In 2004, I was at home with two small kids and looking for an online writing community. In my search, I found a friend, a fellow writer with whom I clicked. It’s not that common. He wrote in first person and was charismatic and exuberant in his writing. I wrote in third person and was cautious and finding my way, more of an editor than a writer. But we soon began finishing each other’s sentences, literally.
Jim Sands had written the draft of a novel, but he wasn’t happy with it. It needed work. He started sending me chapters, one at a time. Finally, after the third or fourth chapter, I asked him to send me the whole draft. After reading through it, I saw that it needed help in a number of areas. We talked at length and then decided to collaborate and rewrite the book.
We talked every day, not just about the pages we were working on, but on plans for the future of the story: publication, a series, possible translation to film or tv. Big dreams. But then in 2005, Jim died. He had been ill off and on, but it came suddenly. Before that, we had made plans for “one of us” to continue in the event the other couldn’t. But I didn’t expect it to be me or to be that soon.
The second draft sat in a “drawer” for years as I grieved and processed. When I tried to work on it, I heard Jim’s voice in my head and I tried to put his words on to the page, but there were so many questions that came up and I didn’t feel comfortable answering them alone. I missed him a great deal.
More years passed and I made several attempts at rewriting the book. These were blank page drafts, starting over from scratch if possible, but I kept coming back to the words that Jim and I had written together. Sections got rearranged, characters came and went, I decided to murder the title character after a long talk with my current writing partner, Heather.
Finally, I found the direction. The book became mine to work with. And I grew as a writer, learning much more craft that I tried to bring to the work. I also was my own major editor – finding the weaknesses and trying to resolve them. The book became deeper and finally finished.
Fifteen years is a long time to write a book. But we did it.