After taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, things were back to what passes for normal yesterday, which meant yet another episode of the Sunday G&T Show, hosted by friends Nick Minecci and Terry Lynn Shull!
The topics were plentiful this time around, with the discussion bouncing from a recap and review of Trek Nation, the Trek-related documentary by Rod Roddenberry which began airing on the Science Channel last week, to the latest happenings from various corners of the Trek franchise, to a truly surreal moment when Nick reveals that he’s seen all of the Twilight movies.
Also, we learn that Terry could make for a pretty sexy female computer voice in the 23rd century (“Computed and recorded…dear.”). There’s also some banter about the latest news involving the next Star Trek film, for which bits and bites of information continue to ricochet around the internet. The latest reports have Benecio del Toro playing Khan, but not really, but maybe he is, but he’s definitely not. Oh, and the script is done. Or, almost done. Or pretty close to done, or not even started, depending on who’s asking and doing the answering.
Yeah. Gonna be a long eighteen months until this flick hits theaters.
What’s that? You’re not here for that? You want to read about the latest “Ask Dayton” segment? Well, all-righty then. This week’s question:
When writing in collaboration as you have done with Kevin, how do you split the writing tasks? What is the process? Do the two of you map out how you want the story to go, who writes what, etc, and merge them into one story?
Also, do you watch old episodes or read the novels of others (like David Alan Mack, Peter David, etc) and have something small jump out at you that you want to expand on into a full novel?
Many years ago, scientists working at a top secret government facility set out to create the perfect representation of humanity. Combining genetic traits cultivated from each of forty-seven male donors, the scientists took the resulting reproductive catalyst and implanted it into the womb of the woman who would carry this very remarkable pregnancy to term. She eventually gave birth to a baby boy who would grow up to be a physically and mentally superior specimen, capable of feats far beyond normal humans. With strength of body, mind, and spirit, his heroic exploits have since become the stuff of legend.
Another result of that same experiment which before now has never been revealed is that the mother also gave birth to a pair of twins. This was an unexpected development, catching the scientists completely by surprise. At first believing their efforts had yielded not one but three genetically superior humans, they ultimately realized this was not the case. The first child possessed all of the vigor, intellect, and purity of spirit the scientists had hoped would imbue their wondrous creation. Meanwhile, all the leftover shit was baked into his two siblings, who eventually grew up to become a pair of Star Trek novel writers named Dayton and Kevin.
Joined at the brain, these two walking, talking testaments to those who wish to do away with the written word have, over the course of more than a decade, seen fit to cast upon an undeserving readership an endless stream of banality and ineptitude. How do they do it? While their writing process has been likened to a pack of rabid chimpanzees flinging their own feces at a canvas, in truth there actually is some method to the madness. Now, for something like the fiftieth or sixtieth time, and as a so very not-exclusive service to the G&T Show audience, we present to you this version of “How Dayton and Kevin Write.”
Dayton writes the verbs, Kevin writes the nouns. They outsource the adverbs, and pick up adjectives from lonely housewives trolling Craigslist. Everything else is sort of like spices and seasonings. In fact, those come in small envelopes stapled to their book contracts, like those packets of flavor powder that make Ramen noodles taste a little less like parboiled shoe laces.
Okay, okay. I get it. You want a serious answer to this question. The truth is that yes, Kevin and I work together to map a story from beginning to end, then figure out how to divide the labor so far as the actual writing goes. Sometimes the split is easy, such as a framing story and flashbacks, or a defined A-plot/B-plot structure that allows us to do a lot of writing without worrying about stepping on each other’s toes. There are times when one of us is really drawn to writing for particular characters, and so we’ll divvy up chapters or scenes with that in mind. Once the actual writing is underway, we spend a good bit of time editing each other’s work, making sure everything flows together and hopefully sounds like one person wrote it, rather than two.
As for the second part of the question, yes, we often pick up something from an episode or another novel or short story and think, “Hey, there’s a story idea.” For example, we took one plot point from the third Star Trek: Vanguard novel, David Mack’s Reap the Whirlwind, and expanded it so that it ended up being a driving force for all of the subsequent novels in the series. This came as something of a surprise to us, given the fact that Mack tends to kill anyone and anything with the bad luck to be included in one of his stories. I guess we just got lucky.
Indeed, “lucky” is a word that could be used to describe not just the career we’ve enjoyed, but also that we’ve been able to hang together as a writing team for so long. It helps that we have styles and approaches to storytelling that tend to compliment each other. I’m normally the one who tends to the “big picture” aspects of the story and making sure the various plot trains stay on their proper tracks. I like to write action sequences, whereas Kevin’s strengths lay in characterization and making sure the inhabitants of our stories act, sound, and feel like real people with whom readers can relate. Though all of that sounds like a formula, in all honesty the process is never really the same from project to project, and each story ends up being a learning experience to some degree.
“But Dayton,” I can hear someone shouting from the audience, “what happens if you disagree on something? What then?”
Per the terms of our contract, a “best-of-three” duel using the tournament rules for “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” is used to resolve all disputes.
You can hear Nick read the answer as a segment on the show each week, or check out the replay/download options: The G&T Show 24: Trek Nation and the Star Trek Girl.
As always, many thanks once again to Nick and Terry for including me in on the madness!