Anyone who knows me personally or knows my work also knows that I’ve been writing nonfiction for over thirty years. I started my career as a health and medical writer. After moving into medical communication and working as an academic and consultant, my writing focused on communications. I occasionally was able to mesh health and communication in my writing. Some of you still use my textbooks – I know this because I still get royalty cheques!
Now, as a recovering academic, I spend the bulk of my writing time writing fiction. Today, I launch my latest novel, “The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips.”
I never really intended to write this book. In fact, when I finished The Year I Made 12 Dresses that launched six months into the pandemic, I thought I was finished with the main character, Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson. Not so much. Have you ever had a character whisper into your ear? Keep talking in your head? Generally, bug you until you had to write about her again? That’s where Kat’s Kosmic Blues came in. But it seemed she wasn’t finished there.
So, today, I launch The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips and here’s my little launch party where I tell you about writing this book…
And here’s more info…
I’ll now return to my usual blogging: sharing my writing tips, advice and general journey. You might even enjoy reading this book.
Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner.
Anyone who knows me knows that I was an accidental academic.
When I took my first part-time university teaching position so many years ago,
I had no intention of making it permanent. I didn’t see myself starting off as
a lowly assistant professor making my way up the academic ladder to associate
professor and finally the ultimate academic goal: Full Professor. But that’s
what happened. You know the old saying… “If you want to make God laugh, tell
her your plans…” Well, God must be laughing. Anyway, that happened, but that
part of my life is also over. And I find myself back where it all began: teaching
Yes, that first course I taught all those years ago was a
writing course. You see, I had already begun to carve out a path for myself as
a writer. I had published numerous magazine articles mostly in my specialty
area of health and medicine, and I had also already published my first book –
also in my specialty area. So, teaching writing seemed natural to me. And it
still does. However, my venue has changed.
This past year I finally pulled together thirty years of writing
and publishing experience to share it with the world. I thought I’d be able to
be a mentor to newbie writers just starting out. But something happened.
In the intervening years between when I first established
myself as a writer, and today, the writing and publishing industry has
undergone nothing short of a transformation. Everyone can be published today. No
one seems to need a publisher. Or even an editor. And so many writers are part
of an online writing community that oozes self-congratulation and disingenuous positivity
about everyone’s writing – all because you never know what someone else might
say about your writing. You pat my back and I’ll pat yours, or something
Thus, I’ve begun a 10-part series to accompany the book. The first episode “Want to be a rich and famous writer? Don’t give up your day job” is already up and running.
Today episode number two launches: “Don’t write that book! Or at least don’t publish it.”
So you can see that I don’t necessarily paint a rosy picture for wannabe writers. However, serious wannabe writers will get through them and still want to write that book. Those are the writers I aim to help.
The videos are posted on the Moonlight Press YouTube channel. Let your friends who “wanna write a book” know.
I can hardly believe that it’s been eight years since I first wrote about my adventures in writing with a partner. As I said at the time, “I don’t play well with others.” And that has not changed. That being said, I have, indeed, collaborated on four books in my distant past, and I’m doing it once more. Recently someone asked us (my writing partner and me) how our system works. So, how does writing with a partner work? I don’t know how it is for others, but here’s what I know about it from my own experience.
First a bit of backstory.
I have always considered writing to be a solitary activity. In fact, that’s the way I like it. Perhaps it’s even clearer to say that it’s one of the things that I like most about writing. Through all of those years when I was a university professor, I observed with growing horror, the number of academics, whose very livelihood depended on their ability to publish (or perish – it’s true), who were singularly unable to pen anything on their own. In fact, it occurred to me on more than one occasion when I sat on peer review committees, reviewing others’ work, that we had already promoted someone else based on the exact same publications since both names appeared on all of them. And sometimes there was a lengthy list of authors. What this really means is that many of them wrote not a single word. They may have contributed something to the data collection, but there was certainly no writing involved. Remember publish or perish? There is nothing there that says “write or perish.” There’s a difference. Then I came along.
At this point in my writing life – post-academic career – I am proud to say that every single article and book that formed part of my upward academic ladder has only one author – me. That is, except for those four books I mentioned (which my peers at the university probably largely ignored anyway) that I wrote with one other author. That author happens to be my husband. Which is probably why that person asked us about our writing process. In fact, I believe he might have added, somewhat incredulously, “And you’re still married?” Well, yes, and very happily, I might add.
Back in 2011 when I first wrote about our collaborations, I said this: “…There are good reasons to collaborate and publish a co-authored book – such as when the knowledge and skills of more than just you are needed…” And this reason still holds true. But now I have another reason.
I’m currently collaborating on a book with my same co-writer
(my husband) because there was a book he wanted to write, and he spent 45 years
working as a physician while I wrote to my heart’s content. This means that his
expertise in medicine coupled with my “expertise” as a writer would be the
combination needed for him to write the book he has always wanted to do. Am I
ghosting it for him? Not really, but I have decided that there is no need for
my name to be on this cover. It’s his book.
Because it’s his book and not our book, I have had to take a slightly different approach to the process. I have been his mentor and editor, but I have to try to ensure that the ideas that are finally on the page are his, not mine. That might be easy for some people who have not written in this area before, but once upon a time, I earned some of my income as a medical writer (I have a graduate degree in a medical-communication-related discipline). So, we had come up with a process.
We began with a very detailed book proposal. I’ve been selling
non-fiction based solely on proposal ever since I’ve been writing (my fiction
is another story all together). This means that before we even started, we had
worked through what would be in the book, how it would be organized, what
approach we would take and what he wanted the style and voice to sound like.
This was my blueprint.
Then, as we moved into the writing process, I fleshed out the
chapters, he reviewed each one as we went along, then I took that review back
and reworked each chapter. We moved through the whole book this way, with me
conducting mini-interviews with him along the way to capture his experiences in
specific areas, and so that it would have his voice. Once this first draft was
completed, we started the whole process again. After the third iteration, we
were ready for external copy-edit. And that’s where the book is now.
What would my advice be for collaborative writing? Here it
Choose your writing partner carefully. It needs
to be someone you respect and are compatible with.
Ensure that you are prepared to take criticism as
you move through the process.
Don’t be afraid of giving constructive
Be prepared to disagree.
Be prepared to compromise.
Be prepared to commit to clearing up each
disagreement as you work. Don’t let those disagreements pile up.
Write from a collaborative outline.
Find a rhythm of writing/reviewing/editing that
you can both agree on up front.
Use this process to learn something about your
own writing habits.
Have a drink together on a regular basis to chew
over aspects of the book that you can’t always figure out while sitting in an
office in front of a computer.
I am currently being accused by my co-writer of pushing hard
at this stage as we approach the end of the process so that I can return to my
novel. I can’t argue with that!
The book is being copy-edited as we speak and has a
September pub date. We’ll be having a glass
of our favourite champagne on that day!