Making A Writing Partnership Work

by Jacques Ravenne and  Shadow_Ritual (1)

Eric Giacometti and I have written nine books together in a series that begins with Shadow Ritual, which was just released in English. It’s a curious experience, one that requires organization…and diplomacy.

Eric and I take about nine months to write a novel: one month for the outline, two months of research, and the six remaining months for writing.

When we come up with the outline, we see each other nearly every day. We set up the plot, balancing narration and characters, weaving in suspense, planning the cliffhangers. It’s meticulous work and often raises more questions than answers. At the same time, it’s a fascinating phase, as we watch a structure rise out of nothingness. It is both fragile and seductive, and in it, the novel will take root and blossom. It is also technical, and we use a lot tools, from Excel sheets to mind maps, to help us better visualize the novel’s structure and see where it could be unbalanced. For example, maybe there is a major character who doesn’t appear often enough in the narration and that quickly becomes problematic. We can fix the problem right away. It’s like being a goldsmith.

When we go into the research phase, the work is very solitary, because we have already defined who does what. It’s very exciting work, a mix of web research, hours spent in libraries, and travel, often abroad, to soak up an atmosphere or prepare descriptions. There are intense moments, like for one of the novel that focuses on Casanova, when we absolutely had to go spend some time in Venice. The hard life of a writer.

Then comes the longer, harder work of writing. The novels in the series after Shadow Ritual are built around two plot lines—one is set in modern day times with our protagonist, Inspector Antoine Marcas, while the other is historical, and can take place in the Middle Ages or during the French Revolution, for example, depending on the story. We each are responsible for one of the plot lines, but the two have to be written at the same time in order to include foreshadowing and other effects that work like a system of echoes, allowing our readers to go from one period of time to another smoothly.

So, at the same time, we each write two chapters, which we then exchange by email. This way, we can follow in real time the progression of the narrative, suggest changes and smooth out effects. This work also includes a key phase of rewriting. Each of us has our own style. Eric, with his background as a reporter, likes short, nervous sentences, while I’m more of an academic, and prefer long, dense sentences. We don’t want our readers to feel like they are changing pace or tone, so we rewrite each other’s text. This requires a delicate touch, as writers are always very sensitive about their writing. Fortunately, Eric and I have known each other since we were teenagers, and we resolved our ego problems some time ago.

In the end, we write our novels twice. So if you thought that two writers could write faster and more easily than one, you were wrong. In fact, you multiply the questions and problems…by two.

Picture by Melania Avanza
Picture by Melania Avanza

Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne are bestselling French thriller writers, with a nine-book series that has sold 2 million copies worldwide and translated into 17 languages. In March the series made its debut in English with Shadow Ritual, an electrifying thriller about the rise of extremism. Eric is also an investigative report who has covered a number of high-profile Freemason scandals, and Jacques, himself a Freemason, is also a literary scholar who has written a biography of the Marquis de Sade and edited his letters. Together they have created this very successful series about a French Freemason cop. Douglas Preston calls Shadow Ritual “phenomenal.”

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9 thoughts on “Making A Writing Partnership Work

  1. Elizabeth – Thanks for hosting Jacques.
    Jacques – Thanks for sharing your partnership experiences. I think the key really has to be a lot of regular communication (even when you’re doing the solo parts of your work). And of course you’re right that ‘writer’s ego’ doesn’t work very well for a partnership. I wish you both much success.

  2. I couldn’t have a writing partner. I have a hard enough time getting along with myself.

  3. I write novels on my own but I have written about five plays in partnerships – for the musicals that means one libretto partner (I’m the other) and two music writers. That’s a lot of opinions and we also use anything to make it easier – my fave being mind maps. The partner I work with closest is my libretto partner for musicals. We fight and argue and drive everyone around us mad but at the end of the day we love each other and just consider that our fiery process. Thanks for this guys – these books sound fascinating and thank you Elizabeth for bringing them to us!

  4. Thanks Elizabeth for posting this. I was lucky enough to work with both these authors closely as we did the translation. It’s really interesting to see how they work together, and how we then could work together for the English version. We’re doing another one in the series, planned for early 2016, and I can’t wait.

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