It’s Wednesday, and therefore, it’s time for another dose of ME! ME ME ME! Cait Reynolds and Squatter’s Rights Wednesday. You know you love it. I hope you all had a good eclipse on Monday. In Boston, we had a .70 maximum. Naturally, the only possible option for viewing the eclipse was to do so from our roof deck with several bottles of wine.
Denny Basenji was prepared. He would like everyone to know that while his tiny brain was protected from the eclipse and all alien transmissions, he did manage to get excellent reception on an episode of “The Honeymooners.”Wait, don’t click away! The eclipse is relevant! Kristen video-called me this morning from New Zealand to tell me she had a major revelation: the reason the U.S. got a full solar eclipse for the first time in 99 years is because Kristen and I are on opposite sides of the Earth. The sun just can’t handle it, and the moon’s gravitational pull is all out of whack (or something like that).
Between the time difference, Kristen was up late, and I was just getting up (and pre-caffeinated, at that), and this made perfect sense, at least at the time. Yet, we ended up brainstorming together for half-an-hour, coming up with some pretty awesome ideas.
And that’s really the point of today’s blog, and W.A.N.A. in general. Writers don’t have to be alone. Writers shouldn’t be alone. Writers are better when we are connected.
Gryffindor vs. Slytherin
So, Kristen and I are probably as opposite as two people could be.
Kristen is blonde Texan who is good with math and wields chainsaws. She is open with her emotions, quick to love, doesn’t hold back when she’s angry, and will do the right thing no matter the cost to herself. She can spot a trend and is a marketing genius. She is the one who leads the charge into battle.
(One of these things is not like the other)
I am a brunette New Englander who likes snow and books on Greek philosophy. My truest feelings run deep, but I keep them on lockdown. I don’t get angry, I get quiet (which is when you should worry). I do the right thing, too, but in the back of my head, I’m always calculating my advantage/escape routes. If Kristen is riding into battle, then I’m back at the tent, going over the maps and devising the battle strategy.
Kristen is a Gryffindor. I am a Slytherin (let’s hear some green and silver love!). We are at opposite ends of the political and religious spectrum (not saying which is which b/c of the “No F*cking with Religion or Politics” policy of this blog).
She is ALL THE IDEAS NOW. I’m like, “Let’s plan this out first.” We compromise somewhere between her goal of global domination and my infinite to-do lists with what we like to call “The Sock Drawer of Domination.” This is the stuff we can reasonably accomplish in a reasonable timeframe.
When it comes to writing, Kristen is plot and grit. I am “set design” and details. I am most comfortable with characters that move in higher echelons of society. Kristen nails the salt-of-the-earth characters. I am prone to going down the rabbit hole on a fact check, and Kristen is “We’ll figure it out later.” I have trouble getting my characters to make the kinds of bad decisions that drive plots forward. Kristen struggles to have her characters make the right choice to resolve a situation.
It’s a wonder that we deign to speak the same language, though even there, Kristen can use “all y’all” correctly in a sentence, while I have been known to praise someone for his “wicked good pahking job.”
There are traits we share, both personally and professionally. We are both loving, loyal, and compassionate. We both will mess you up if you hurt our friends or family – Kristen with her trusty 9mm head-on, and me outsourcing some blackhat hacking to drain the miscreant’s bank account without leaving a trace. We both get stupid about cute animals.
In writing, we are both believers in working hard before you ever set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). We are plotters. We are researchers. We are willing to go as deep and dark as a character needs to be. We are both obsessed with pacing and tension. We are slaves to the beauty of language.
Yet, the chemistry Kristen and I have in our writing doesn’t come from the ways in which we are the same or the values we share. It comes from our differences. It comes from the fact we find different things to be funny, scary, and sad. It comes from how we define darkness in a soul.
Our opinions are so diametrically opposed sometimes that, we end up shouting at each other over the phone, sounding something like this:
This is now known as “Invoking the Goat” for us. We will beat each other’s ideas down until they lay bleeding and whimpering on the floor. We will challenge the logic behind a character’s actions or question the need for a plot twist. We are competitive in trying to out-write each other in terms of the quality of the prose we put down. We are fierce and stubborn about almost every single thing. (Which is probably why it took us the better part of eight months of talking just to nail the concept for our zombie western…”BUT IS HE EVEN GERMAN?”)
However, there is one thing we share that makes all of this possible: our ability to listen to each other and compromise.
Even after she invokes the goat at my idea, I will stop and listen. I will ask her to dive deeper into why she wants me to go in that direction. I will poke and pick at her reasoning until I understand it. That’s the key. Understanding. I may not agree with it, but understanding her perspective allows me to look objectively at my side of the argument and judge its merits and faults more fairly.
