

For me, it’s the interaction with readers and fans. Everything feels so accessible these days. Growing up as an avid reader, authors were mystical beasts to me. They were hermits living in cabins nestled in the woods, or people with cardigans and pipes who lived in penthouses in big cities. If you were lucky, one would come to your hometown and do a signing and you could meet them in person.

Now, I tweet and Facebook with readers every day. They send me emails and works of art and fan fiction. They become beta readers; they invite me into their book clubs via Skype; I talk to their classrooms live over the Web. I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, but I previously imagined that it would be a lonely and solitary affair. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

How has the ability to publish and control your eBook entirely affected your approach to writing and publishing?

The degree of freedom is difficult to appreciate. The biggest advantage is the ability to control price. I like keeping my eBooks as inexpensive as possible. It isn’t that I don’t value the written word or the hard work I put into each story, I just value a wide readership even more. I want people to be able to afford as many books as they can read. I’d much rather make a small amount and have a huge audience than the other way around.

The other two blessings are the ability to release several books a year and to write in various genres. Both of these traits have long been frowned upon by large publishers. They worry in the case of multiple releases that an author might saturate the market. This is why Nora Roberts has to also release under the name of J.D. Robb. Meanwhile, readers are begging for more books from their favorite writers.

Publishers are also wary of allowing authors to spread across several genres. The idea is that readers will follow the author and that readers tend to only read in specific areas. I haven’t found this to be the case, and it keeps me interested in exploring new worlds and styles of writing.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received as a writer?

To stop thinking about writing, dreaming about writing, planning to one day become a writer, and just write. It was the mother half of the Charles Todd writing duo who said this. She was on a panel at the Virginia Festival of the Book, and someone in the audience asked for some advice on becoming a writer. Mrs. Todd became extremely animated, and I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I went home from that conference and wrote my first completed novel,Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue. I haven’t looked back since.

How important are beta readers to a self-published author?

They are crucial! You need a wide variety of opinions before your work goes live. You also need help finding pesky typos, which even an expert editor will sometimes miss. The challenge, as you start your career, is finding anyone willing to read your early work. Even friends and family require a lot of cajoling. I’ve become very fortunate to have dozens of volunteers who are thrilled to get a sneak peek at my next book. They also seem to enjoy being a part of the creative process. I treasure the relationship I have with my beta readers.

How do create your covers?

Half Way Home by Hugh HoweyI used to do my own covers, and I think I made a few over the years that weren’t half bad. I found the best method was to create a prop and then photograph it. Anything I would try and draw would end up looking amateurish. With a photograph, you can frame the image to include the spine and rear jacket, and then crop the front for your e-book.

Recently, though, I’ve had incredible artwork submitted by fans. I’ve begun paying them a fair rate to use their work on my book jackets. Mike Tabor created a few of my covers. Jasper Schreurs, a professional artist in the advertising industry and a huge fan, is the one who did the two new Molly Fyde covers. I’ve also come across someone else’s photograph or artwork and approached them about buying the rights. Nadia Huggins took the cover shot for one of my bestselling works, Half Way Home. It’s awesome to be able to support other artists and showcase their talent.

What advice would you offer to up and coming writers?

Don’t compare your rough draft to what you’ve been reading your entire life. The finished eBooks we download are the end result of a half-dozen revisions and several rounds of editing. You’re not seeing the author’s rough draft. So don’t get discouraged when every sentence doesn’t glow the moment you set it down. Write rough and trust the revision process.

The most common mistake I see is when writers stop working on their first draft to go back and play around with what they’ve already written. I’ve even seen seasoned professionals get caught in this quagmire. You won’t even know your story fully until you get to the end, so concentrate on that. Write the full work. And then go back and make it wonderful.

How did your Wool series go from a self-published short story to being optioned for film by Ridley Scott and picked up for translation in over 15 foreign languages?

Hugh HoweyI credit readers and this new digital age we live in for what has been a success beyond my wildest imaginings. I never thought I would write for a living. I dreamed of selling a thousand books in my lifetime, not hundreds of thousands of them. When I first published Wool, it was just another short story that had been burning inside me that I wanted to get out. I put it on e-bookstores and moved on to my next project.

What happened next became this symbiotic relationship formed with readers. They discovered a short novelette about people living underground, and they must’ve begun telling each other about it. I wasn’t a witness to this process, which I assume involved social media word-of-mouth. All I saw was a steady increase in sales of a book I never once promoted on my own.

This immediate feedback gave me the ability to satisfy demand by writing the subsequent entries. I read all the Amazon reviews as they poured in to determine what it was readers enjoyed. The rest of the series came out very swiftly, so they didn’t have to wait a year or even months between releases. The stories were also shorter and less expensive, so the investment in time and money didn’t serve as a deterrent to giving the books a try.

