How I’m Writing A Detective Story Series with a Writing Partner
Writing fiction with a writing partner, Lon Casler Bixby, may throw off some people. We don’t just collaborate, but we write closely together. We’ve published a short story, three detective novels and are editing our 4th novel in the Tom Stone Detective Series.
OUR WRITING ROUTINE
My phone chirps at the appointed time, usually 11:30 a.m. or 1 p.m., and Lon’s face appears via Facebook messenger. I prop the phone against an old Rolodex card file and we begin our work.
I read, Lon listens and interrupts, and we smooth out awkward phrases, correct typos and find the places we need to strengthen our stories.
Facebook messenger has made it easy for us to read, stop, edit. We live about 14 miles apart — I’m in Pasadena and Lon is in Burbank — but the drive took about 30 minutes each way if I went to his place. So that was an hour we can now spend writing and editing.
How We Started
When Lon Casler Bixby asked me to turn his script Stone Cold, a detective script, into a novel in early 2015 I was apprehensive. I had just started reading regularly in the genre and my previous fiction writing had been in the romance genre with a small press.
But my main concern was on how closely I could follow the script and how Lon would accept my interpretation. Several months with numerous interruptions along the way, I had written about 13 chapters and Lon was tracking with me. He had wanted to be involved but left the bulk of the writing to me with some input.
Then a nagging feeling struck me that there was an earlier story and since it was Sept 2015, I said we needed a Christmas story. A short one. About 5,000 words. I gave him an idea of Detective Tom Stone and his partner Jake visiting a boys group home to hand out presents and something nice would happen.
Lon then gave his input and we somehow came up with a more detailed struggle and a story of more than 40,000 words was created, Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas.
I did the bulk of the early drafts and then we read and edited the final together. We discovered something important:
Neither one of us could be wed so closely to an idea that we would argue over it. instead, we were able to hit a rhythm and saw both of our strengths emerge.
Our process became streamlined with Book 2 Tom Stone: Sweltering Summer Nights.
I wrote, passed the chapters on to Lon earlier, he commented, but the real bulk of the writing was done as either by phone or in person, I’d write and he’d edit and we’d both create.
Why it worked was we both had to be unselfish. Lon had to be willing to give up some control over his original ideas and the way i interpreted characters and the story. I had to give up some control related to how I saw things and not even worry if we axed certain paragraphs, let alone sentences.
Our pace and rhythm continued into Book 3 Tom Stone: Day of the Dead.
We did some outlining with both stories and I felt that while I can craft sentences well, Lon has a strong sense of story and details. Things I might have skipped while zipping along writing he came back and said, “Hey, do we have that detail here the way we had it chapter 3?” and that sort of collaboration.
We found the creative space to write a short story — A Deadly Path featuring Tom Stone’s partner, Jake Sharpe and his son Darrell.
Now we’re in the revision round for our 4th novel Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill and you can read about it on our Tom Stone Detective Stories blog — Thriller Novel Update Tom Stone: One Shot, One Kill.
We’ve also been fortunate to have a talented graphic artist, Ben Southgate, based in London, who’s patient and creative. We also appreciate our Beta readers.
Writing fiction isn’t a solitary pursuit. It’s not easy to collaborate but with the right attitude and patience, a relationship can create some fun stories and lasting memories as authors and for readers.
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Don Simkovich is an author and content writer for businesses. He and Lon staged a sitcom in a previous life and share a passion for quirky humor.
Visit his website to check on his writing adventures and services.