I thought it couldn’t be done. Write a piece with another author? Someone who has a distinctly different voice than mine? No way! We’d clash. We’d argue. Neither of us would be satisfied, and the end result would be disastrous, a muddied representation of watered down prose.
I based this prejudice on the experiences I’ve had at a standards drafting conference. Standards need to be written clearly and concisely. Right?
These tomes are lengthy, comprehensive, and full of language that doesn’t soothe the soul of any beast, let alone a regular Joe or Jill. Peppered with acronyms and obtuse phraseology, they are tough to read at best. I’ve sat through a number of meetings for my “day job” where committees of fifty men and women tried to edit via projected spreadsheets and documents. It can be torture!
Frequently, six or seven well-intentioned members will grandstand. Sometimes for HOURS. And all for the want of “le mot juste. ” Usually, however, it’s never for the “right” word, it’s more for “me too-ism. ” I become tempted to lay my head down on the desk and let it all wash over me in a flurry of agony. But I don’t. I pay attention and try to contribute, like a good doobie. Finally, when the eight hours have passed, I return to my hotel room and delight in writing another chapter in the LeGarde Mystery Series, thrilled to be alone to compose to my heart’s content, without other wannabe writers messing around with my prose.
So, when a friend of mine asked for help with her query letter, I thought, “Sure!” But I didn’t expect it would be done “live. ” I thought we’d edit and attach recommendations via email, like we normally do. This time, however, she suggested that we actually get together to do this, on one computer, face-to-face. My instincts roared up into a tsunami. No way! I thought. I had massive doubts and began to type up something on my own.
She arrived shortly thereafter, with her own query written in advance. Aha! I thought. She has the same reservations about this dubious process.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with a query letter, it’s basically a one-page pitch that writers send to potential publishers or agents. It needs to have a short paragraph that regales your book in such an eloquent, witty style that the publisher has no choice but to immediately snap you up with a hefty advance! It’s impossible to do, especially if you are writing about your own book. I know. I’ve tried. For days. For weeks. Although my current publisher is competent and has been decent to me, I’m currently trying to hook a big time player who’s in the mass media stream. Finally, a fellow writer helped me with my own query and I wound up with a gorgeous paragraph, neatly crafted, that I didn’t write. Oh well.
My friend arrived. We sat down at my computer and began. After a few false starts, we began to meld our paragraphs, taking the phrases we favored from each other’s drafts. It started to work! What resulted was a “brainstorming-for-two” session. In the past, my experiences with brainstorming have been confined to engineering team activities involving problem solving or research and design. What normally happened in this environment was that “no thoughts were judged. ” Ideas were floated up, bandied about, and recorded. One idea built on another. And another. Sometimes, if the team was lucky, some supremely unusual and fantastic combination of ideas resulted in innovation.
And so, my friend and I brainstormed. I typed up silly phrases that danced around the topics. She tossed out words and phrases. We built on the words, wending our way toward those jump-off-the-page, dynamic sentences. Together, we isolated the choicest phrases. It sang! It was lyrical! It was the best darned one paragraph synopsis I’d ever read!
My misgivings were all for naught. My instincts were flawed. It can work! Tag team writing can be successful. At least in this venue.
So, once again, the Lord keeps me humble. Oh yeah… and so do all those rejection letters!
Aaron Paul Lazar lives in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in- law, dogs, and four cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at NexPress Solutions in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include gardening, preparing large family feasts, photography, cross-country skiing, playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending “time” with the French Impressionists whenever possible.
Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his “two little buddies” to be one of the finest experiences of his life.
Double Forte', the first in the LeGarde series, was published in January 2005. Upstaged, number two, is now available for purchase. Mazurka, number three, is ready to go to press. With eight books under his belt, Mr. Lazar is currently working on the ninth book in the series.
More info can be found at: http://www.legardemysteries.com or contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org