How To Write As A Team

Collaborative writing may seem like an impossible option for many authors. We are by nature, usually solitary creatures who toil at our keyboards or notebooks alone, for hours and days on end.

Right? Wrong!

Writing alone absolutely has its place, but it isn’t the only option. Some of my best writing experiences to date have been the result of collaboration. My experiences began with the opportunity to join a team in the “Write-a-Book-in-a-Day” competition, raising money for The Kids’ Cancer Project. We had to write and illustrate an entire book for 8-14 year olds in 12 hours. Not only did we do it, my Northern Beaches Writers’ Group team has won three years in a row. (If you want to support our fourth effort CLICK HERE – all money goes to finding a cure for cancer)

We have now published our three award-winning collaborative novels – Scribbles in the Dark (2013), A Dolphin for Naia (2014), Rider and the Hummingbird (2015) and a fourth children’s novel is being published in late 2016. In all four publications there were between five and ten writers!

So how did we come up with a story we all wanted to write, choose characters, find a common voice? How did up to ten creative voices, unify into one?

Here are a few tips to get your collaborative juices flowing!

1. Majority Rules

It is important from the start for everyone to leave their egos at the door and understand decisions will be based on what the majority wants. Everyone should get a say, but you need to accept you’ll have to adjust what you believed was the best direction for the story if you are outvoted. If everyone is on the same page with this from the very beginning it will make the experience far more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone.

2. Choose a Leader

It is good to have someone who can work as a leader and arbiter to keep everyone moving forward. This person doesn’t necessarily have more power or more say than anyone else but can help determine when it’s time to simply make a decision.

3. Do Lots of Planning

It is crucial to do lots of planning and plotting as a group. Even if you are normally a pantser, you will need to change camps if you are collaborating. The more work you do fleshing out your characters, the more detailed your settings and the clearer the plot, the more likely it will be you find a common voice when you write. Butchers paper or a white board that is clearly visible to everyone will make this part of the process more effective and easy for people to refer back to later.

4. Divide and Conquer

Once you have done LOTS of planning and plotting, then it is time to divide up the story and start writing. Using your butchers paper or white board again, split up your story using a basic narrative arc. What are you moments of rising tension and what is your climax? How does it resolve? As you fit your plot to the story arc you will begin to see how it can be broken down into sections or chapters.

For each section write the starting point, a line about what happens and the end point of that chapter or section. That way the cliffhanger endings are clear and you have smoother flow between the chapters before and after you. Decide on your word count and then divide the story up to fit the number of writers. Then it’s time to write!

5. Read and Revise

Once everyone has written their sections of the story it is time to pull it all together. Read through from beginning to end. Don’t worry if there are gaps or inconsistencies – there will be! Just make notes and fix these when it’s time to revise. If your plotting has been thorough, you will be amazed how close to having a complete story you already are.

Revising your own chapter is a good next step but then you need to look at whole book edits. Have everyone read the book and give feedback. Once again, majority rules!

The final steps will depend on the number of writers, their experience and the group dynamic. Once the fundamentals of the story are decided then I believe having two or three people doing the final edits or proofing is a good idea.

6. Don’t be precious … it will always be your story too!

In the collaborative novel your words won’t necessarily end up printed the way you originally wrote them. Anyone who has been edited will understand that different eyes see different things – some changes you will agree with, some you won’t. Often authors can challenge edit suggestions, but when you are collaborating, sometimes the changes simply need to be made. Remember, majority rules! However, even if changes have been made don’t forget you will have been instrumental in giving your creative baby life. You were part of the process and it is still equally your creation, regardless of any changes that have been made.

So find some like-minded writers and give it a go. What have you got to lose?

Oh and don’t forget to CLICK HERE and sponsor the NBWG team for WABIAD 2016 … or buy one of our books … profits go to The Kids’ Cancer Project and work to finding a cure for childhood cancer.

Happy writing!

 

 

A Literary Boost – NaNoWriMo and More!

