In National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2006 we sat down at our computers 6000 km apart and started to write a novel. Gabrielle wrote 1500 words and emailed it to me, I wrote the next 1500 words and emailed it to her, and so on we went, 3000 words a day without changing a thing. We had no idea when we started what the story would be. We had only a few characters' names and the setting of the book, and to our amazement an extraordinary story unfolded. At the end of a month we had the first draft of a novel we called Crane Mansions: a novel about the redeeming power of cake and Gert Loveday was born. We had so much fun that we have continued this freefalling approach ever since, producing five novels, and every time we have been astounded at what seems to have come from nowhere. Our second novel Writing is Easy got as far as a serious reading by two well-known publishers. When it wasn't taken up we decided to release it ourselves as an ebook.
We can thank the Canadian writing teacher Barbara Turner-Vesselago for our start. Her Freefall workshops unfailingly bring out the writer in everyone. It was from Barbara that we learned to jump without a parachute. There's nothing quite so freeing to the imagination being confronted with a twist in the tale that you never envisaged, and having to take it in your stride and go on. And always, you find you can.
What are the ingredients for two writers to be able to cooperate in this way? In our case it was common tastes formed by a lifetime of shared reading, and the exposure to Freefall. But basically what it takes is the willingness to let go of what you want the book to be, to be able to enter into it without preconceptions. You do have to have a shared view about the tenor of the book. If one is aiming at high drama and the other at slapstick comedy, it's not likely to work.
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We'd recommend this to any writer as an exercise. Commit yourself to it for a month, NaNoWriMo style. Choose a voice, a setting, a main character or two. Then go for it. No corrections, no negotiation. Just see what happens. At the end of a month you'll have a manuscript. Then the work begins.
Gert Loveday is the pen name of sisters Joan Kerr and Gabrielle Daly. Gabrielle’s background is in nursing, medical research and music, while Joan is a widely-published poet and short fiction writer. Since 2006 they have written several comic novels together. 'Writing is Easy', which was shortlisted for a Varuna Publisher Fellowship in 2011, is the first to be published. Gert Loveday (http://gertlovedaywriter.blogspot.com.au) writes with authority on peculiar diets, exercise regimes, body makeovers, extreme fashion, gurus, pigeons, religion, poetry, politics, the health bureaucracy, gourmet cooking, reality TV and literature from the Norse Sagas to Jeffrey Archer, with a sharp eye for character foibles and the pricking of pomposity.
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