Friday, August 28, 2009


Leave a comment today to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Diane Ashley & Aaron McCarver's new release, Under the Tulip Poplar.
Diane and I were thrilled when Mary Connealy asked us to guest blog at Seekerville about writing as a team as people often ask us how we work together. (Thank you, Mary and the other Seekerville authors!) So we met and divided up the work, just like we always do.

Our writing first comes from our desire to tell stories that will glorify our Lord. We pray our stories touch Christians and non-Christians alike. We always discuss what message we feel should be in our books at the very beginning of the process. Without this message, there is no story for us as we do not want to write anything that is not for Him.

Aaron says: Some important factors should be considered when deciding on a writing partner. First is the relationship. Diane and I have been friends for more than a decade. We met when she attended a writing class I was teaching. I immediately knew she had talent and encouraged her to pursue her dream. We and our writing group, the Bards of Faith, have been through a lot together, and we are like family.

Diane and I respect each other as writers. Although we actually agree most of the time about our stories, there are times we do not. When those times come, we respect the other’s opinion and compromise. We have never had any major disagreements. We find that we are usually able to go with which of us cares the most about that particular scene or issue we are not in complete agreement on.

The next thing to consider is writing styles. Diane and I prefer to write from an outline. We both have to know where the story is going before we can really do any writing. Having worked with Diane and the phenomenal Gilbert Morris, who taught me outlining, I don’t think I could work with a seat-of-the-pants writer. No offense. The approach is just too different. (If there is a team that works with different approaches, please let us know.)

While we are similar writers, our differences complete us as a team. We like that we have both the male and the female perspectives covered. We find this very helpful, especially writing from the male and the female points of view.

Diane says: We utilize our different strengths and make them work for us by splitting the tasks according to our talents. He is the idea man. Although I have come up with a few plots over the years, they flow from Aaron like hot lava.

During the early stages we meet together to talk about the characters, settings, and plots. Once we both have a hazy idea of where we want to end up and how we are going to arrive, Aaron writes the chapter-by-chapter synopsis. As he is doing this, I am already starting to write the first few chapters, which I send to him to make sure our visions for the book match. We make any necessary adjustments and I start writing in earnest. Aaron provides a great deal of the research information and helps me with trouble spots as I follow our outline to the end of the story.
I hand over the rough draft to Aaron, and he edits the whole book, suggesting new scenes and changes he thinks are necessary. I rewrite. . .and rewrite. . .and rewrite. . .until we are both satisfied with the novel and deem it ready for submission.

Aaron submits the book to our editor and we wait for the review. We work together on the review, banging our heads on the desk and trying to maintain our objectivity so we can accept the suggestions that will strengthen the book. Once the edits are complete, Aaron emails the new copy to the editor who makes sure it is ready for the copyeditor. We consult on this final stage of editing and send it back. Aaron handles the final stages of writing the cover copy information and whatever else is needed at this point.

We look at the galleys separately when they come in and communicate with each other about any problems we see. After that, we spend a lot of time grinning. Then we work on the next idea and start the process all over again.

We think writing as a team is a great approach. After all, when all is taken into account, all books are produced from a team—writers, editors, artists, and many others. (Hopefully the authors I—Aaron—have edited feel this way, too! Yes, including you, Mary!) You also get a built-in support system who understands that you are weird! Writing can be such a solitary profession. It is great to have someone to work with who finds it okay that you have other people in your head!

Our current series, published with Barbour’s Heartsong Presents, consists of three historical stories set in Tennessee. Under the Tulip Poplar released this month, with A Bouquet for Iris and The Mockingbird’s Call coming over the next several months. We urge you to try writing as a team, and hopefully you will find it easier to score!


Greta said...

This is the first detailed account of how co-writers work together that I've read. I find it very interesting. Who knows, I might try it've given me the outline!(Actually, it's quite unique and I doubt any time could replicate it.) Thanks for sharing.

Nora St. Laurent said...

Wow!! You are so right about calling this team work!! Thanks for sharing the process with us.

Finding Hope Through Fiction

Tina M. Russo said...

Good morning and welcome to Seekerville. As usual we have hot coffee and muffins on the side bar.

Thanks for this peek into your collaboration. Fascinating. I wish you two continued success.

Audra Harders said...

Good morning Diane and Aaron! Thanks for visiting Seekerville.

I'm impressed with your blending of writing styles and techniques. Have you always written together or do you author books individually, too?

