Thursday, 17 November 2016


So the Scribbles have been a little quiet in the last two weeks as I've been recovering from the chest infection.

Thank goodness, I'm feeling a lot better; this week I've managed to get through the week without a mid-afternoon nap and I've even had music on and managed to have enough breath in me to sing along. Cold air still makes me cough, and there's a very slight ache in my ribs left over, but I think we can safely say I'm pretty much there.

So - back to blogging! And the subject today is...collaboration.

One of the things that popped up on my facebook feed was a link to That Thorn Guy's blog. In case you haven't read him yet, Mark Lawrence IS That Thorn Guy, although That Thorn Guy's blog is more information about Mark and his writing than his own blog, per se. (I became a fan of Mark's writing after reading Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire Trilogy, on a whim, and I love the way he interacts with readers and his fans.)

Anyway, on the blog at the moment is a collaborative story, written by eight authors with a few names you might recognise. As well as Mark, the list includes Miles Cameron, Sebastien de Castell, John Gwynne, Conn Iggulden, Jane Johnson, Peter Newman and Garth Nix. It's a great read - I laughed out loud in several places and loved the earthyness of it and the end twist - but it's also a competition. Basically, the reader has to identify which author wrote which section of the story. My own entry is a complete shot in the dark - as I noted in the comments, I'm not fussed about winning. It was enough of a prize to simply read the story!

But it reminded me of my own involvement with collaborative stories. There was one about the Spanish treasure hunters of Aztec gold, and another about vampires. Both totally NOT what I usually write about! I found them great fun though, because they brought together a variety of different styles of writing and were a real challenge. The end results were something quite unique that all the participants could take ownership of.

Collaborating on stories like this seems to work with any size of group - the smallest one I took part in had only four authors involved, the most: eight. The order of writers was decided up front, and we kept cycling round until the story came to a conclusion.

However, there were problems. First, you have to have a good way of contacting the next in line to let them know it's their turn. If they only answer email once a week, it slows things down. You have to keep the momentum going. As the story progresses, more characters and places and problems are introduced and there is a danger that instead of keeping the story focused, it becomes a sprawling beast with far too many people and places and things happening to tie together for a satisfactory conclusion. And you often need to re-read the story so far in its entirety, otherwise you get lots of rookie continuity errors!

It's also really tempting to plan what you want to happen next - but you do so at your peril, because there could be quite a few authors changing the direction of the story to something quite different before you get your next turn. It can (and did) cause friction sometimes when authors 'lost' their storyline. It makes it important for everyone to be clear from the beginning that the story is free to go in whatever direction each author chooses to take it. So you end up not being able to plan, which doesn't sit well with natural planners.

In fact, as I think about it, I'd love to do another collaboration. Anyone out there want to join me? I'll start it, pass it on and then if you send your piece back, I'll forward the story as it stands to the next person on the list, they add to it, send it back, I forward it... And then I'll blog the end result and the names of all the participants but as a list.

Are you up for it? If you are, message me your email on and we'll get started... Happy Scribbling!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to do this. I am doing AlanP's 'Now & Then.' comp so maybe at a later date?