The things cowriting makes you Google, or at least glance at a map for. (The answer, by the way, is six hours, which tends to be a really good spread for us.)
Racheline’s going to South Africa in May for her day job, which means we’re digging out our calendars and adjusting our project schedule to take best advantage of the time zone factor.
One of the biggest challenge of cowriting is juggling not one busy schedule (family, day job, chores, commute, that annoying need for sleep) but two. Our particular cowriting team has the added factor that Racheline travels for her day job, often way outside Eastern Standard Time.
What looks like an obstacle, though (“Oh god are we even going to be awake at the same time?”) is usually a huge boon. In fact, our ability to work the timezones is a big part of how we’ve been able to write as much as we have as quickly as we have. When we’re on mismatched work and sleep cycles, there’s always someone awake and writing and our stuff moves forward pretty much 24 hours a day.
(The really tricky part is avoiding the temptation to get up at two in the morning to check my email, when I know notes will be coming through from a different continent.)
The key to making the timezones work — and it’s the same key that makes cowriting, in general, work — is planning and communication. Racheline and I keep a master spreadsheet with all of our projects, sorted by medium — novels vs. short stories vs. scripts/screenplays — and organized by due dates. When we have a time zone split coming up, we look at our spreadsheet and triage by due date and what benefits most from a big chunk of concentrated time. We come up with a plan, we write it down, and we keep our fingers crossed against disaster. (Another key to making writing work, in general, is being okay with the fact that nothing goes according to plan. Ever. But be flexible, adjust accordingly, and everything will be fine!)
As a process/tehcnology note, Racheline and I do all of our writing together in Google Docs, and all of our planning, brainstorming, and freaking out in email. We have a shared office in Philadelphia we visit together a couple of times a month, and while that’s a massive asset in terms of being able to work through a lot of edits and brainstorming quickly (can anyone say MASSIVE WHITEBOARD?) we wouldn’t be able to do a fraction of what we do without those collaborative tools.
And the magic of the Internet is, of course, that it works pretty much everywhere we’ve had occassion to be. In the nine months we’ve been writing together, we’ve put words on the page while one or the other of us have been in 13 different cities: New York City; Washington, DC; Philadelphia; Zurich; Milan; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Seattle; Rochester NY; Columbus, OH; London; Berlin; and Rome.
An added bonus of all that travel is that, as we’ve started working on more projects set in different locations, travel gets to double as research trips (I.e., Racheline and my respective trips to Los Angeles and New York City!)
And on that note: Does anyone know of anyplace cool Racheline can go when she’s in Pretoria? 🙂