Carry and Lysith are friends who met as teens and started writing together. Today we are talking about their collaborative work-in-progress The Wanderers’ Tale, which started out as a fan fiction project.
How did you two meet?
Carry: We met at secondary school in 2009. We had a gym class together in that year. I cannot remember exactly how we started talking. I’m very shy and I don’t easily approach strangers.
Lysith: I remember that we would be sitting on the opposite sides of the ‘break’ area, she would be reading and I was mostly listening to music and daydreaming/working on scenarios for class. But we never spoke to each other during that year. Because I was the only girl in my senior class in high school I was placed with the photography girls for my weekly two hours of gym. This is where I met Carry, who turned out to be the girl on the other side.
It did help that we fancied the same bands and clothing style (or, well, at least more or less).
How did you decide to work together on a writing project?
Carry: I think it is because we both like writing. I know that we didn’t intend it to be something serious with an aim of getting it published in the future. I do know that it happened on Monday December 10 2012. I had an evening class at University and chatting was more interesting than Cultural History of the Low Countries. As soon as I arrived home, I wrote the first little piece of the story.
Lysith: I’m actually a filmmaker by heart but this also means writing stories that I want to tell through images later on. When I was working on the plot for a short for a college assignment we once more discussed writing. We had joked about doing something together for quite a while but that week we took it to actually starting a round robin fan fiction. It took us about 5 months to come to the point where we decided it had more potential than just a fanfic.
Can you describe your collaborative writing process for us? How do you decide which one of you does what?
Lysith: In the beginning we just went round robin for everything, no pre discussion about a plot or about who did what. Just write what we thought that fitted to the story.
Now while we’re nearing the end of the fan fiction and are preparing for the actual first draft of the first book we kind of determined which areas we had. Then we divided them by picking the ones we like the most. Luckily we both have rather different things that peak our interest. Some concepts are Carry’s brainchild, others are mine. We kind of divided everything rather fast and easy.
Carry: It’s surprisingly easy…. Each of us has certain domains within the world building process, as example I am doing religion and magic, and we divided the characters. For the actual writing process we both have our point of views characters. The tricky part is that everything has to fit nicely together to get a functioning world.
What have been some of the challenges the process?
Carry: I am not very patient. Waiting for my turn to write can be very frustrating, especially if I have nothing else to work on. I tried to combine working on another story together with this, but I discovered that elements from one story seep into the other.
Another challenge is that you might have to make sacrifices. I can come up what is to me a brilliant idea, yet my co-writer might not like it. So far we’ve always managed to come fairly easy to an agreement.
What probably is going to pose a problem is our writing style. We haven’t paid much attention to it yet, but a book has to form one coherent story and as a reader you don’t want to tumble into a completely different writing style every other chapter. We’ll have to work hard on making our writing style as similar as possible!
Lysith: For me one of the biggest challenges is to keep up a certain writing pace so Carry won’t get annoyed by my slacking…. We have quite different views on certain issues [and] we are both stubborn as hell….
What about the rewards of writing together?
Carry: What I enjoy the most is the shared creative process. Talking about elements of a story often gives me fresh inspiration or helps me solve a problem. Your co-writer knows all the details of your story and it makes talking so much easier.
Another great thing is that you have a build in support system. Writing can be very tough. I doubt my writing skills a lot and sometimes I just want to give up. I have the bad habit of comparing myself to the authors I enjoy reading. My co-writer always manages to cheer me up!
Lysith: One of the rewards is the creative expansion you’re experiencing. I bet there are a lot of things I wouldn’t even have considered if it weren’t for Carry to bring them up and I do think that’s something that also goes the other way around.
But the biggest reward will be the book, a finished novel!
The Wanderers’ Tale started out as fan-fiction, but you’re currently rewriting it as an original story. What work inspired the original fan-fiction piece and how are you reworking it?
Lysith: Well we started a fan fiction with some of our favourite musicians more than basing it on an existing work. We portrayed our main characters at first as how we thought they act in real life. Later on all of them started to get their own characteristics, weaknesses and even their own demands. I think at a certain point in this fan fiction we already came to the conclusion that we were merely using the names and ‘image’ of the artists as how our characters looked but that we weren’t writing about the singers/musicians we like anymore. (Or at least that’s how it feels for me.)
