When I sat down to write the latest book in my Frank Rozzani Detective Series, Frank Immersed, I had no idea that I would be expanding my writing horizons by working with a partner. My good friend, Kent Arceneaux is a renaissance kind of guy. Besides being a firefighter/paramedic, he also paints, cooks, sings, is an entrepreneur, and also writes. My wife and I met Kent and his wife Shannon when our wives worked together. This was nearly 20 years ago and we have been friends since.
If anyone else had approached me about collaborating on a book, I would have been nervous, but I know Kent’s work ethic and how he brings 110% to everything he does. I decided to give it a try and I’m very glad I did.
I have collaborated with others professionally as part of my day job. I have also collaborated with others in the area of music. The difference is, when you collaborate on something artistic, egos and preferences can interfere and make it a painful process.
On this collaboration, Kent and I worked together very well. We met a few times at a Starbucks to strategize, but most of our collaboration was via email and text messages. He would write during those late nights at the firehouse and I would write on airplanes and in hotel rooms.
Somehow, we stitched together a story that is a blend of his protagonist, Jim Mason, an ex Navy SEAL and my detective duo of Frank Rozzani and Clifford “Jonesy” Jones. These characters work together on a case that puts them on a more international stage than my characters are used to. We were able to blend these things together and send one of the cleanest, most complete books to my editor at about 30,000 words more than I usually write.
I thought I would list some of the things that I learned for those of you considering collaboration:
- Use an outline – I’m usually someone that doesn’t outline and this works for me as an individual writer. Kent and I found that using an outline, with days in the chronology of the story assigned to the chapters, helped out a lot as we jumped around and wrote different parts of the book. I found that, when we deviated from this, parts of the story would end up out of order.
- Pick a writing style that is consistent – I’ve developed a certain style with the Frank Rozzani books. The characters bend the rules. They have romantic relationships, but there are no sex scenes in the books (write what you know). There is violence, but it’s not gratuitous. As I blended Kent’s and my writing, I made sure that everything fit into those basic rules. My goal was to make the book sound like it has one author. There are chapters that I wrote completely and those that Kent wrote completely. There are also chapters where both of us contributed. As I did the final edit before sending it to my editor, I tried to smooth out the edges so that it looked like one author wrote it all. This process became easier as we went through the book. I think that I picked up some of Kent’s talent for writing action and he infused his writing with some of the wise-ass humor that I like to use.
- Be kind to your editor – I acted as a first cut editor on this book. I corrected all of the punctuation and grammar issues that I could find. I did this as we progressed as it was easier to do this chapter by chapter as I blended our work. I then did something I rarely do, I read the entire book and edited it a second time before it went to my wonderful, patient editor, Catherine Violando. When she sent it back to me, I was amazed at how clean it came back. I think I will do this on my solo work in the future.
- Listen to each other’s ideas – Kent and I pretty much agreed on most aspects of the book. His characters have a military background that is a bit more ruthless than the background of the ex-cop and attorney that make up my detective duo of Frank and Jonesy. Instead of trying to make either of our characters something they weren’t meant to be, we let them be who they are and do what they do. This seemed to work well.
Overall, this was a great experience. Kent has a great future as a writer. Look for his solo work down the road. I asked him to put together a bio so that I could tell my blog followers about him and he was humble as always. Here is a bit about Kent:
Kent Arceneaux is a Professional Firefighter / Paramedic and has always had a passion for helping people. He has a vivid imagination and loves to write as well as paint and draw. Kent finds that writing is his escape from the stresses of the job and the memories that are embedded in his mind. He was born and raised in the bayous of South Louisiana, but now resides in Ponce Inlet, Florida with his wife, three beautiful daughters and their Chocolate Lab, Abaco. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys cooking Cajun cuisine. (Editor’s note – His jambalaya is the best I’ve ever had)