Writing, like life, rarely goes exactly according to plan. When I set up my "Two On, One Off" writing schedule with every third book being outside of my usual genre of dark spiritual thrillers, I thought I'd be writing Westerns, comedies, maybe a romance. But for some inexplicable reason, when it came time to pen my sixth novel, something compelled me to write a survival story about a group of guys trying to escape from a deep sea oil rig inferno.
The problem was, I didn't know anything about the processes or people involved in the oil drilling industry. And this was one subject where late-night Wikipedia runs wouldn't cut it. The mountain of terminology was staggering, not to mention the slang that would be necessary to make the characters believable. Yet this was a story that I felt I had to tell, so I threw myself at the mercy of the internet, hoping for help.
I posted invitations on several oil industry forums, asking for help. Many weeks passed with no answer, and I resigned myself to long hours of research and the likelihood of writing a book that anyone with industry knowledge would recognize as an amateur effort. So you can imagine my delight when I opened my email inbox one day and found a message from a guy named Michael Anatra, a drilling expert with years of experience. After sending him rough outlines and batting around ideas, the writing began.
It soon became clear that Mr. Anatra was more than just an expert consultant; he was my co-author. Sometimes I would write a scene as I imagined it and he would tweak it and make corrections (though I was proud of myself on several occasions when he would only correct a term here and there, even though I felt like I had no idea what I was writing about), and other times he would write a scene and I would be the editor/proofreader. He clearly knows his stuff and he has a bit of writing skill himself, which helps to light my load.
This is my first experience writing with someone else and it's been a blast. I'm learning so much, and having expert support certainly relieves some of the pressure in writing such a daunting story. After a little more than a month, we're about 20% through the first draft, and I'm hoping to have everything wrapped up by Christmas. It's great taking a break from the dark stuff and by the time this is done, I'll have my batteries recharged to jump back on my usual path. Until then, I'll enjoy the ride and see where this journey takes me.