I've added an egg, cheese and sausage frittata to the buffet. Dig in while it's hot!

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville! I have two friends who are endeavoring to write together, so I'll send them a link to your post. I believe Mary said something about you having a blog about the process of collaborating?

KellyMarstad said...

Very good blog, you two. Even that shows your teamwork. :)

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Diane and Aaron! I found your post fascinating. Not that I'm planning to seek a writing partner, but I'm interested in how you structure and write your books. I'm in the middle between a panster and plotter, but leaning your direction. I may try outlining chapter by chapter and see if that's a good fit for me.

Wishing you much success with your series. How many books have you written together?


Melanie Dickerson said...

I can't really imagine writing with a partner. It would be hard for me. I think one of the reasons I write is because it is the only time in my life I have complete control! I can manipulate those characters and their situations any way I want to and nobody can tell me not to! Mwa-ha-ha-ha!!!

Ah-hem, anyway, I'm a SOTP writer, so that would make it harder, too, I'm sure. But it's fascinating to think that some writers can do this partnership thing.

Julie Lessman said...

Good morning Diane and Aaron, and welcome to Seekerville!

Aaron!!! Do you remember me? We met at the Mall of America book signing, and I was SO excited to meet someone at Barbour about whom Mary had spoken so highly. And you were every bit as nice as Mary said you were and more. So great to have you and Diane here today.

Fascinating subject! As an incorrigible seat-of-the-pants writer, I am AMAZED at the teamwork you two have with each other. Gosh, I can't even get my fingers and plot to team up most of the time as both like to keep the other in the dark.

But I have to admit, it seems to me like a team like yours would produce better, stronger, more creative books with such a strong current flow of creative electricity carefully channeled into each and every story. It sounds fascinating to me ... and definitely like a book I need (and want) to read!


Cara Slaughter said...

Welcome to Seekerville! Your post was really interesting. I can't imagine writing with anyone, but it sounds like it can be fun.

Have long does it take you to write a Heartsong Presents? Do you think it's a shorter time frame with two of you working on it?

Mary Connealy said...

I like the idea of a male and female pov in a book. I just started Under the Tulip Poplar last night. I'm loving it. I got lost in the story enough I forgot to be analytical--which is good, right? :)

But I'll try and pay attention better.

Aaron McCarver said...

Hello everyone. Wow, such great questions and comments! The food sounds great, by the way. Add a little chocolate gravy and some homemade biscuits and I am there. Audra, I actually co-wrote a series with Gilbert Morris a few years ago, "The Spirit of Appalachia." He is so fantastic! I loved working with him. I also helped him some on other series. This is my first series with Diane. We have just agreed to write another series with Heartsong Presents. It will be another historical series and set in our home state of Mississippi, although I grew up in Tennessee. Glynna, Diane and I have blogged about this before on Barbour's Edit Cafe blog. Right now we have no blog of our own. Janet, we have actually written the three TN stories that are now releasing. We are beginning work on our fourth book together, the first in our MS series. As an English professor, I highly recommend the outlining process! I honestly can't imagine doing it the other way. And yes, Julie, of course I remember you. Your books are fantastic! As are you! I saw that you signed to do another series. Big CONGRATS! Will you be at conference this year? I hope to see you there! And thanks, Mary, for saying how nice I am. I will pay you for the compliment per our agreement. :) Diane and I do feel working together strengthens our writings. We are able to draw on each other's strengths and hopefully avoid the things we do not do so well. It usually takes us between three to four months for the entire process of writing a HP. I am not really sure if that is fast or not compared to others. I know Mary is really quick. Maybe she can answer this. Thanks everybody!

Erica Vetsch said...

I can't wait to read Under the Tulip Poplar.

And I'm deep in the edits on two novels here and it really does take a team.

Back to my head banging. Hope to be grinning soon.

Diane Ashley said...

Hi y'all! Janet, I wrote a novella that came out last year. That was my first published work. Aaron has always been a part of my writing process as he is the leader of our critique group, the Bards of Faith. We work well as a team because of the respect we have for each other. He is the one who showed me how to write from an outline, which helped me enormously as I was never able to keep all the details in order before that. Cara, it seems faster to me because it took me at least three months to write last year's novella. Each novel we write together seems to get a little faster. Mary, what a compliment that you got caught up in our story! I love all your books. You had me from Petticoat Ranch...

Julie Lessman said...