What amazes me about this process is that Wool never would’ve been picked up by a major publisher. It breaks all the rules of length, style, and genre. The only rule it followed, however, was the one that truly matters: Write something people will enjoy reading and will want to tell others about. That was the one thing I got right. Everything that happened after that was up to the readers, and they have been blowing me away ever since.

Talk About Dialogue – The Booklist

Compelling, believable dialogue can make or break the success of your book. There is a craft to it – check out these guides and books for tips plus great examples to help you along.

Paula Berinstein

Berinstein offers a number of lessons – and insights – into what makes dialogue work. It’s not all talk.

Writing Dialogue 1-5

Chris Roerden

Filled with great advice on lots of techniques including dialogue, Don’t Murder … is recommended by Paula Berinstein, the host of The Writing Show, author of a number of books on writing, and the guru who has helped a number of authors improve their work.

Don’t Murder Your Mystery: 24 Fiction-Writing Techniques to Save Your Manuscript from Turning Up D.O.A.

Gloria Kempton

When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say? How do you know when dialogue – or the lack of it – is dragging down your scene? Author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers.

Write Great Fiction – Dialogue

Inspiration

Sometimes it’s best to learn by example. This is a brief list of books notable for their dialogue:

Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard is widely regarded as one of the best for spare, clear talk. Read anything of his, but especially Get Shorty.

Get Shorty

Dashiel Hammet

Critics are torn as to who is better at smart, sassy patter, Dashiel Hammet or Raymond Chandler. We like both. Hammett’s best-known works are:
The Glass Key

The Maltese Falcon

The Thin Man

Raymond Chandler

Again, it’s a toss-up, one of those Rolling Stones vs The Beatles things when it comes to who is better, Chandler or Hammet. See for yourself. You won’t be sorry, The Big Sleep introduces Philip Marlowe, one of the finest crime detectives in literary history.

The Big Sleep

Derek Raymond

Derek Raymond’s Garage series of noir thrillers set in roughest London demonstrates a wiseguy tone similar to Chandler, Hammet and Leonard. Maybe he’s a little grittier. Try He Died with His Eyes Open, the first of the series, for a taste of the dark stuff.

He Died with His Eyes Open

Sinclair Lewis

Moving away from crime for a moment — Lewis had a knack for capturing the vocabulary and “aggressive philistinism of middle-western America” says The Guardian newspaper of the UK.

Babbitt

Ivy Compton-Burnett

Much is revealed beneath the seemingly prim dialogue.

Men and Wives

Iris Murdoch

Say what you will about the rest of Murdoch’s prose, her great strength lay in the clever edginess of her conversations. She makes it look easy. It isn’t.

A Severed Head

Make your characters talk good – elements of dialogue

We learn to talk as toddlers, we do it every day, you’d think it would be a snap to write, right?

Not so fast little author, Dialogue can be the heartbeat of your book of fact or fiction. It can also be the clunker that pulls a reader right out of the story and into another book. And it can be hard to master.

What follows is an adapted excerpt from Paula Berinstein’s book Writing Dialogue and part of a series of lessons on the art and craft of making your characters talk good – that is, in a believable way that propels your story forward.

In this first lesson Berinstein discusses the importance of character “agenda.” Your characters need to have a specific agenda every time they speak. Effective dialogue is purposeful. It is the means by which characters reveal their goals and motivations and implement their strategies for getting what they want, both overall and in specific situations. In other words, in dialogue your characters should:

Demonstrate what they want.

Say specific things to try to get what they want.

Incite reactions from others that either help or thwart them so they can take their next step.

That’s what dialogue is: purposeful talk driven by characters’ self-interests. And, as characters pursue their goals and get reactions in the attempt to surmount obstacles, the story moves forward. So effective dialogue moves a story forward!

Of course, accomplishing that is easier said than done. In order to show what your characters want, you have to ask a question now so familiar it’s become a cliché. Actors from David Garrick in the 18th century to Al Pacino today have asked “What’s my [character’s] motivation?”

Your characters’ motivations are what drives them. Without motivation, your characters will be inconsistent and shallow, and you’ll get lousy fiction.

All characters want something (their goal) for a reason (their motivation) and go about pursuing it via certain courses of action (their strategies). When your characters have goals, motivations, and strategies, they have agendas. Every character, major and minor, should have an overall agenda and a specific agenda in each situation.

Effective dialogue moves the story forward by pitting characters’ agendas against each other, whether a character is talking or being talked about. You want those agendas to clash because obstacles, conflict, and resistance lead to change or transformation, which is the essence of every story.

Let’s look at some dialogue that reveals characters’ agendas and the conflicts between them. Here’s a passage from Val McDermid’s The Wire in the Blood. The conversation is between Tony, a psychologist and freelance criminal profiler, and Carol, a police inspector. Carol starts.

