On Common Ground: My Marriage to A Fellow Writer

My husband called me first thing in the morning.  He didn’t say good morning, simply “I finally figured out how we can do Eclipse, but it’ll involve piggybacking off of your idea.”

Well, good morning to you, too, Ismael.

Eclipse has been in creation, in one form or another, for about 20 years.  When I met Ismael, I was a high school student bent on Broadway domination and he was a writer.  He has always been a writer. So, in our early years (and, if I’m truthful, sometimes at the end of a really bad day where I’m tugging the words from my brain with industrial strength tools), I had an inferiority complex when it came to writing.  It’s not like I hadn’t been introduced to writing before Ismael.  My siblings are both writers.  But, with Ismael, I spent a lot of the early years feeling like the sidekick to his author extraordinaire.  And he did very little to help that image.  He was a little arrogant at first when it came to his writing ability.  Not that it’s undeserved.  He’s quite good.  But back then, he was a little…much.

However, my fears about the value he put into my work were somewhat incorrect, and in an effort to prove that, he brought me in on Eclipse, an idea he had been tossing around and scrapping for the last few years.  We both had our own projects and were about to go to college, so we realistically knew this was not going to happen for awhile.  We put our thoughts into a notebook and held onto it, awaiting the passage of time and work in the hopes of eventually picking it up again.

Time passed, our attitudes changed.  The writing world had smacked Ismael down a bit and he realized he still had things to learn. Meanwhile, I finished my first novel (spoiler alert – it sucked) and was feeling like I may actually be able to do this thing – I gained confidence in my writing.  By the time we ended up in a fiction writing workshop class together, we interacted with each other’s writing in a very different way.  The professor wasn’t too fond of a married couple in her class and though she allowed us to stay in the course, she made a big stink of it, refusing to let us sit next to each other and strictly demanding that we be as tough on each other’s work as we would be on anyone else’s.  I assured her that that would not be an issue at all.

She had no idea what hit her.

The semester closed with a public fiction reading.  After all of the students had read, the professor pulled Ismael and I aside and, amazingly enough, apologized for doubting us.  She said most husband and wife teams would have cringed at the idea of critiquing each other the way we did.  But in many ways, she found we were harder on each other than the other students.  She asked us if that was simply us, trying to abide by her rules.  The answer was no.  We hadn’t changed a thing about the way we look at each other’s work for the sake of the class.  We’re tough with each other by nature, out of a genuine desire to make each other the best.

It’s something that started the minute we stopped seeing Ismael as the expert and me as the apprentice and started looking at each other as equals.  That’s when living in a household with another writer became fun. Where most couples are keen to spend their evening doing…whatever other couples do…we would much rather spend our time hashing out a story.  We have a tendency to sit beside each other on our couch, in perfect silence, tapping at the keys of our respective laptops – then, inspiration strikes, launching us into conversations that can sometimes last hours.  Sometimes, we’re still discussing the same topic days later.  Character development, plot holes, fantastical world building possibilities, and sometimes, just reality. But those times are more rare.

Not only are we each other’s first beta readers, we’re there as a support system for each other, a 24 hour contact who knows exactly what it feels like when you have all of one hour to write and inspiration is just not happening.  We get to pool our resources (“Hey, bought the Writer’s Market – we’ll look through it and see which places are best for our stories.”) and pool our search power (“Look at this great article I just found on character building.”)

And then there are moments like that phone call.  After years of kicking Eclipse around, we had given up on it.  It was about vampires and though it was nothing like Twilight, that pretty much tanked our title.  Add to that the idea of vampires being done to death by this point, and the fact that certain aspects of our story were now dated, it seemed like a lost cause.  But Ismael had a brilliant idea – taking the six-novel urban fantasy story arc I had already planned, and setting Eclipse in the future of that world, making it a potential 3-book add on to the original series I’ve had in mind, with a different title, of course.  At first, I grumbled at the idea.  These were my characters and my world – I did not want to share.  He assured me that it wasn’t sharing until Book 7 and then it would be some of my characters and some originals taking over an idea we’d been kicking around since before marriage.  The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.  We spent the rest of the day texting ideas back and forth and it came together naturally.  Before I knew it, I was making an outline and plotting a series that will likely take the rest of my life to write, but it’s going to happen.

The best part of being married to a writer?  Collaboration.  Hands down.

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12 thoughts on “On Common Ground: My Marriage to A Fellow Writer

  1. ,,,being able to spend an entire evening just bouncing ideas about story stuff sounds heavenly…I might actually get more writing done if I had that. My husband tells me his teachers in high school thought his writing was pretty good…but in 30 years together I’ve never read anything he’s created that wasn’t a report of some sort, so I really have no sense of whether he actually can create anything approaching quality fiction, so I’ve never felt the slightest inclination to ‘talk’ writing with him. You’re very fortunate.

    1. Thank you! I wrote this blog as a way of showing appreciation for one of the major blessings in my life. Sometimes, opposites attract, but I have been very lucky in gaining this special collaborative relationship.

      I wonder…have you ever asked him to read anything you’ve written? If so, does he give constructive feedback?

  2. It’s important to have a partner that will not be biased and offer up constructive criticism when presented with something you have written. When completely honest, those critiques offer up some of the clearest ideas as to what your eventual fan base will be like.

  3. Pingback: Theories of a Collective Unconscious | Pieces of the Puzzle

  4. Pingback: 10 Things To Know About Me…Er…If You Want To… – Justine Manzano ~ Author

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