Aaron, you bet I'll be at the conference this year, as will ALL of The Seekers ... look out, Denver!! I would LOVE to see you and give you a big ol' hug, so grab me if you see me or duck into the lobby/bar area after 9:00 PM each night as it's rumored that there will be a group of CRAZY women in there from time to time ... and "crazy" should give you some indication that at least one of their names will be "Mary."


Myra Johnson said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Diane & Aaron! The idea of writing with a collaborator is fascinating, and it sounds like you two work well together.

But since I pretty much write SOTP-style, I can certainly see how that would make it a lot harder. I'm intrigued by the idea of brainstorming with a few other writers, but I think I'd need the freedom to just let the story flow once I sat down to write.

So, Diane, you do most of the actual writing, based on the outline Aaron has developed as a result of your brainstorming together?

Diane Ashley said...

Hi Myra, Yes I do most of the writing. It's what I love to do. But please don't ask me to write a synopsis, or a query letter, or even the chapter by chapter. Those things give me a major headache. It always amazes me how quickly Aaron can whip up a synopsis. He sees the major plot points more clearly while I see the characters.

Candee Fick said...

Thanks for the insight into how your writing partnership works.

Like Erica, I'm busy editing. After reading your post, I'm wishing I had a partner to take over that task so I could switch back to being creative. Sigh.

Mary Connealy said...

I'm just sitting here trying to imagine the creative process if I wrote a book with Julie.

I'd be all--c'mon Julie we haven't shot anybody for THREE CHAPTERS.

She's be whining about steamy passion. MORE MORE MORE

One of us wouldn't get out alive. And after all, though Julie's sensuality is life affirming, don't bet against my flying bullets.

Edna said...

This book sounds great, the authors are new to me but I am finding new ones every day, still like my vavorite ones but love to read books by new authors also. Please enter me in this drawing.


Sheila Deeth said...

I seem to have read several pieces about team writers this week. Interesting. Now I'm thinking of all my friends that write and wondering who would enjoy it.

Aaron McCarver said...

Hey Mary and Julie,
You could call your book "Petticoats, Passion, and Flying Bullets." I think it could work! And though I LOVE editing Mary's books, I'm not sure I would want to this one. I'm afraid I might get caught in the crossfire! Seriously, Mary, thank you so much for your kind comments about our book. It truly, truly means a lot to me as I respect you as a writer so much. Thank you!

Rhonda said...

Hi Diane and Aaron! This is a great blog. I'm impressed with the way you two work together and create such interesting stories. I love ya both! Keep up the great writing and I'll keep reading!!

Jacqueline Wheelock said...

Diane and Aaron,

I absolutely loved your book. It is such a fine mix of faith, history, and romance--the elements that I invariably look for. Can't wait for the next book.

Walt M said...

I'm collaborating with another author on a project. It's good insight to see how others handle it.

Gloria said...

I really enjoyed Under the Tulip Poplar! Loved Rebekah and Asher and got so involved with their story that it was difficult to put down the book! An absolute pleasure to read! Look forward to more books from Diane and Aaron.

Tara said...

Wow. Thanks for an inside look at working as a team.

Paige said...

Congratulations Diane and Aaron! I am truly honored to know two authors that reside in the great state of Mississippi. I would often tell Diane that if she could keep my attention, she has written a good book. The two of them work so great together that you almost wish you were at the scene.

Janet Lee Barton said...

Love this Team! Can't wait to get those next two books!

Aaron McCarver said...

Thanks, Rhonda and Jacqueline, for commenting. Great to see fellow Bards of Faith come by for us. Thanks, Paige and Gloria, for your kind comments on our book! They are truly appreciated. Good luck on the collaboration, Walt.

A. A. Stone said...

Aaron and Diane-Thank you for your hearts to glorify the Lord in your writing and sharing with us the way you've achieved success at writing together.

Relationship--I think that's a huge factor, even for when we write solo, because we still need the Lord on our team, don't we? I know for me my writing doesn't go anywhere unless He's on board. So of course I've got to keep up my relationship with Him. As for message development, I'm realizing sometimes the book has to be put on hold while He develops ME!!! (But could You remember my deadline for the ACFW conference too, Lord?)

Julie and Mary C--You two are a riot! Thanks for making it so much fun to read the comments. :)

robynl said...

wow, what a unique title; love it.

You two sound like a great team and I am sure you are as it is working and the end products are awesome.

please include me for the drawing.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

VERY interesting to see perspectives on this cowriting process.

Excellent post. Thanks guys!