Barbara and I are writing again. I’ve decided to blog about the process that we use, largely because you don’t often see people talking about their actual writing practices. I hope some of you find it of interest.
Where are we? Well, quite often we work in each other’s homes, in England or Australia, but we have used an ‘away’ approach too. That’s what we’re doing now. This time we are together in an apartment in Kuala Lumpur, a meeting place between Australia and the UK. They have UK powerpoints and plugs, but that’s not why we’re here of course. The point is that we have six unimpeded days where we will do nothing much except for writing. This intensive face-to-face text work is how we produce our books and papers. Always a together period of designing the text, drafting and revising. Then we tidy up and edit by skype.
This time we are writing a book specifically for doctoral researchers. We had an initial outline which secured the contract with our regular publisher Routledge. But we’ve revised our first ideas; we produced a new outline at the end of last year. We aren’t starting at it with nothing. However, we do have to get our heads back into the book after the time away from it.
As always, this first day seemed a bit unproductive. Barbara arrived this morning and we talked about what’s been going on in our lives. We had to get used to being in the same physical and mental space again and this kind of everyday life stuff is the way we do it. Barbara talked about her poetry writing, I talked about my research. We chatted about our families and places we had been since we last saw each other. We did have useful intermittent conversations about the text we’re about to write, in between going off to get a laksa and getting in supplies from the supermarket. We always break up intensive writing days with good food and at least one change of scenery. These domestic things are important.
As usual, we threw the book plan, stored in our shared drop box, metaphorically up in the air when we started to talk today. We’re always prepared for the possibility that we might have to start over. However, after a bit, we decided that the structure that we had actually did seem to be OK. That was a relief. But we did junk the idea we’d had about the book’s introduction and came up with an alternative – we are clear about how to start writing tomorrow.
And we’ve located our joint ‘voice’. This time the book will be much more like this blog, we think. We have a few ideas about how to graphically organise elements of the text, but we need to try them out now to see if they will work. We still don’t quite know how the book will go.
But we’ve been asking ourselves pretty continuously “What are we doing that other writing books don’t already do? What of what we want to do is like other books out there? What can we learn from other people’s work? How do we want to position ourselves? What do our readers want/need/expect?” These questions orient us to the key contribution we want to make. We need to keep these points at the forefront of our mind(s) so we stay on track when we get into the finer grained work tomorrow.
Writing together in the way that we do, as we say in our journal writing book, requires levels of trust and intimacy. We actually write in conversation, with one person sitting/pacing and the other typing. We take it in turns to do the actual keyboard work and make cups of tea. After day one, we are back at that point.
Ready to write.