Monday, November 16, 2009

Partners in Crime: Mark Zubro on Foolproof

Mystery Readers Journal had two issues on Partners in Crime several years ago. The first Partners in Crime issue focused on mysteries with partner sleuths. The second Partners issue focused on writing partnerships. There were several articles by authors who wrote with a partner that detailed how and why they did this. There were a few 'group' written novels. Foolproof is a novel written by three mystery authors, three friends. I asked Mark Zubro to blog today about this novel, how it came about and how he, Jeanne Dams and Barbara D'Amato wrote 'together'. This is the first of a series of guest blogs about writing together.

Mark Zubro:
Barbara D’Amato, Jeanne Dams, and I have written a book together. The title is Foolproof, due out in December. I’m Mark Zubro, and I’ve had twenty-one books published; twelve in the Tom and Scott amateur sleuth series and nine in the Paul Turner police detective series.

The idea for Foolproof came about when I woke up in the middle of the night or early in the morning of December 26, 2003. I wrote a page of notes about a possible plot to steal the US election electronically. I then emailed these notes to Barb and Jeanne that same morning.

Barbara, Jeanne, and I were in a reading group together, had been for years. That is we get together every few weeks and read what we are writing out loud to each other. These are serious working meetings. We discussed the project at our meetings and by email, and by early February 2004 we had agreed to write the book and had set out a series of guidelines on how we would proceed. Among the most important of these was the notion that we would discuss at great length and in enormous detail precisely where the plot was going to go. This was designed to help eliminate creative differences in the writing. While we didn’t have a formal contract among themselves, we found assigning responsibilities reasonably easy.

The three of us have known each other and worked together for many years, and formed a warm friendship. The one absolute rule we established from the start for Foolproof was that if at any time the project threatened the friendship, the project would be scrapped. It never happened, thank goodness.

The best ways to describe our working together are methodical, logical, and professional. At numerous intervals we would check what we’d written against what we planned and either revise the work or the plan or both to meet the needs of our collective imaginations.

We continued to meet and discuss frequently but also began writing. By April 13, 2004 Barb had emailed a proposed opening. By May 10, 2004 character sketches of all major characters were being emailed back and forth, each adding, revising, including new thoughts.

This process of reading each section out loud continued throughout the entire manuscript preparation so that eventually the entire thing had been read out loud in the presence of all three. Reading one’s work out loud, we all agree, makes for a far better manuscript.

The final preparation took five eight-to-twelve hours days of working on the manuscript, attempting to polish it to perfection line-by-line and verb-by-verb. So after three years and hundreds and hundreds of emails and innumerable meetings we finished the book. It is set to be published December 22, almost six years to the day from the first sent email.

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