Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison have collaborated to bring us Freshers, one of the most hotly anticipated YA books of the summer from Chicken House Books. Here they address what it’s like collaborating on a novel together, tackling procrastination and the importance of reading your writing out loud.
Our typical writing day changes massively depending on which stage we’re at in the writing process. If we’re working on the first draft of a book, we don’t really even meet up in person: we will just write separately, emailing chapters back and forth and continuing the story that way, like an extremely elaborate game of ‘Consequences’.
Once we get into second or third draft, though, our typical day thankfully becomes much more enjoyable. We’ll usually wake up around 8.30am, and meet at Lucy’s flat to drink coffee, talk about what we watched on TV last night, and generally procrastinate for as long as possible before actually getting down to work.
We’ll then read aloud whichever chapter(s) we’re working on that day. We feel that reading stuff out loud is really important, especially for the kind of Young Adult writing we do, which centres around realistic British teens. If any of the dialogue sounds clunky or unrealistic when we read it out, we scrap it.
Once we’ve read the chapter out loud, we will go back over it slowly, stopping every time one of us has a note or a thought or a change. We plan out our main plot and subplots on Lucy’s wall using colour-coded cards (slightly geeky, but very useful), so as we’re reading through a chapter we will make sure to check whether everything that’s supposed to happen has happened, and that the plot is being sufficiently driven towards where it’s meant to be going.
The comedy element of our books is really important, too, so if we think a joke isn’t working, we have a system whereby we each go away separately for five minutes and think of three alternative lines. Then we sit back down together and ‘pitch’ our three new jokes to one another. Whichever gets the best reaction goes into the document. This method is quite effective but also – as you can probably imagine – leads to much disagreement.
If we get stuck at any point, we’ll go for a walk round the park to get some fresh air and help the ideas flow a bit better. If that doesn’t work, we will simply buy and eat a large bag of Haribo. Then, at about 6pm, we will call it a day and go to the pub to either congratulate ourselves on a productive session, or bemoan how much we still have to do tomorrow…
Freshers is out on 03/08/2017 and you can pre-order here.