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Collaboration – a novel way to write…

Sue wows the crowd with her reading from Circ...
The panel of authors watch as their writing story is played out on the big screen...

The panel of authors watch as their writing story is played out on the big screen…

As Nottingham prepares for its UNESCO city of Literature bid, I spent last week preparing to be a proper published author. I even got business cards printed. These days there are many ways to join the ranks of the published and my chance came courtesy of a workshop at the inaugural Nottingham Festival of Words in 2013.

A collaborative writing workshop, I thought to myself, that looks terrifying- I’ll have to talk to people. I’d better do it to feel like I’ve challenged myself. But by the end of the workshop I took away a flyer about a collaborative novel being planned by Pigeon Park Press and resolved to apply.

The Ten to One project started out with ten authors, and therefore ten characters. Our story revolved these ten characters around a further one, Razvan Popescu, and was set in the glamorous surroundings of Skegness. But there was a further hitch. We would all write a chapter and then our characters went out to a vote – by the public and by a panel of judges – so that one by one we were eliminated.

According to the editor and publisher, the original plan was that we would all grow competitive and cutthroat in competition. But in reality we didn’t do this, working to produce the best story we could, joining the judging panel after we’d been voted off and working far more together than you’d expect considering we were spread across the globe. Dropbox is a wonderful thing…

Sue wows the crowd with her reading from Circ...

Sue wows the crowd with her reading from Circ…

Last Friday I stood in front of a crowd at the Library of Birmingham and read some of my contribution aloud before signing copies. So this gives me a chance to reflect on writing by committee.

It’s a great opportunity to bounce some ideas off each other and come up with something pretty outlandish. But with ten people, all communicating via the internet it’s easy to get lost. So lesson number one – be bold. And you need to have an idea of what your character is going to do – it’s not enough to just come up with someone and hope that the plot will steer them the way you want to go. Without a clear path to shout about, you’ve got no hope of making your character to be remembered and voted for. You need to shape the plot. Lesson two – be bold. (Hang on…) And finally, the voting process taught me that I need to stop being shy about asking for support and instead to get out and market myself better. In short, lesson three – be bold.

The finished product, Circ, is available to buy in paperback or Kindle form so you can judge for yourselves how well we pulled off writing together but apart. And in the meantime, I go away and try to apply my new found boldness to my next writing project. Watch this space.