“What time are we due to kick off?”

“Couple of minutes.”

“Fancy catching up over lunch?” She’d practiced the casual tone half a hundred times on the motorway coming over to Leeds.

“I can’t.” He looked genuinely sorry. “We eat together in the squad. But I was going to ask you…”

“Yes?” Careful, Carol, not too eager!

“Are you in a hurry to get back?”

“No, no rush.” Her heart singing, yes, yes, he’s going to ask me to dinner.

“Only, I wondered if you’d like to sit in on the afternoon session.”

“Right.” Her voice bright, her hopes squashed, the light in her eyes dulled. “Any particular reason?”

“I set them an exercise last week. They’re supposed to produce their conclusions today and I thought it might be helpful to have your response to their analyses.”

“Fine.”

Tony took a shallow breath and said, “Plus, I thought we could maybe have a drink afterwards?”

In this passage, we see two people at odds, but they don’t want to show their hands. At the same time, they don’t want to antagonize each other because they like each other and work together. Carol is attracted to Tony, and while he has some mutual feeling, his intimacy issues keep him from acting on it. In this dialogue, he sends mixed messages that alternately elate and deflate her, while she affects nonchalance and professionalism.

What is McDermid doing to achieve this tension? She makes her characters thwart each others’ expectations, say other than what they mean, misunderstand each other, and subtly attempt to control the conversation (and by extension their relationship). Not a word is wasted, even the “What time are we due to kick off?,” which adds pressure to the scene because they will have to move on and stop talking.

How does the scene move the story forward? For one thing, McDermid leaves the door open to further possibilities with Tony’s invitation to have a drink. Perhaps Tony will give in to his desires. Or not. Whatever happens, we’re beginning to see that this push and pull between the two can only go on so long before he gives in or one of them leaves the relationship.

So in this example (there are more), you see characters:

Striving to realize their objectives. Being together or not being together. Taking responsibility or getting someone else to.

Acting on their strategies. Trying to get the other person involved or blocking involvement.

Remember effective dialogue has characters:

Demonstrating their objectives. (Showing us what they want.)

Acting on their strategies. (Trying to get what they want.)

Inciting reactions from others. (Getting feedback.)

In other words, dialogue is a form of action.

For more examples of “agenda”, read Paula’s book Writing Dialogue.

The Wire in the Blood excerpt copyright Val McDermid 1997.

The Case for Beta Readers

A great book is most often a collaborative effort despite what we know about the loneliness of the craft of writing.

Editors smooth out the narrative and copyeditors ensure pristine spelling and grammar. But a lot of self-published authors also find value in giving their manuscripts or unfinished, unvarnished work to what we call “beta readers”, those “testers” who can report back honestly on whether the story is working and the characters seem believable.

We turned to a number of our successful Kobo Writing Life authors for advice on how to build a team of beta readers who can help you hone your craft.

How do you choose a beta reader?

Choosing a beta reader is largely trial and error says speculative fiction author KC May. “I recommend a critique exchange site (such as critiquecircle.com or sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com), where you can give and receive critiques on stories or chapters on a regular basis,” she says. May tests the fit by submitting what she knows is her best work, to get a sense of the prospective reader’s critique style and level of expertise not only in critiquing but in writing.

May further recommends being a beta reader or critique reader yourself. “Developing skill as a “critter” can help us view our own work more objectively,” she says.

How do you know you have a bad reader?

Says May: “There are many ways to be a poor critter. Surprisingly enough, being too nice is very common. If I wanted to know how wonderful my work is, I would show it to my mom.”

Indie author David H. Burton agrees that nice isn’t so nice in the end. “Work can be very personal and critiques can be taken harshly, but I don’t want a beta reader that’s just going to inflate my ego – I want solid feedback,” he says. “I think it’s critical to be open to that criticism. Ultimately, it will help an author to put out a stronger novel, and that’s what we all want.”

May warns that some beta readers become belligerent and use critiquing as an excuse to be abusive. “It’s one thing to tell an author “This paragraph didn’t work for me because…” and quite another to write “This paragraph is so @$%!*& stupid. Don’t do it this way, you moron!””

“A good beta reader won’t try to turn your story into his story, but he will point out spots where the gun jumped from the dresser to the desk, the character’s name changed from Sue to Sally, or you used ‘there’ when you should have used ‘their’,” says May. “Having someone poke holes in our writing is never fun, but a good beta reader can spare embarrassment later.”

Would you recommend beta readers as a way to test the strength of a story?

“I am a fan of good beta readers, and I use at least two for every book,” says May.  Good beta readers can spot plot holes and credibility issues — things paying readers will surely notice. An honest beta reader will also tell you where the story drags or where they started skimming. “My goal is to make every page riveting, and so I value my beta readers’ honesty.”

What value do they have?

In a word? Huge.

