For a long time, writing was a solitary experience for me. I wouldn’t allow anyone to read even a portion of my stories until I thought it was perfect, which, thanks to my perfectionism, was usually never.
Those days are behind me, though. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’ve been collaborating on a writing project with my twins, a pair of third graders with active imaginations only children (and a handful of lucky adults) seem to have.
Our first middle grade manuscript is Anusha of Prospect Corner, which is loosely based on Anne of Green Gables. It features a 12-year-old child who struggles with her identity as the only redheaded member of her Sri Lankan-American family. I love how it turned out. Importantly, my redheaded, Sri Lankan-American daughters love it too.
This is what we did: I had a faint idea of how I wanted the story to go, thanks to Anne of Green Gables. I wrote an original chapter or two every week and shared it with my twins, who critiqued it and suggested what should happen next. Then, I re-wrote the chapter(s) based on their feedback. The result is a 47,000 word manuscript (which we hope to make available soon).
It’s a standalone novel, but we’ve decided to continue Anusha’s story in Anusha of Melrose Square. This time, my twins have assumed a larger role in the writing. They add dialogue and develop characters, and my job is to integrate their ideas with mine. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always interesting to see what they come up with.
So far, our biggest challenge came in the beginning. We had different visions for how to continue the story. I wanted to focus on Anusha’s personal growth and relationship with her nosy neighbor. Samira wanted to focus on Anusha’s relationship with her father, and Maram wanted to focus on Anusha’s relationship with her bosom friend. It’s hard to collaborate on a story if you’re writing three different books. Ugh.
A decade ago, when Neil Gaiman shared some of the lessons he’s learned from his collaborative writing experiences, he said, “Only collaborate if you both are working on the same thing.”
Indeed, but in our case, we can’t simply dissolve the collaboration. We’re family! Plus, the goals of our collaboration are different from most authors’ goals. We are writing together as an educational and bonding experience, not necessarily to publish something at the end of the process. We’ll see how Anusha of Melrose Square turns out. In the meantime, all that matters is that we’re having fun and spending time together.
Here’s a picture of my co-authors working on Anusha of Melrose Square last weekend (while drinking tea–I love that they enjoy tea as much as I do!):
For more posts about our multicultural update to Anne of Green Gables, see: