Pardon Me, Pardner — But You’re In My Space

Sharing Work Space and Partnering with Other Authors

By Jeff Salter

This week, we’re blogging about sharing — who we’d share writing space with and who we’d want as co-authors. Supposedly I came up with this topic, way back when, but I can’t (for the life of me) remember what I had in mind… if anything. For one thing, I’m not much into sharing. I don’t tend to share snacks, for example, and that’s supposedly the minimum threshold for status as a true gentleman.

But as I’ve read what three of the Four Resident Foxes have to say, so far this week, I think I’ve chiseled out a toe-hold on this topic.

sharing-space

I could not work like this!

Writing Space

If I had to share MY writing space with anyone else, it would be a nightmare. I know this from two distinct experiences:

  1. At my first “permanent” duty station in the Air Force – the Office of Information at Cannon AFB, NM – for my initial few months, I had a desk that was head to head with the desk of a three-striper. In other words, if we were both seated properly, we were staring at each other. That wasn’t the bad part, however, because we each had our own typewriters (manual, of course) and we were each writing our own articles for the base newspaper. The difficult part was that we had to SHARE a single telephone. Yeah, back in the dark ages when offices had desk phones and there were only so many lines… all hard-wired. So when Sgt. Clausen needed the phone, he’d whack the rotary dial with the hooked end of a specialty ruler and drag the phone to where he could reach it to dial. And when I needed the phone, I’d snag it with my own hooked ruler and drag it back over to my side.
  2. The other example is much more recent. For several months, a few years ago, my wife’s laptop was not working… or wouldn’t connect to the internet. Something like that. So she logically needed to use MY desktop, which was directly wired to the cable box. Fair is fair. But when I was hot on a story and really desperate to start clacking those keystrokes… I was unable to get to the workspace. Drove us both crazy. Finally she got a new laptop which was able to pickup the wireless internet… and we could (once again) peacefully coexist.

Some of my colleagues this week have spoken of writing retreats, or more concentrated group writing sessions… or even just meeting with a colleague at a favorite coffee shop to write. There’s part of me that wishes I could / would do some of this… but a larger part of me just doesn’t want to be bothered. It’s not that I’m antisocial — it’s just that when I’m focused, I’m really focused and it aggravates me to be pulled away or distracted. And when I’m not focused, it would bother me to see anybody else successfully courting their own muse and having a fine time. If you know what I mean.

Writing Partners

I greatly admire people who have successfully co-authored fiction with others. Several of my colleagues and friends have done this and some have fared very well with the results. I don’t think I could do it, however. Much is made of whether an author is a “plotter” or a “pants-ster.” — the former being one who carefully outlines nearly every aspect of her/his plot, characters, and setting… and the latter being one who flies by the seat of her/his britches. In fiction and poetry, I’ve always said I’m mostly a pants-ster but often find I’ve written myself into trouble that requires a plotter to work out of. So, I’m just saying that my hybrid, ebb-and-flow, flux and flummox style of writing fiction simply would not sync well with a co-author. One of us would drive the other… CRAZY.

Writing non-fiction, however, is a completely different ballgame. My brother and I co-authored at least four principal works back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Two were monographs released by one of the top three (at that time) publishers of library resources; the third was a signed chapter in a book published by the American Library Association; the fourth was a signed article in a specialty encyclopedia. For each of these projects, Charles Salter and I worked together closely on the scope, direction, and outline — then we divided up the chapters and other components. As we finished each solo part, we’d send it to the co-author for feedback. We rotated our names, so that my brother’s name was listed first on projects 1 and 3, while mine was listed first on projects 2 and 4. Whoever was the “lead” author was the primary contact with the publisher / editor / whoever had to be dealt with.

Not a Co-Author

As I’ve pondered our topic this week, I realized there’s another category of writing “partner” who is less involved than a true co-author, but nonetheless considerably valuable to the creation of the work. You’re probably thinking, Beta Reader — and, yes, that also fits. But I’m thinking more of a go-to person who can fairly quickly jump into the project, scan what I’ve done, learn where I’m going, and then offer up the assistance I need.

My brother, Charles A. Salter, is particular good at several phases of this — namely technical expertise on matters related to science or medicine… and insightful assistance with structure and organization matters. [He helps in numerous other ways, also, but it would take pages to list them.]

My wife, Denise Williams Salter, is my other go-to resource person. Sometimes this is at the very beginning of a new story, when I sound her out about the direction I’m considering. Sometimes it’s when the story is moving along but I’ve hit a snag of some sort. Sometimes I’ll tell her a little about my story and then ask her, “What kind of house does Character X live in?” And Denise will know. Or I’ll ask her, “What kind of job does Character Y have?” And Denise will know. One time when I was struggling with the complex layout of an unusual setting for a story — Denise (who loves building plans and loves to draw) sketched out the layout for me. She’s helped me decorate hotel suites (circa 1914)… and design Depression-era ranch houses which were renovated in the 1960s. And those are just a few examples.

So, even though neither of these two “go-to” resource people are actually my co-authors for fiction — each is indispensable for the stories I write.

Questions:

What about YOU? Do you write with others? Share writing space with others? Go on writing retreats, of any duration?

[JLS # 360]

 

 

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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17 Responses to Pardon Me, Pardner — But You’re In My Space

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Great topic, Jeff!

    I’ve tried co-authoring as an exercise. My conclusion is…nope, not for me. I have my own unique writing style and process. I also have distractions of family, (aka children and their activities). Co-authoring requires conforming to one another as a package and matching deadlines. For me, that stifles my voice and style.

    I could share space so long as I have my own laptop and earbuds to drown out distractions.

    As for writing retreats, I think they are great. Doesn’t matter if it’s for just a few hours or a few days. Sure, there’ll be chatting, eating, drinking, rollicking, etc. But we’re all there for a single purpose—to get words to paper. It’s quite motivating.

    Writing partners. It’s all about how you use them. A writing partner can be just like you’ve mentioned—someone who can jump in and assist where needed or beta read. They can also help brainstorm, market, and be an overall accountability buddy. Fellow MuseTracker and dear friend Stacey is that for me. And she’s priceless. 🙂

    Jenn!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Jenn. Sounds like you’ve tried it all. And I’m not surprised that Stacey Purcell is fantastic at lending a creative hand.
      Brainstorming — yes, that’s the word I was looking for to describe what Denise and I have often done. Sometimes at the kitchen table, sometimes on the front porch, and sometimes when I drag her down to Hardee’s for breakfast. [One time we practically outlined an entire novella at Hardee’s breakfast … and were finally swept out the door when the lunch crowd began coming in.]

      Liked by 1 person

      • jbrayweber says:

        It’s so awesome that Denise helps in that way. When I want to brainstorm with hubby, all he does is stare at me glassy-eyed and throw in a gratuitous nod now and then. Haha! I will, however, ask him questions about guns, cars, and other manly stuff if I don’t already know the answer. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeff7salter says:

        Yeah, I totally understand. And I’ve heard that from many of my colleagues. Makes me a little sad. But at least, in your case, the hubby is a gold mine of info about several technical areas… and evidently willing to share.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    First of all, I LOVE the desk in your picture! I’d take the top one, because it looks like he’s standing. I also love the size of his screen.
    I’ve gotten together with other writers in mini-writing sessions where we met in a coffee shop for a few hours and was pleasantly surprised at how much I got done in a short time. Each time there were only three of us, but we agreed that it was motivating to sit across the table from someone who was busy typing – it tended to prevent us from wasting too much time on social media.
    You’re not the only person to “not want to be bothered” to get away and write. I know a very prolific writer who honestly can’t understand writing retreats, because when she needs to write she simply does so. But I think she’s in the minority, especially among women writers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      I’d want the top one also, but gosh — look at that first STEP.
      Yes, I can see the visual accountability of a small gathering might help each writer from drifting off into social media or something. That’s one point I hadn’t considered — accountability.

      Like

  3. Sharing desk space like Jeff and I did almost required a schedule! Not wanting to interupt his hot writing time, I waited until he was away from the house! Why did he always get back early!!!? AND, he accused me of eating some of His chocolate!! (What? Does he count his candy bars?) Another pea under the mattress in sharing the same desk space was chair height and comfort! My feet dangle when the chair is set for Jeff!!!
    Idea sharing is fun. I’ve got lots of ideas. Not all are useable, but I don’t mind sharing them! Jeff might use pnly one tiny speck of the huge idea, but it is enough to get moving again! It is always exciting to see how the tiny speck grows.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Denise, I think it is wonderful that you are a source of info about jobs, dwellings, etc! Men don’t often have as good a grasp of these things and it is a wise man who knows his limitations!

      Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      at least one of those sessions at Hardee’s, I was certain people at adjacent tables were listening in on our conversation. After all, we were talking about digging graves and hiding bodies, and the interaction with the detective investigating the case.

      Like

  4. Jeff, I would think that writing non-fiction could just as easily be as hard to write in tandem as fiction. I have had several non-fiction articles published and know what it takes. Any article that is too cut-and-dry won’t be read, so unless you have a partner who can agree and write in the same tone/style/voice, or you can write it so that you can trade-off styles and they play well of of each other, well, I personally would have had a BIG problem writing mine with someone else. You and Charles seem to have had a good thing going.Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Well, what made these particular (four) non-fiction pieces easier to co-author was that we divided up the sections or chapters along the lines of our expertise. In the first book, which had some dozen or more case histories, I wrote up the case (as it happened) and he wrote up the analysis. It was a great way to split the responsibility as well as take advantage of our own skills and experience.

      Like

  5. It sounds like your wife and brother are a very important part of your writing process.
    I can completely understand not wanting someone around when you are writing. It is distracting and can be difficult to get back to the flow you had going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      they are, absolutely.
      Yes, and not only can you lose the flow of what you were writing, but you can often totally forget where you were going.

      Like

  6. I’ve read one of the other posts on this blog regarding this topic. I don’t recall if I mentioned it before, but I came to realize…though I don’t ‘share a work space’…I have a go to group of authors that I virtually get together with to write. Not sure if that counts here, but it helps me stay accountable and allows me to carve out time to get words down.

    I think the same would happen for me in a writer’s retreat setting. Though I think the company has everything to do with how successful it would be. Loved reading your insight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Kinsey. Yes, the accountability would probably be helpful to me also. And, certainly a pleasant setting would make a huge difference. If the site was a crowded hotel in a busy downtown, I think it would stress and stifle my creative output. But a lovely beach or beautiful mountain site… would be awesome.

      Like

  7. Joselyn says:

    Your post gave me a vague recollection of having a library school textbook or article to read by ?? Salter. I don’t recall what class it was though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jeff7salter says:

      May very well have been one of the four projects my brother and I co-authored:
      On the frontlines; coping with the library’s problem patrons (Libs. Unl. — 1988)
      Literacy and the Library (Libs. Unl. — 1991)
      A signed chapter (on problem patrons) in the ALA book about solutions to problem patron situations
      A signed article on dealing with mentally ill patrons in the two-volume Encyclopedia of Homelessness.

      Like

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