Here’s How the Magic Happens

by Brigette Howard

Have you ever had a paper to write for school or a letter to compose, and you wished you could just write down all of your ideas, go to sleep, and wake up in the morning with a perfectly formatted and beautifully finished document? Me too. I am lucky enough to have this dream come true when working with my writing partner, who is also my wonderful mother.

People are always very curious about how two people can write a book together. I don’t know how others do it, but in our team, we have come up with a great system that works for us. It also helps that I often feel like we share a brain.

My mom and I live only about a mile from each other in Findlay, Ohio, but our writing is almost always done in separate locations using Google Docs, text messages, and phone calls (or book talk) as we like to call it. Our basic practice is to start with an outline that may or may not have a fully-planned ending. Character names and personalities always seem to be the first thing we try to define. We chat on the phone or over a glass of wine until our cast of characters really take on their own lives. And then the fun begins.

This very rough outline is posted into a new Google document that each of us can access at any time from our own personal computers. From here, we expand from the outline to form our first draft.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Since we both worked at full-time jobs and the business of everyday life while writing Sunny Side Up, we were hardly ever able to dedicate the same time in our schedules to writing, but that was alright because we each fell into our own roles in the creative process.

Personally, I am an idea person. My head is filled with plot twists and zany situations that I can’t put into words fast enough. I get frustrated when I have to worry about punctuation, grammar or finding just the right phrase. My mom, on the other hand, is a word wizard. She has multiple degrees in English language and literature as well as over twenty years experience as a high school English teacher.

On most nights, I sit at my computer sipping a glass of red wine, much as our characters, Francie and June, often enjoy, and I just pour out onto the screen everything I can without worrying about the technical stuff. I often write in bullets, change tenses in the middle of chapters, sometime adding tons of dialogue, and sometimes realizing that the characters haven’t spoken in six pages, but I get my thoughts down on paper. This is where the magic happens.

When I wake up in the morning or log onto my computer the next afternoon, my three-page jumble of nouns and verbs and scattered punctuation has transformed into a perfectly polished six to eight page masterpiece. It is so exciting to see my ideas transform into so much more, and Maureen (Mom) gets the same fun seeing more of the story develop each time she logs on. It has been a great system for us so far and has given us something great to share.

Psst…I can’t wait to see what she does with this piece. I better go take a nap so the elves can do their magic!