Writing Together – How Does It Work?

Hi, my name’s Lorraine Campbell and together with my sister Pam Burks, I write women’s fiction under the name of Ellie Campbell, blending contemporary themes with humor, drama, romance and mystery.  As introduction I want to answer the question everyone seems to ask us:

blog post 1

How the hell do you manage writing together?

Well, we can’t answer for other writing teams but perhaps it’s no coincidence that they’re often intimately connected — husband and wife (Nicci French, Dick Francis), father and son (Dick Francis again), mother and daughter (Lily Herne, P.J. Tracy), mother and son (Charles Todd). Even Ellery Queen’s famous mysteries were written by two cousins.

Pam and Lorraine 3 and 5

You might say Pam and I started collaborating since we were 3 and 5. Poor Pam, as youngest was coerced to play Robin to my Batman, Tonto to my Lone Ranger, Will Scarlett to my Robin Hood, as we rampaged around Edinburgh, sharing fantasy adventures and laughs, while defeating countless ‘baddies’. And no doubt the sibling power struggle kept the creative juices flowing just as they do today. So after each had published about 70 short stories independently, it wasn’t such a far stretch to decide to team up for a longer work.

It probably helps too that Pam and I live thousands of miles apart, sending our master script by email, thrashing out plots by telephone. Imagine the sisterly tensions and squabbles if we shared an office! The mighty Atlantic softens disagreements, provides time to reflect on the story’s needs, rather than cling to some precious piece of writing or preconceived notions of a scene or character.

Pam and Lorraine photo boothPam and Lorraine Photobooth 2

As anyone with a great editor can affirm, a change or cut may feel like a limb amputation and yet be the making of the manuscript. Neither of us would push something the other hated but we let the little things slide. We share a common goal – to write the best story our joined minds can produce. Even if that means ruthlessly going ahead and killing each other’s darlings as well as our own.

And now for the best bit – it’s fun!

We laugh, spark up ideas, offer encouragement. It’s rewarding not to wait until the book’s end before someone appreciates that hilarious or heart wrenching scene you struggled with. It’s great to be able to turn the work over to your partner, to admit, ‘Help, I’m stuck, can you think of anything for this?’ and exciting to see what comes through email each day.

If novel-writing is a marathon, with our seven hour time difference, we are running a relay race, passing on the baton as one goes to bed and the other arises. With social media, Pam is better at keeping up with our Twitter and Facebook followers and I write many of the blog posts. We hope the enjoyment and stimulation we feel seeps into our writing.  And so far, with 5 novels published and another coming out in early 2016, ‘Ellie Campbell’ has provided a common ground, a shared voice and an extra bond to two wayward sisters.

Our First (and only) Book Launch

9 thoughts on “Writing Together – How Does It Work?

  1. Thanks for posting this, Lorraine and Pam. I can’t imagine collaborating and so have always been fascinated as to how you make it work. (For myself, I think it would be me trying to get my own way all the time and wanting to work on my own …:-) )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue
      Sometimes we push for our own way but at the end of the day if one of us doesn’t like the direction the other wants to go in then it probably won’t work. We have to try and be tolerant. That’s where the distance helps 🙂


  2. Fascinating post. I’ve always wondered about the nuts and bolts of your writing partnership. It must be lovely to have someone share your delight in a scene you’ve got just right or to give a suggestion for one that’s not working.
    How often do you actually manage to meet up in real life? And when you do, do you talk about your writing or is it more of a sisters catching up time?

    Liked by 1 person

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