Carry: Because we only used characters as the fan-fiction element, it is easier to rework it. We only need to replace the protagonists with original characters. In the beginning we didn’t take the fan-fiction serious, it was just a way to have fun, so the writing and storytelling is horrible. There are a lot of inconsistencies. So we start out from the concept, keep the major plotlines and see how we can improve the over-all story. We’re almost starting off from scratch again. The advantage is that we know what will work and what not.
What is the story about?
Carry: The story is about four people getting lost in the forest. Somehow they end up in a whole other world, a fantasy world. They have to adapt to this world and try to find a way back home. I can’t say much more about it, because the plot isn’t definite yet.
What advice would you give other writers considering working on a collaborative novel?
Carry: Pick whoever you want to collaborate with well. You will spend a lot of time talking to each other and you need to be able to trust each other. If you can’t stand someone else playing around with your beloved characters, don’t do it. And, something very important, use a contract. Even if you’re nest friends, lovers or whatever, always put everything on paper. How the work is going to be divided, when what has to be finished and who’s getting how much of the profit, if there is any. This way there is no room for arguments and fights. It gives you security, both for working together and maintaining a good relationship outside the writing.
And don’t forget, working together costs a lot more time than working alone. You might not have to build a world and write a book all by yourself, but you have to approve everything your co-writer creates and writes. You don’t want to try and get a book published you don’t believe 200% in.
I would advise them to pick someone they know rather well and of whom they can take a word of criticism. You’re getting nowhere if you don’t dare to be honest to each other or try to spare their feelings.
But the main thing of everything; never let the fun get out of it.
I joined this world on a very snowy Friday in February 1991. My parents lived in a small town near Antwerp. They don’t like to stay in one place for a long time, so we moved around a lot. We even lived in Spain for about four years. I only remember the view, ice-cream and a dog from that time. When we came back to Belgium, the moving around began. I didn’t mind it. I loved exploring new places. At one point we lived in a quiet neighbourhood amongst meadows filled with horses. My passion for horses started then. Right now I have my own horse and he is my main inspiration source for the horses in my stories.
I fell in love with stories and words when I, how very cliché, read the Harry Potter series for the first time after the film came out. Not long after that I started writing. There were some short, unfinished stories and horrible fan fiction that later improved to bad fan fiction. Around that time I knew I wanted to be a writer. I just had to wait for the right story to come along and that happened not so long ago!
After trying my hand at studying game development, and finding out that it wasn’t for me, I didn’t know what to do. I only knew that I didn’t want to work. Eventually I ended up studying English and Dutch Linguistics and Literature. So far I really enjoy it and it has taught me a lot about stories, life and of course linguistics, which can always come in handy as a writer. Especially when you want to go the Tolkien way and craft your own language!
While I currently live in Belgium, I don’t think I want to remain here for the rest of my life. The Nordic countries, particularly Finland, pull me. The nature, the language, the culture and the low population density are for more appealing to me that anything here in Belgium. I need space and Antwerp feels cramped. But I try not to think too far ahead. I shall see where life will take me. I’d rather dream small and slowly build towards something big, then aim for the big dream and drown in that.
What can I say? I was born in 1992 in a small town in Belgium. I got raised in a town on the border of Belgium and The Netherlands. I adapted the artist name “Lysith Vox” at the age of 18 because my real name is a pain to be pronounced in the right way by non dutch speaking people. However lately I’m more and more changing to the shortened form of just Lysith or Lysithea for my work.
As a kid I loved being out in the woods or playing in the garden, making camp in the bamboo bush and pretending I was on some sort of exotic island after a ship wreck. Or just staring at the clouds for hours, trying to recognise as many figures as I could.
I always loved to get sucked into a good story. Maybe it was my way to escape from the daily slump my parents were living and the ‘pressure’ of having good grades. I was the bookworm of the class in elementary school. I think it’s there that I started to write my own stories. I was the twelve-year-old-trying-to-write-an-adult-detective kind of kid. When I was an early teenager my writing evolved to poetry and lyrics. Hey, I even had a band that actually used them! Later this developed to screenwriting which is the one I use the most because of my biggest passion which is film. Now I realise I just want to tell stories, whether they’re happy or sad, silly or serious. The medium I tell it through just depends on what serves the story in the best way. I’m actually a filmmaker doing a writing side project now. Maybe it’s that secret childhood dream that is coming true anyway while everyone always told me it was silly to try and publish a book.