Liv Constantine on Writing as a Team

Liv Constantine's THE LAST MRS. PARRISHWriting duos develop an incredible bond as they work together to craft memorable stories. In fact, many duos consider their partners as a member of their family! But what of writing duos who are already related? We caught up with sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine, the minds behind Liv Constantine’s The Last Mrs. Parrish, to see just how many people it takes to complete a full-length novel. Take it away, Liv!

One of the questions we are asked most frequently is: How do you write together; how does that work exactly? After all, most books are written by a single individual, so it’s natural that people would wonder about the process of two authors writing a book together.

We begin with an idea, then talk, talk, talk. Our characters come  to life as we create their backgrounds, personalities, physical appearance and motives. Then the actual writing begins, chapter by chapter, as we discuss our progress and changes daily. Part of the fun of the process is volleying back and forth “what if” questions about character and story line. We know when we’ve hit on a winning formula when we both say, “yes, that’s it!” about a new direction. But besides the two of us, there is an invisible third party whose expertise makes the finished product truly shine. 

Yes, you guessed it. The EDITOR. Spelling, punctuation and grammar only scratch the surface of what a good editor does. For instance, an editor will point out that your character can’t be staring at someone when you’ve just mentioned two sentences earlier that her eyes are closed. That maybe your characters wouldn’t sit in front of a roaring fireplace in the middle of August. Or when you use the same word frequently, and it’s a prodigious one, she will tactfully suggest that perhaps a different word would read better. 

As authors, we are in the weeds, so close to the story that it can be difficult to see the larger, overarching issues that editors are able to ferret out. Because we know the backstory and each character’s background and struggles—things that never make it into the story—we sometimes forget that we haven’t shared that information with the reader. The editor can easily see the gaps in the story that need filling in as well as areas in which we’ve confused the reader by leaving out key details.  She looks for a good balance of action, exposition and dialogue, and flags any chapters that don’t have a good ending hook. 

There are other areas of expertise a good editor has under her belt. She will know that police cars used to have blue-colored emergency lights but now use both blue and red, while emergency vehicles use only red. Or that the waiting time for a marriage license in Maryland is three days––not two––and that Black Eyed-Susans don’t bloom in May. These might seem like small details, but getting them wrong can put off your reader. The editor, much like a jeweler, takes the cut and faceted gem and gives it its final polish and refinement.

The Last Mrs. Parrish  will be available in digital and print on October 17. Digital copies start at $12.99, grab yours here: Amazon | BN | Google Play | iBooks | Kobo. And if you’d like to be kept in a constant state of suspense this Halloween season, why not stop by our Everything Mystery page?

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