Monday, February 21, 2011

Guest Post: A Writing Team

A Writing Team

We, David and Jack, have been writing together for more years than we can easily remember. It started with a  humorous tale with the working title of Chunnel BC, it concerned Roman plans for a tunnel beneath the English Channel because Julius Caesar became seasick outside of the Mediterranean. It never even made it to the publisher but as a first attempt, it was good fun and cemented our friendship.

In the years since then, we have continued the historical theme with a serious novel leading to the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Britain, a medieval mystery and a WWII story. There have also been fantasy and science fiction novels – built on a shared admiration of Jack Vance’s work – and most recently, a political thriller: 1/1:Jihad-Britain. Work in progress includes a historical fantasy and a modern-day crime/mystery novel.

We have written all of these novels as a team. The writing model is one of repeated layers. Typically, after discussing the main sweep of the plot for a new book, Jack might begin writing and pass a week’s work on to David who rewrites it, checking facts in some cases, questioning flights of fancy in others and adding 10% to 20% new material. Once the initial draft is completed, it goes back to Jack, back again to David, a process repeated until we are both satisfied and at each stage, material is added or changed, phrasing is amended.

The model varies, of course. The main input may come from either author but one rule remains paramount: if either of the team dislike something, it gets pulled.

It works for us. In this case, two people writing together generate far more than twice as much fun.

Our latest release: 1/1:Jihad-Britain, began as an idea put forward by David and thought about for some time by Jack. Eventually, David wrote what is now some of the opening prologue and also the road to the radicalisation of Fahkri.

The book raised some quite unpleasant questions. How does a young person reach the conviction that killing himself and others is some sort of solution? How do religious organisations come to the absolute conviction that their view of life is the only right view and that violence will change the mind of the rest of the world? Research into these attitudes took us only part way. The fundamental differences seem to be in  attitudes to others: the unimportance of the individual versus the people. Is this born out of the tribal way of life left behind by the West? We have to remember that only some 30%-40% of the World has lived a democratic way of life for any significant time; not so surprising then that societies are content to let minorities or individuals do their thinking for them.

We differed on what we considered important themes. We can both point to parts of the book which are particularly our own work. The difficulties suffered by Brian, a self-employed electrician, was written by Jack and may be more in tune with UK readers than the rest of the world. David wrote of an escape of 40 or so prisoners from St. Kilda – Britain’s answer to Guantanamo Bay – trying to show that Moslems are not somehow a different species from Westerners.

Both these examples of writing were edited by the other author and both passages gave birth to later episodes not envisaged in the original manuscript.

So, perhaps accretion is a better description than layering. Whatever, these two guys enjoy the work; it’s kept them closer than most brothers and both know that it is the readers who make the book a success, not the writers.

1/1 Jihad Britain

Jack and David’s books can be seen and purchased at and even more at and at Amazon. A video for 1/1:Jihad:Britain can be seen at Flicker by visiting among a number of video hosting sites.

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