We’re both really pleased with Clovenhoof. It needs editing and polishing but it’s clear that we have created something that we’re really proud of.
If it is greater than the sum of our parts, how did that happen? I’m not sure I have all of the answers, but here are a few thoughts.
Different skills at different times.
To complete any project, you need a variety of skills. There are books and methodologies dedicated to building teams with an optimised range of skills, which can be assessed with profiling (eg Belbin).
I can see that Iain and I have brought different approaches which have kept up the momentum and steered us though this. Iain has brought spreadsheets, organisation and some rock-solid plotting skills. I have bounced around like Tigger on acid and said things like “let’s have a blog” and “let’s go to conventions”. These didn’t necessarily help us write the book, but they may help us to sell it.
In terms of ideas for the book, I would venture that I am a spitballer; I can spew ideas, good and bad into an ideas document (we had one of these for every chapter, just to capture initial thoughts) and some of them will stick. Iain has an excellent instinct for the ones that will fit well into the plot, and a real talent for stretching them to the max.
[Iain: It’s really interesting that Heide suggests I like to stretch ideas to their furthest limits when in fact, that’s a quality I see in Heide. I do wonder if, when we’re writing our solo pieces we find that we don’t want to push things too far (in terms of imagination, humour, taboos, etc) but, with the support of a willing partner, we are happier to step into new and dangerous territory]
Just for fun
Sometimes it’s an enjoyable diversion to develop ideas if we happen to be talking. We met up to do some plotting, and Saint Francis of Assisi had made a couple of appearances in scenes that we’d written. We both agreed that he was shaping up to be an enjoyable character, who fretted about animal welfare whatever the situation. I am sorry to say* that by the time we’d finished laughing about the possibilities we ended up with quite a bit of the final action taking place in Heaven’s animal sanctuary, so that Francis can look on and wring his hands at his beloved animals stampeding and eating each other.
[Iain: In my head, I can genuinely see a spin-off novel (assuming this one sells) in which Francis of Assisi and Joan of Arc go on a twenty-first century road trip across Europe and the US in search of the Virgin Mary. Francis and Joan are characters who sprung out of nowhere, out of the consciousness between Heide and I and they are some of the strongest characters I’ve ever written about.]
Discussion & honesty
There have been a few occasions where a neat idea has come from a thought or an anecdote and taken us by surprise. Nerys, one of our characters is a first aider. It’s just an incidental detail, but I related to Iain (because I am a first aider) that a small bad part of me gets annoyed if multiple first aiders appear to help someone because I secretly want to hog all of the glory. What can I say? I am sometimes not a nice person. Iain stretched this to its natural conclusion in a scene that made me laugh out loud when I read it. Nerys beats off the opposition in order to get to the unfortunate victim, and demands photos to show people afterwards. The thing that struck me when I read it was this: would I have been brave enough or honest enough to write that myself? Probably not, but it’s taught me an interesting lesson for the future about plundering my dark side.
[Iain: See, I told you. Two partners, braver together than they are apart. The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Batman and Robin, Goody and Grant.]
* I’m not really sorry.