.

Iain McLaughlin

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Claire Bartlett

Best writing partner I could have

The first few Doctor Who things I wrote, I wrote alone - at least as alone as anyone writes anything. Script editors, directors, editors, publishers, actors... everyone has their input and makes amendments and alterations. Usually that results in a much better end product.


Gary Russell, from whom I learned an immense amount and to whom I owe a vast debt of gratitude, told me to read scripts out loud to ensure that the timing was right. It's a lot easier to do that readthrough with two, so I asked Claire if she would help. We were both working as journalists and we got on very well. Some people you just click with. We hit it off very quickly. So off we popped for coffee and cake at a lunchtime and we read through a script. I think it may have been Figure of Eight, the Bernice Summerfield script that didn't didn't actually get produced. Reading through the script, Claire actually stopped a couple of times and asked really interesting questions, which led to me make changes to the script. It got me thinking that it really might be really interesting to work with someone on a script or a novel. I'd chatted to an established writer who had sounded me out about working together but I didn't think we would gel as writers. I had a gut feeling that Claire and I would. I was right.


The first things wrote all came together. The Time Hunter novella, Echoes, was first, but it was followed very quickly by the UNIT audio plays, Time Heals and The Wasting, the Short Trips short story Graham Dilley Saves the World and then the novel, The Coming of the Queen. They all cane together in roughly the space of a year. Given that we were both working as deputy editors of our respective papers, that was a lot of work but we worked together really well. 


I do get asked how we work together. Basically we go to a coffee shop or a pub, get drinks and munchies in (soft drinks, of course) and in the first case we just sit and bounce ideas about. We talk, throw ideas in, reject them, change them... we just talk and knock ideas around, bashing them into shape. I take notes when we're chatting and once we have something resembling a story I usually go away and write a synopsis. We then discuss that, make whatever amends are needed, and then, I tootle off and write the first draft. I hand that over to Claire who does the revision.  I'm a geek. I am a full-on sci-fi, horror and comics geek. Claire very much isn't. I think that's one of the reasons we work so well together. If I write something that's self-indulgent  or just too geek, she'll red pen it, she'll bin it or rewrite it. We trust each other, we're completely honest about the work and neither of us is precious. I think we work really well together. It helps that we're mates but it really also helps that we trust each other as writers and we're very different in our approaches to a story.


Claire still works as a journalist whereas I've gone freelance. She also has a couple of kids which limits the time she can give to writing projects, but I'll always jump at the chance to work with her. She's great with character, great with plot and always pulls things in so that they make sense. She's also immensely creative. Before she went off on her second maternity leave, we sat in the canteen and knocked two scripts for Kerides the Thinker into shape in about 25 minutes. They were themed about the female lead's family, letting us find more about Adrea's background. We had only planned to do one story, the first of a trilogy about Adrea's family, and I was very chuffed we'd done two. But Claire came up with a third. In two minutes she worked out an idea, outlined the characters and the basic relationships. It was like watching someone performing jazz, freestyling out that story about Adrea's brother. It was the first time I'd seen anyone work a story that quickly. I just jotted down notes. When I typed them up the script's shape was there along with plenty of dialogue.


So, while we don't have the chance to work together as often as I would like, I always jump at the chance to work with Claire. Hopefully, one day, we'll finish the huge World War 2 novel we've been planning for ages.


By the way, the pic at the top is from a splendid office Christmas lunch. We don't wear party hats all the time, honestly.

Books by Claire

1001 Completely Random Doctor Who Facts

Erimem

Return of the Queen

Containing short stories we wrote together

Graham Dilley Saves the World

in Short Trips: Past Tense

The Hopkins Brothers Affair

in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Volume III

The Time Lord's Story

in Short Trips: Repercussions

Stuff we wrote together

Doctor Who

The Veiled Leopard 

audio play

Kerides the Thinker

radio series

Erimem

The Last Pharaoh

novel

UNIT

The Wasting

audio drama

Time Hunter -  Echoes

novella

The Heart of Frankenstein

radio play