word craft


Story Behind the Story #46: Never Mind!

My twin sis­ter, Emi­ly Wor­tis Lei­der, is also a writer. An often pub­lished poet, she is a biog­ra­ph­er as well, pub­lish­ing books about such screen lumi­nar­ies as Valenti­no and Mae West. Once I sug­gest­ed that she write a biog­ra­phy of me. I even sug­gest­ed the title, The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of my Twin Broth­er, with Cor­rec­tions by Him. She respond­ed like any good sis­ter would: “I have bet­ter uses of my time.”

I shared that sto­ry with my writer friend, Rachel Vail.  Her response was; “I’ll write a book with you.”

Thus began our book project, Nev­er Mind!, a sto­ry about twins.

Never Mind!

Nei­ther of us had worked with anoth­er writer on such a project so we had to set up some rules.

(I was liv­ing in Col­orado, she in New York City. This would have been impos­si­ble to do with­out e‑mail.) We would write alter­nate chap­ters and send them on. I start­ed off. Once I (or she) wrote a chap­ter, we sent it to the oth­er, and then rewrote—back and forth—until we were set. Then we moved forward.

Rule num­ber one: There would be no argu­ments, no, “You took out my favorite line!” Rule num­ber two, each of us worked at our own speed, each worked with what the oth­er had done or redone.

Nor was there an over­all out­line, but each moved the plot for­ward, as we saw fit, and shaped it accord­ing­ly. This con­stant back and forth meant that it was impos­si­ble to know who wrote what—truly joint author­ship. I recall Rachel say­ing it was like the sto­ry of Rumpel­stilt­skin, in which you set out your par­tial­ly made shoes at night, and then opened the door to find them finished.

At a cer­tain point we spoke on the phone, and agreed on the final plot direc­tion. The speed of the exchanges increased until we had the book. In the last cou­ple of weeks, the book went back and forth on a dai­ly basis.

At that point an editor—Elise Howard—joined in, thus mak­ing this a three-hand­ed project.

To oth­er writ­ers, I heart­ed­ly rec­om­mend doing this with one cru­cial caveat: You must have com­plete con­fi­dence in the oth­er writer. Obvi­ous­ly you have to dis­cuss the book as you go for­ward, but NEVER, NEVER argue.

Final word: Rarely have I had such fun writ­ing a book.

2 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #46: Never Mind!”

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