Process: On Collaboration by the Collaborator

Originally posted as a comment by Eric Nabity at

The first thing to understand is that the way we work together has changed as time has passed. Lucinda at the Window started as a short story that she wrote and I read. My first question was essentially what was going on. Katherine had little idea, at least none that she cared to share, but I had several ideas. She liked one of them and a discussion started about what should happen next as well as how the story could end. This proceeded throughout the writing of the book. Katherine took the ideas from me that she liked, but the process often consisted of Katherine writing large chunks and have me read them and consult. It wasn’t at all efficient, but it reflected our relationship, which wasn’t that far along yet.

Currently, my job is to define the world, the major players in the story and the conflict, essentially the dynamic system of the story. All of these are not perfectly defined when we start, but there is usually at least a significant portion worked out. Then we talk. As Katherine has mentioned, it starts with a discussion of the main ideas. Once we agree that she understands at least part of what I’m trying to communicate, we discuss the sequence of events. Obviously at the beginning, we talk about how the story will start while keeping the general vicinity of the destination in mind. Usually, a chapter/scene is defined by what plot events have to occur. There will also be some discussion about thematic components that need to show up somewhere in the manuscript. Then, Katherine attempts to translate that very non-linear pile of poorly communicated information into a narrative that is interesting. The process continues with me evaluation what she writes and critiquing how the story is consistent with the world system and plot. This can lead to discussions to clear up communication errors and/or about what will happen next. I try to avoid critiquing anything that doesn’t significantly impact the world system or main plot, because that isn’t my job. This certainly places Katherine in the position of having her work being criticized more, but plenty of the mistakes are my fault due to poor communication or lack of foresight.

As an example, Aleister Luck. I defined the system for magic and worked out how it would work in a few scenarios. Most of those were related to how he makes his living on games of chance, as being a PI is more of a hobby for him. Katherine decided to go with a casino scenario, which was not my preferred choice because it doesn’t work so neatly. However it is probably a better choice for character interaction. In any case, it just so happened that while I was on the plane to Omaha doing some further work on the system and how he would have to execute it in the casino case, Katherine was writing her short story using the not so well worked out casino system. Fortunately, it didn’t take too much effort to fix.

At the end of the day, we each have our own jobs. Both of us do a fairly good job of not poking our noses too far into the other’s business.


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About This Blog

In July of 2010, Katherine and Eric Nabity began work on a novel featuring Mr. Luck. This blog includes some proof-of-concept vignettes, progress notes, "alternate takes", and commentary on the collaborative process that Eric and Katherine engage in.

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