Last week, Lynn Sholes and I completed our fifth novel together. The working title is THE PHOENIX APOSTLES. Let me tell you, collaboration is tough, but collaborating on fiction is insane. Somehow we manage to pull it off—at least our books get published. I think that’s a good sign. All our previous books dealt with complex plots, but our newest thriller is the most complex so far.
Here’s the premise: A journalist discovers that someone is stealing the burial remains of the most heinous mass murderers in history. She uncovers a plot involving the human sacrifice of thousands in the name of an ancient cult. As her life becomes threatened because of what she knows, she learns that the only way to stop the threat is to find and destroy an obscure religious relic dating back to the time of Christ.
As you can guess, this is not a lighthearted cozy. We’re talking high concept, high stakes thriller.
So now Lynn and I are into the rewriting phase of the book. This is a two-part process. First, there’s the line editing; catching all the typoz, grammer and punktuasion issues. The second part of the process is dealing with plotting problems. And the more complex the plot, the more chances there are for holes. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “painting yourself into a corner”. At last count, we’ve managed to do that at least 5 times in this book. But here’s where collaboration comes to the rescue.
Lynn and I have a favorite phrase for when we’re in big trouble. “Houston, we have a problem.” During the rewrite of this new one, we’ve said it too many times. But because there are two minds at work here—some may argue two damaged minds—we’ve been able to brainstorm our way out of every corner so far. Now, mind you, it wasn’t easy. It took many hours of conference calls to resolve huge holes discovered in the rewrite process. One in particular was a deal breaker—literally if we didn’t solve it, the book would collapse under its own weight. But through persistence and the liberal use of “what if”, we waited in the corner until the paint dried, and then we walked out of the room.
So, how do you handle it? What do you do when you find yourself in that lonely corner and you realize your book is sinking like the Titanic? Who do you turn to? Do you have a sounding board? Your spouse? A fellow writer? A trusted beta reader? Or is it all up to you alone? How do you work yourself out of that proverbial corner?