Writing A Book With Your Best Mate: 7 Things We Learnt
by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice
1. A problem shared isn’t a problem halved…
JR: You’d think it’d be easier to write a book with someone than on your own. You only have half the words to write, after all. I actually think it takes longer.
LT: It’s partly because you have to work really hard to make sure there’s synergy between the chapters. No matter how thoroughly we think we’ve planned the story, there are easy ways to mess up. One of you might set the scene by saying it’s raining, then the other might say it is hot, and the reader will be all BUT IT’S THE SAME DAY.
2. …But two heads ARE better than one.
LT: Before we put pen to paper we brainstorm everything, from character names to entire plots, bouncing ideas off each other until we’ve come up with something we’re both happy with.
JR: These brainstorming sessions never become three-hour discussions about songs that would be on the soundtrack if our book was made into a film. Never.
3. Everyone writes differently.
JR: I like to get everything done well in advance. That way you have plenty of time to make any changes that are needed.
LT: Whereas I work better under pressure.
JR: ie she leaves everything until the last minute.
4. And everyone delivers constructive criticism differently.
LT: Jimmy and I have a colour-coded system when feeding back on each other’s chapters, including highlighting anything we don’t like in red. I remember early on feeling bad as I put something in red, and writing a lengthy explanation next to it about what I like about it, but why I didn’t think it worked for this character in this particular bit of the story. Then I got my chapter back from him, and next to a bit he’d marked red he’d just written ‘YUK’.
JR: Her way might be politer, but mine’s more efficient.
4. News (or no news) is always better when there are two of you.
JR: When our agent sent the manuscript to publishers there was a bit of a wait for responses. It’s a horrible purgatory and I’m not sure I could have got through it without Laura being there to say ‘They’re probably all just on holiday. Together. For six weeks.’
LT: Likewise, when you hear about the positive feedback or the offer of a deal, it’s lovely to celebrate with someone who’s as invested in it as you.
JR: I also remember going into the Transworld offices for the first time to meet everyone. We had to give a speech. I definitely didn’t hide behind Laura and make her do it.
5. You talk about it. A lot.
JR: We have a group of mutual friends who we’ve been on several holidays with since we started the book. Often Laura and I will take the opportunity to chat about it, and at first the others were really interested but I’m pretty sure by the end of it they were listening politely and trying not to fall asleep.
LT: A bit like parents who go out with a group and sit banging on about their kid all night, forgetting that this level of detail isn’t interesting to anyone except the two of them.
6. German Tax forms.
JR: I can’t even talk about it any more.
7. Publishers give you free books
JR: After our first visit to the Transworld offices Laura and I sat next to each other on the tube reading the same book – I Am Pilgrim. That must have looked strange to anyone else in the carriage.
LT: But it also means you can no longer give books to people as gifts because they assume that you got them for free.
Jimmy Rice is a 32-year-old sports journalist. Laura Tait is a 32-year-old writer for Shortlist and Stylist magazines. Jimmy and Laura met studying journalism at Sheffield University, so sitting in pubs talking about life and love is something they’ve been doing for the last ten years. Not much has changed since they started their debut novel except they take their laptops to the pub and write it all down. The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me is out now as an ebook, and from July 3 as a paperback.