Burton says a beta reader can play a different role from an editor, and the role is an important one. “Sometimes you need another set of eyes to vet the book — readers from different perspectives that have no vested interest in the novel. In particular, there’s an honesty that might not be found elsewhere,” he says. “I trust the feedback from my beta readers. Implicitly. And the best thing is that each one has unique suggestions or they each catch different things that need addressing. By the time my book has been run past my fabulous beta readers I’m quite confident that it’s solid.”

Says paranormal and erotic romance author Tina Folsom of her beta readers:  “They are your front line. They are the ones who should tell you immediately if your book sucks, where the weak points are, whether they hate the hero. Those are the things you need to hear before publishing a book if you want to succeed.”

Find out more about KC May here.

Find out more about Tina Folsom here.

Find out more about David H. Burton here

In Collaboration with Blake Crouch

In collaboration: How (and why) to write with other people

Blake Crouch is a prolific writer of thrillers, horrors and paranormal adventures, an author with some 13 novels under his belt plus novellas, short stories and collections. He has collaborated with other writers on several books, the most recent being Eerie, which he wrote with his brother Jordan. Eerie will be available on Kobo September 15, 2012.

We asked about how and why he writes in partnership with others:

Blake Crouch

Usually we think of writing as a monastic activity but you have collaborated on several books, with several people. Why?

Before I collaborated, I was wary of the process. Writers, by their natures, are control freaks, and I’m no exception. I want to approach a story in the best manner I see fit. That mindset changed in 2009 when I wrote the short story “Serial” with J.A. Konrath. He hit me with an idea. Everyone knows hitchhiking is dangerous. What if we wrote a story together? You write from the POV of a crazy hitchhiker. I’ll write from the POV of a crazy driver. Neither of us will know what the other has planned, and we’ll fight it out on the page like a chess game.

We started from an elaborate outline. I was primarily responsible for my characters, he was responsible for his. We did write some scenes in isolation to start but then jumped into the story and wrote together in real time in a Google doc. Often, toward the end, he would be writing my characters, and I would be writing his.

It was an amazing life changing experience. I discovered I love working with other talented writers. And that little short story began a great partnership with Konrath wherein we combined our two series (Andrew Thomas and Jack Daniels) and have been writing together ever since.

What value does collaboration offer?

If a writer is willing to check their ego at the door and be open to melding their style with another’s, there is not only a world of fun to be had, but a lot to learn. The experience of “Serial” turned into me working with J.A. Konrath, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson on “Draculas”, with Selena Kitt on “Hunting Season,” and with my brother, Jordan Crouch on “Eerie” coming to Kobo September 15.

The value is in getting away from thinking your writing is too precious and learning how to create stories with other writers. I’ve learned a great deal from every writer I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with. It’s also taught me to be a faster writer, and it’s given me glimpses inside the minds of living legends, like F. Paul Wilson.

How does it work? Give us some examples.

It’s different from writer to writer. With Konrath and I, the first time we collaborated, we wrote the story back and forth in emails. Then Google create Google docs which lets writers work on the the same document at the same time. Now Joe and I do all our work in real time in a Google doc, often working on the same paragraph, the same sentence even at the same time. Because we’ve written a lot together and have a collaborative style that is different from our individual styles, it’s a seamless process. With my brother for instance, in the writing of “Eerie”, we would sometimes write together at the same time, but more often than not, we divided up scenes and worked separately. It just depends on what feels right. One of the rules is that we can rewrite each other at anytime.

How do you choose a collaborator?

Very easy process. I answer two questions. Do I respect this writer’s craft? Do I like them as a person? The truth is I have a lot of people I’d still love to collaborate with but there just aren’t enough hours in a day, and I still do have my own solo projects which take precedence.

Have you ever had to dump someone mid project because it just wasn’t working?

Thankfully no. Although my brother and I did get into fights during “Eerie” because, well, we’re brothers after all.

Usually things done “by committee” are terrible. How is collaboration different? Who is in charge of the story?

Collaboration isn’t really a committee. It’s the power of two minds pulling against the same general idea and usually what happens is that better ideas and approaches emerge than would have in isolation. In a two-way collaboration no one person is in charge of the story. In a four-way collaboration like “Draculas” Joe and I took the lead, because four cooks in the kitchen is too much. That isn’t to say that Strand and Wilson didn’t contribute hugely to the concept. It’s just that we needed to have two people driving the ship instead of four. So in that scenario, we came up with the characters and general outline and I pieced our scenes together.

Best thing about collaboration, and worst thing?

Best thing: working with friends to create something you all love. Worst thing: I haven’t discovered it yet, and I hope I never do.

Read some of Blake’s collaborative work:

Crouch & Kilborn: Killers Uncut & Serial Killers Uncut

Blake Crouch’s books at Kobo

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