Collaborating With Myself

Worlds I’ve Made My Own

As those of you who read my Friday Fragments know, over the last few months, I’ve been re-reading the entire Firekeeper saga.  One reason is because I’m grooming the books for a new release as high quality e-books, each of which will include an original, never before published essay about some aspect of the series.

The other reason I’m doing this re-read is that I’m re-familiarizing myself with Firekeeper and her world.  The first book in the series, Through Wolf’s Eyes, was published in 2001.  It was written about two years before.  The sixth (and at that point final) novel in the series, Wolf’s Blood, was published in 2007 and, again, was completed close to a year before.

Now that I’m writing Wolf’s Search, I want to make certain I have all the little details of the series fresh in my mind.  Of course I remember the major elements, but these books take place in a rich and multi-faceted world, full of complex cultures and even more complicated people.  I have a good memory, but it’s not perfect.  Then, too, I’ve thought a lot about those characters and what might have happened to them in the years since I turned in Wolf’s Blood.  I needed to separate out my speculations from what actually made it onto the page.

As I was working my way through Wolf’s Blood last week, scribbling down small notes here and there whenever I came upon an interesting tidbit, I realized that the process was very similar to what I do before writing a story set in another writer’s universe.

I’ve done several of these.  Probably the best known of my collaborations are those I’ve done with my buddy David Weber, set in his Honorverse.  I’ve written two novels with him (Fire Season and Treecat Wars), as well as contributing  three novellas and a yet unpublished short story to Honorverse anthologies.  I’ve written a Berserker short story with Fred Saberhagen.  Stories set in another author’s universe include a couple of stories for S.M. Stirling (one “Draka”; one “Emberverse”), a story for the Golden Reflections anthology (set in the universe of Fred Saberhagens’s Mask of the Sun), a short story “Child of the Night” in a Jack Williamson tribute anthology, and  a story set in Larry Niven’s “Man-Kzin War” series.

And, of course, there are Donnerjack and Lord Demon, the two novels I completed posthumously for my much beloved Roger Zelazny.

For each of these pieces, no matter how long or how short, I immersed myself in the original writer’s prose and, if appropriate, specific universe.  When I do this, I’m not just looking for information, I’m looking for elements of style, tone, and pacing.  I want the reader to feel they’re stepping into that particular universe, not a pale imitation.  Sure, my take will be a bit different from the original author’s, but I want this to be the difference between where in the room you’re standing, not a completely different house.

This week I realized that, as I am writing Wolf’s Search, I’m collaborating with my past self – the Jane Lindskold who lived between 1999 and 2007, a woman who during that time spent at least part of that year immersed in the world of Firekeeper and her associates.  Collaborating with myself is sort of neat.  It’s also more than a little weird.

My modern self definitely wants to bring what I’ve learned in the years since 2007 to Wolf’s Search.  After all, I’ve written eight or nine other novels, as well as many short stories.  If I didn’t learn anything in doing that, then I’ve just been spinning my wheels, and I’m not that sort of person.  At the same time, the Firekeeper Saga has its own voice, and I want that voice to be present and familiar, even though this is going to be a new story.

Now that I’ve finished my re-read, I’ll be writing more quickly.  Wolf’s Search is already becoming a deeper, more complex story than I had originally anticipated.  But that is something to talk about later…

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10 Responses to “Collaborating With Myself”

  1. John C Says:

    Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your process. I haven’t explicitly examined your writing style across your career, but felt a difference in each of your series. Could you expound further on the types of style notes that you make for collaborations? Have you made similar style notes for working with your yesterday-self on the Firekeeper stories?

    • janelindskold Says:

      I’m not making style notes for working on Firekeeper. That’s more like listening to an album you obsessed over, then put aside, and when you play it again, you still know it by heart.

      For the others… It has varied. Weber writes long info dumps in conversation. Roger had certain verbs he liked. Little things like that. Oddly, collaboration is the one place where my previous life as an English PhD, lit crit person comes in very handy.

      • John C Says:

        Thanks for sharing this!

        After a long break, I am attempting a hobbyist’s return to writing fiction, and have found my writing style transformed not only by lack of practice, but also by the reams of code and technical documentation I’ve read and written in the intervening time.

        I don’t have any illusions that my youthful style was worth keeping, but I am certain that what works well for me in documentation doesn’t make for engaging narrative prose.

      • janelindskold Says:

        I’m glad you’re trying writing again and feeling free to think of it as a hobby activity. That’s going to free you up tremendously!

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    I’m really excited about a new Firekeeper book! I’ve re-read the series several times and I always find something new or different. Not only is the *world* dense and rich, but I am a different person entering that world each time. At least, I hope so. It would be sad to, as you said, spin your wheels.

  3. Daniel M Says:

    I have also collaborated with myself when updating reports after a few years. I can only imagine what it is like after a decade or more!

  4. cathywritesfantasy Says:

    I’m so excited to hear there’s a new Firekeeper book in the works! I’m going to backtrack through your blog posts to see what else I can glean about it… and now I have to try to find time to reread the series in preparation, too. I remember the most traumatic part for my teenage heart was when Derian’s horse got eaten. Why that stuck with me–out of everything else dramatic that happens–I’m not sure, haha.

    • janelindskold Says:

      I’m glad Roanne’s fate hit you. It was really, really hard for me to write. But it fit the situation, so I listened to my Muse.

      As for the next book… It will be out when I’m done with it. So, no scheduled date and, unlike some writers, I don’t chat about content until it’s done.

      Sign up for my mailing list so you won’t miss an announcement!

  5. dnprice01 Says:

    So excited for this book!!!!!

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