Before starting to write our book, we agonized over the actual process. We spent hours researching and checking out authors who have written together in the past to find out how they did it. Some gave up their secrets readily – others were harder nuts to crack (we looked at every interview the authors of “The Nanny Diaries” ever gave to no avail! To this day their process is a mystery. Thanks for nothing ladies!)
We knew three things. We wanted to write a chick lit in the first person. We wanted to use our experience working in reality TV as the backdrop (they say write what you know, after all). And finally, we knew we wanted to work together. So naively, one night, we sat down after a particularly large dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, propped up our laptop, and began. Well, we began to talk. We talked a lot. Unfortunately, most of the talk that night included gossip about work, our latest feelings on the state of current TV shows, and what else could we possibly do with our lives besides working in television (we’re still trying to figure that one out). Suffice it to say, it was an unsuccessful evening.
Subsequent evenings like those followed. We would sit down together, with the computer in front of us, and basically ask one another, “So, what should we say here?” or, “uh, where is this exactly going?” and perhaps a few “this sucks, lets go eat.”
The book took on many forms. At one stage, our protagonist was a witty, sharp-tongued spark plug of a Brit by the name of Nicola. Those pages eventually ended up in the trash. The next version was a zany he said/she said tale – but we soon realized neither one of us wanted to write as the guy, so that one also ended up in the shredder. We cringe when we look back at those early versions. Oh the horror.
Finally, we started writing a few chapters that somewhat resembled what we have now, and showed it to several friends. I believe the response they gave us was something along the lines of, “this is really bad, start over.” And so we put our tails between our legs and stopped writing all together for a long time.
But through trial and error, we soon realized that there was no way this book was ever going to get written unless we outlined. And outlined we finally did. We spent an entire summer outlining. We outlined the shit out of it. Each character had his/her trait mapped out to the hilt. We knew what they looked like; where they were from; their strengths and weaknesses; even their astrological signs! (ha, just kidding – err, kind of). We then went on to map out each storyline in the book. There were several, following the characters, so we knew those had to be hammered out. The next step was to plan out each television show Abby was working on. That was fun – umm, no actually, no it wasn’t. We knew Abby’s last show was going to have to be an original one. Something that has never been developed or aired on TV before, which is almost impossible since every reality show idea has been done in some form or another at least three times. We had to figure out the shooting schedule for each show; the amount of employees; where it would be filming, and what the post-production calendar would be like. We were determined to make this as close to reality as possible. And then finally, we drew up our overall arc. We made a conscious decision to make this book about Abby. Not so much about Abby’s love life. We wanted the second character in the book to be her job. Both of us love a good romance but this is not what this book was meant to be. It was about a girl, struggling with the reality of working in reality TV (something near and dear to our heart) and how she was going to navigate her way through that eat-em-up-and-spit-you-out kind of world. We wanted her to find love too of course (we’re not monsters after all) but we wanted that to be just a part of the story.
Three months later we were done. And we were happy. It felt like we had already written the book. We knew the rest would be smooth sailing.
The weekend we were meant to start writing our great American Chick Lit novel, Marla’s British husband Matt had the wonderful idea to talk to his parents on Skype. He had just finished a tome of his own – his garden. Matt was so proud of his achievement that he decided to affix the web camera onto Marla’s laptop computer that day so that he could actually show his parents (who live in the UK) his crowning achievement by walking around with the computer outside. As he sat down next to Marla’s laptop with the camera and the magnet that went with it, we all heard a very scary noise groaning out of the computer. Rohhhhhhhh. Next thing you know, there was a large ‘sad face’ glaring at us from the screen. Long story short….don’t put a magnet next to a computer hard drive. Yes, everything we had worked on for months was gone. Gone forever. No backup. No hard copies. Nothing. All gone. Gone. Did I mention it was GONE?
How do you bounce back from something like that? I guess determination. We wanted to write a book. We worked hard at it. We started over. And hopefully, we wrote something semi-decent that people will laugh at and enjoy.
This blog is dedicated to Matt – thanks for building our character….though we still don’t forgive your ass.