Scott Westerfeld Talking About, Um, Me

This is a little bit weird. I had no idea it existed and stumbled upon it while, yes, I confess, googling myself.1 So here is my husband talking with the Romantic Times about my latest book and what it’s like writing in the same room:

Here’s my response:

Firstly, those who’ve heard me talk about writing may remember that I, too, use that high diving metaphor. Yup, stole that one from Scott. Hey, he steals heaps of my stories and metaphors too. We’re an equal opportunity story-stealing household.

It’s also true that we are each other’s first readers, or in this case, listeners, and that we make many suggestions for changes to each other’s work. Many of which wind up happening. I’ve been asked if that means we collaborate on everything we write. No, only in a really broad sense could you say that. And it would be so broad it would make the word “collaborate” meaningless.

One thing I find really interesting is that despite how closely we work together, and how involved we are in each other’s work, our writing voices are very different. I could not write like Scott no matter how hard I tried. And he could not write like me. I don’t have the simile bug for one.2 But I do think we understand each other’s work better than anyone else and thus are really good at suggesting ways to make it better. Admittedly my jobs a little easier than Scott’s. All I have to do to improve his current series is point out that it’s time to blow something else up.

All right, that’s enough self-indulgence from me this morning, let’s take this outwards: How many of you work very closely with another writer? Do you read you work aloud to someone else? Is there anyone who reads and critiques every word you write from the very first draft?

Do anyone of you never show your work to anyone?

Tell me about your critiquing process!

  1. What? I wanted to check out some more Liar reviews. That’s not a crime, is it? []
  2. I defy you to find a page of Scott’s work without a simile on it. I have whole novels with nary a simile. []


  1. Ellen on #

    I have a handful of close friends who serve as my first-readers: I’m lucky in that they are all avid readers (my theory is that anyone who reads a lot can edit too – they instinctively recognize places in a novel where the plot meanders off so far into the wilderness that they fall asleep, for example). I’m double-lucky because, since these friends know me very well, they have no qualms about giving criticism. Praise is nice and all, but criticism is what really helps me when I go back to revise.
    Also, a couple of my awesome writing professors have helped me out with revisions (so much love to Donna Jo Napoli, who must have read my first novel about 5 times over. But going through that process, I became about a zillion times better at rewriting).

  2. Anabelle on #

    It’s a sad, lonely life I live. 😀 No one has ever read a single thing I’ve ever written, if you exclude school papers. Imagine writing Liar and not a single person knows about it…

    By the way, I’m reading Liar right now. I’m going to go because it’s so good! I MUST read more. 😛

  3. Q on #

    Usually I only show certain parts of WIPs—parts that won’t spoil and that I’m particularly proud of—and usually only to convince myself that I’m not as horrid a writer as I think I am on bad days.

  4. wandering-dreamer on #

    Uh, does getting help on papers count? Never underestimate the value of a good proof reader, I always had my mom read over my papers in high school to help me correct one or two things, and the one time I did have to write a short story I took it to my friend and went “Help, correct my grammar!” She actually felt pretty guilty for scribbling all over an A paper, and I will admit that one reason I’m not liking my new English class is because there isn’t enough scribbling on my paper during our workshop groups. Bring on the red ink, I need it!

  5. Erin on #

    I don’t have any writer I work with closely, although, I wish I did. I usually start each piece saying I’m not going to share it until I’m on the second or third draft, but by about the second chapter of the first draft I get a bit too lonely for that. Then my sister hears it. My mom (who is an English teacher) goes through all of my chapters before they’re seen by a large group of people, though. I read a lot of my stuff to my creative writing group, but I’m generally on the third or fourth draft before they see it. I have a couple of different close friends who read my stuff first, but not one frequent person. Really, I wish that I had a person to read everything first. It would make my writer’s life much less lonely.

  6. Benjamin Solah on #

    I’ll have to check out the video when I’m not at work.

    I work pretty closely with some writers but not nearly that close. It’s an envious position.

    But I’m very interested in having a supportive partner. I do, but others don’t. Don’t understand why we do it. I guess having a writer for a husband is a pretty good deal.

  7. Paige on #

    Me and a friend like to swap work and make suggestions for each other, especially when one of us (or both) is struggling through. It’s good to have another person to do that with.

  8. Gillian on #

    I write a complete first draft and then ask (on my blog, usually) if anyone’s game to beta read it. I just did this the other day and now a bunch of people are struggling with my strangeness. Sometimes I’ll have other people who look at it (a Texan astronomer is currently checking a draft, for instance, because I wanted to check my guess as to how astronomers might work in if the cosmology were truly bizarre, and I just checked a single scene with a martial arts expert) but all this comes after I’ve made sense of everything myself and written a complete version of the novel. This is funny, because I work with other writers (mostly on Medieval history background) and for every writer who works like me, there are two writers who get input as they go and then work that input into new plotlines.

  9. Rebecca (allreb) on #

    My BFF and I work closely together; we’ve done some writing collaboratively, but we also do a lot of brainstorming together when one of us is outlining a project, and first read for one another. I have another couple of good friends and my sister for reading, too.

    After years of them reading the stuff I’ve only been writing for fun, now I’m attempting to write something for publication, and sending it to them got a lot scarier. The reading aloud idea sounds kind of fantastic for helping with that.

  10. mb on #

    I have two groups — one meets weekly, and I read aloud to them, maybe 3-8 pages a week. The aloud thing is essential — you know when you start saying, “Hmm, maybe I’ll skip over this bit….” that something there needs work. My other group reads bigger installments (sometimes the whole novel) and addresses big-picture concerns. I like this two-step system a lot.

  11. Angelo Thomas Crapanzano on #

    My wife doesn’t even read my manuscripts. I like it that way. I got my daughter and daughter-in-law to edit my books but that didn’t realy work out that well. An editor has to detach herself from the story line. That is hard to do. I tried to edit it myself with the help of the word spelling and grammer checker. I finaly gave up and now use a professional Editor. It’s expensive but it always amazes me what story line errors a Pprofessional Editor finds.

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