It took two people to create The Giant Smugglers, a new middle grade novel about a 13-year-old boy who tries to stop an evil plot against a gentle teenage giant. Matt Solomon and Chris Pauls perfected their collaborative method on their previous novel, the zombie thriller Deck Z: The Titanic, but it still took grit to get The Giant Smugglers across the finish line. The duo did 12 drafts, then completely rewrote the manuscript after selling it to Macmillan.
The novel will be released on May 17, and it attests to Solomon and Pauls’ creative partnership. They’ll discuss their tag-team approach to fiction at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat, which takes place at Madison’s Pyle Center on June 13-17. Their presentation, “From ‘Writing Is Hard’ to ‘Hardcover Success,’”will get into the nuts and bolts of a working relationship, such as how to generate ideas and how to handle disagreements.
“We know some tricks that have helped us, like how to pull idea rabbits out of hats consistently, and we hope to share that knowledge,” Pauls says.
The Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat teaches writers of all levels how to improve their work and find a path to publishing. This year, more than 100 participants from around the country will gather in a facility overlooking Madison’s Lake Mendota. Along with special events like the Solomon and Pauls session, writing coaches and mentors will offer instruction in novels, short fiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, essays, blog writing, and poetry.
A group sport
Pauls is an editor at Cracked.com and has contributed to The Onion for over a decade. Solomon is also a longtime Onion contributor. As a writing team, it took them a while to figure out what they do well, both individually and collectively.
One important goal was learning to trust one another, even when working separately on sections of their novels.
“We agree that everything we contribute individually serves whatever we’re writing as a team,” says Pauls. “We know and trust each other’s approaches to writing.”
For Solomon, the most enjoyable part of a collaboration is the story-formulation stage. “That’s when batting ideas around the table is a group sport,” he says.
Solomon has attended his share of writers’ workshops, and he knows it’s important for presenters to offer valuable tips based on their own experiences. But he believes the best thing he and Pauls can do for Write-by-the-Lake participants is to inspire them.
“The best thing you can get is a burning desire to get the heck out of our presentation and go write something amazing,” he says.