What’s it like to be one half of a writing team?
We asked Pocket Novel authors Ruth Fenson and Mary Keyser to explain what makes their writing partnership work.
How did you meet?
We met over 15 years ago at a local college, on a writing course – writing short stories for women’s magazines. Five of us later went on to form our own writing group, meeting monthly in each other’s houses. Although one member has since moved to Devon, we still meet when she’s in the area.
Do you find the writing group helpful?
Absolutely. There’s always someone to give honest criticism – good and bad. Without the encouragement, we wouldn’t still be writing.
What made you decide to write as a team?
After writing short stories for magazines and competitions, we wanted to expand our stories to a greater length, but didn’t have the self-belief to try on our own. One of our children suggested we write together – we gave it a go, and not only did we enjoy it, we were successful.
How does it work?
We begin by sending ideas for a story to each other by email, before meeting up to discuss the story and characters in further detail.
After that, we work on the planning stage, sending a document backward and forwards by email, until we have a five-page synopsis and character profiles.
The next step is to plan in more detail the chapters, scenes, points of view and time. Once this is completed, one of us will start to write the story.
We write as many words as we feel like – anything from 500 to 1,500. We continue to email the document to each other, adding colour-coded comments and the next piece of writing.
Once the first draft is completed we read through the document and make notes of any inconsistencies and typos before meeting up to make the final changes.
Once the story is complete, we are never quite sure who wrote what as we constantly have input on each other’s writing. We put no pressure on each other and consider the whole thing to be a team effort. Chocolate helps the process as well!
How did you decide on your pen name, Patricia Keyson?
You won’t believe this, but by coincidence, we both have Patricia as our middle name. Keyson is an amalgamation of our surnames, Keyser and Fenson.
What type of writing do you work on?
Pros and cons of working as a team?
Pros – motivation, and the enjoyment of writing with a friend.
Cons – sometimes having a word, sentence or paragraph deleted because the other is vehemently against it. And we have to share any earnings!
Do you both still write individually?
When our writing group is due to meet, homework is set for each of us to produce a story or poem at the meeting, but otherwise we are kept busy on our joint projects. Occasionally, we submit a short story to a magazine or enter a competition individually.