Usually, what ends up happening is that I find I agree with some of what she is saying, and she ends up agreeing with some of my idea. Post-goat, we begin to move toward each other’s ideas instead of staying in our corners. What we come up with is almost always better, more solid, more nuanced, and more in tune with what we are trying to accomplish.
And, we get a great core workout from laughing until we cry as we do all this.
What does this mean to you if you’re not co-authoring?
Everyone needs a Kristen or a Cait, regardless of what or how you are writing.
We all need someone who loves us enough to be honest and tell us when something smells bad in the story. We all need someone who knows our writing style, knows what we are capable of, and pushes us when we are slacking. We need someone to remind us that no single idea in a story should be the hill we die on (and we have to love and trust that person enough to believe them and accept what they say).
The point is, we shouldn’t be alone in paving a path of words. That’s where W.A.N.A.Tribe comes in. W.A.N.A.Tribe is a community of writers that is a refuge from Facebook, Twitter, and pictures of your co-worker’s niece’s daughter’s dinner from last night. We are all about writing, helping each other over the finish line, and occasionally (okay, maybe a bit more than occasionally) cat pics.
Every day in the chat room, a bunch of us show up, do writing sprints, hold each other accountable…and sometimes talk about the technical specifics of implanting gills into humans and sub-dimensional travel for cats. *shrugs* What do you expect? We’re writers. We’re weird.
And, we’re not alone.
For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
NEW CLASSES FOR SEPTEMBER AND MORE!
All classes come with a FREE recording!
We’ve added in classes on erotica/high heat romance, fantasy, how to write strong female characters and MORE! Classes with me, with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds, award-winning author and journalist Lisa-Hall Wilson, and Kim Alexander, former host of Sirius XM’s Book Radio. So click on a tile and sign up!
Cait, I’m starting to love your posts as much as I love Kristen’s. I would say you’re definitely accomplishing your goal!
WANA is a great place. I work during the day, but someday, I’ll get there when people are sprinting.
It’s pretty quiet in the evening. I stopped coming by, but this will be my kick in the pants to stop in and say hi before I start my own sprints.
Yes. YES YES YES!!!! Bloody brilliant! Thank you! I need to share this on every writing outlet I am a part of! You guys are awesome and I cannot wait (even more) to read this zombie western you’re working on!
My CP and I just recommitted to each other.It is like a marriage of sorts, isn’t it? I felt like I was taking everything and not giving back as she is in-between books at the moment.Should we separate or should I continue to push her? I am forwarding this article to her to let her know we are not alone. Although we are as different as the sun and moon, yet from time to time, we eclipse and everything is brighter, better and exciting. After worrying about having to find that special CP again, we have recommitted to our writing, to each other and our husbands think it is a great thing. I was just at WANA yesterday and need to try and get there more, I love it when I am there. Keep up my com-padres!
Such an interesting and delightful post. Substantive message embedded in great storytelling! Twas Fun!
Zombie western? You had me at hello. I know exactly how Gryffindor vs. Slytherin goes. But let’s not forget the other two houses–Hufflepuff will make sure the trenches are dug on time and that the food service people can still make it from the supply depot. Ravenclaw does the research on the enemy and discovers their peanut allergy. (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for everyone! Mwa ha ha ha!).
See, in a battle there’s room for everyone.
I’m planning on getting involved in the morning sprints as soon as my schedule gets finalized.
Thank goodness for your tale of the opposite twins! One of my best writer friends and I have a similar relationship — I especially laughed at the Invoking the Goat tactic. Our halt-n-discuss is usually shouting (by then it’s gotten loud) “timeouttimeouttimeout!”. Heavy breathing follows with some under-the-breath muttering. Whoever says ‘okay’ first gets to backtrack to the point that triggered the maelstrom. I will admit that my pal has throw water in my face, once. But it was good, we laughed, went outside, and stared at the lake.
She’s my ‘you’ and I’m her ‘Kristen’. So, the water-in-face, after several minutes of me ranting and her being silent, was predictable…
Isn’t is great to have someone you trust so implicitly and respect so deeply? In my world, this is a relationship that always makes me a better writer, a more thoughtful writer.
Thanks for the warm post — and for reminding us that there’s a place to go.
This does sound similar to some people I know.
OK, this was posted on Wednesday and I’m just getting to it Friday morning. That kinda shows what my week has been like. Anyway, I totally agree with what you say, Cait. We need each other as writers. We need somewhere, aside from the echo chambers of our own minds, to give our ideas a trial run in the real world before we put our names on an inferior collection of words we promote as a story and send it out. Too often said story is used as target practice by the critics–or worse, totally ignored.
Thanks to everyone at WANA who gathers each morning to laugh, report progress, ask questions, and sprint on their WIPs. We are definitely not alone.