Writing can be a very lonely process and even the most successful authors often describe periods of self-doubt. I am learning quickly it is the people around you that can keep you going when you begin to question your path.

Me with our WABIAD 2013 awards!

Me with our WABIAD 2013 awards!

I am exceptionally lucky to say I have great support and it feels as if it grows every day! As well as my patient husband and family fan club (particularly my 5 year old daughter), I am also a member of the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group led by the wondeful Zena Shapter. Sharing my journey (and drafts) with other writers is such an eye opening experience and one I treasure at every meeting, every month. I highly recommend it! It was a book co-authored by members of this group Scribbles in the Dark that won me my first major award, National Best Book 2013 in the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day Competition. We even made the news!

NBWG WABIAD team featured in the Daily Telegraph

NBWG WABIAD team featured in the Daily Telegraph

To keep me moving forward I also signed up to NaNoWriMo (read more about that decision here). I am thrilled to say, the literary magazine Writer’s Edit has been following my journey and asked me to share it with their readers. They have shown me such incredible support so of course I was happy to do so. You can find that article here.

The first 33,000 words of NaNoWriMo have brought me to the end of the first draft of a children’s fantasy novel and I am starting on the second book of the series as I keep working towards the goal of 50,000 words this November. I know I will make it largely because of all the wonderful people around me.

Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot if difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.” – Stephen King, On Writing

I couldn’t agree more with Mr King! For anyone out there beginning your writing journey, surround yourself with great people who support you and you can succeed!

Happy writing everyone!

 

 

Serendipity

Despite my commitment to National Novel Writing Month, I took a day off yesterday to attend the Society of Women Writers NSW literary lunch. I was joined by my friend, the lovely author and writing guru, Zena Shapter (find out more about Zena here).

Pamela giving her presentation

Pamela giving her presentation

Speaking at the event was the award winning (and delightful) children’s author, Pamela Freeman(she has some fabulous adult books out there now as well – so check her out!)

Pamela is one of Australia’s most loved writers for children (and one of my favourites too)with titles such as Victor’s Quest and the Princess Betony series.

My kids with their Pamela Freeman favourites!

My kids with their Pamela Freeman favourites!

I am in awe of her ability to make the eyes of children shine, Continue reading

The next chapter – NaNoWriMo

Giving up my day/night job to throw myself into writing, was equally a conscious choice and the result of a very particular set of circumstances. It felt a great deal as if the wheel of life had spat me out into a completely foreign and unmapped world. In that bleak and vacant landscape I could see so many opportunities, but also unknown monsters and danger.

Like in any journey, the first few days were filled with a sense of energy and excitement and the feeling of a living dream just added fuel to that fire. Unfortunately, that initial burst of adrenalin did eventually fade and it is what is left that I now feel compelled to write about.

Continue reading

Why it’s ok to dream

After being given permission to throw myself into writing, I was faced with a frustrating period of literary paralysis. There I was, with no obstacles apart from the demands of two small children, but less able to put pen to paper than I have been for years.

Why?

As I sat staring at the blank pages of my notebook I finally had to admit – I was terrified. Hidden inside those blank sheets of paper I could almost see the characters smirking at me, daring me to let my ink bring them to life. What would I unleash?

Cassi_book

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.

- George R.R. Martin

I think this also applies to writing. As a child, teenager and adult, I have loved fantasy. I couldn’t wait to join the characters on their adventures, imagining myself discovering a secret which would allow me to cast spells or meet magical creatures of unimaginable beauty. I began to realise the blank page before me could be the door to doing just that. My fear started to transform into butterflies of excitement, but I still didn’t know how to begin. Continue reading

The Journey Begins

bookphoto
I have had the privilege of discussing my first picture book manuscript with the very experienced editor and publisher, Leonie Tyle at the NSW Writers Centre.

It’s no understatement to say I was terrified. Not because I didn’t think there was something valuable in my precious literary baby, instead this was the first opportunity to discover where I am on my writing journey.

I came away from that 30 minutes transformed. Continue reading