Chapter Seven – Fall 2008 Conclusion
And that concludes the Chapter Seven Fall 2008 Edition, “Lost on Earth.”
MANY, MANY, MANY thanks to the following writers for their contributions to this project:
Rob, Thirteenth Dimension – Chapter One
Jodi Cleghorn – Chapter Two
Cara Moulds, The Fountain Pen – Chapter Three
Dale Challener Roe, Rough Draft – Chapter Four
Ani Chibukhchyan, Life Probabilities – Chapter Five
Karen Maxwell, Write From Karen – Chapter Six
Virginia Diaz, Told on a Friday – Chapter Seven
If you didn’t have a chance to read our Fall 2008 Chapter Seven story, “Lost on Earth,” here is the table of contents:
I hope you enjoyed reading the story as much as we enjoyed writing it. We’ve made this project into an e-book, you can read the story, in it’s entirety at this link.
In the meantime, let’s discuss “Lost on Earth.” What did you think? What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite part? What do you think about collaborative projects on the whole?
I asked our writers what their thoughts were about the experience and here are what a few of them had to say:
From Rob Diaz II: I’ve been involved with numerous collaborative writing projects in the past and they’ve all been fun in different ways. The key part of success with it comes from not being tied to any given story idea or style and sometimes not even to a particular genre, because with so many different people involved, it is, by design, out of control.
The Fall 2008 Chapter Seven event was the first collaborative writing event I have done in which the authors put time and effort into pre-planning before the story writing began. It was an interesting process because not everyone actively participated in the planning and those who did had interesting insights. It was also interesting to see how specific details were picked up by some individuals as “the key elements” while others picked up on other areas as being “the key elements.” Personally, as a writer who tends to do very little or even no planning at all, I felt that we spent too much time in this phase. For me, it seemed that we got stuck for a little while in discussions of specific plot points or character building. But that could just be my dislike of the planning process coming out. In the end, I don’t know how much the preplanning actually helped, but I don’t think it really hurt anything.
My chapter was the first one and so I was tasked with setting the scene, introducing the characters, introducing the idea of the impending problem… and then to hand it off to the next author in such a way that the story had somewhere for her to take it. What I found to be very cool about this event was that everyone seemed to genuinely make the effort to leave the next author with an opening to go somewhere. In some of my past collaborative events, the authors tried to back the next author into a corner, leaving him or her without an easy way to move the story forward; while this often turned out to be a really funny way to make the story unpredictable, it was often frustrating for the next author. I was happy to see that none of that happened here with the Chapter Seven writers. In fact, each author seemed to introduce an interesting plot twist that opened new doors for the subsequent authors. It was really great to watch this unfold.
I think that the word count limit was both limiting and creatively stimulating at the same time. I have a tendency to write in what might be called a wordy style, so forcing myself to actually watch the word counts forced me to really think about the words that were important and those that were extraneous. At the same time, trying to introduce a world and a concept using fewer than 2,000 words was quite a challenge and I’m not sure that I did that very well. I don’t think the word count should be raised to 10,000 words or anything like that, but it might be interesting to consider an upper limit of 3,000 or 5,000, to give each author room to explore the world and show off their unique writing styles. I feel that when looking at the project as a whole we may have a situation where we’re writing a story that simply says “First this happened, and then that happened, and then that other thing happened and then something else happened and then it was done,” instead of exploring the emotions or the science or the consequences in more depth.
I do enjoy collaborative writing efforts such as Chapter Seven because of the different styles and experiences of all of the authors. I find it interesting to see how the different styles can blend together and how each author can kind of feed off of the prior author’s tone. I think that each author involved with the Fall 2008 effort had different styles, most especially in terms of the types of vocabulary used, grammatical tendencies and use of humor, dialogue and straight prose to propel the story along. I also noticed how different phrases were used by different authors and found that to be very interesting as well; it pointed out to me that I tend to lean on certain phrases a lot and so now that I am aware of this I may try to pay closer attention to this tendency in my own writing.
I would suggest that for future editions of Chapter Seven, the genre choices should not be limited to genres that have not yet been done (in other words, Science Fiction should still be a choice for the Winter 2009 edition, even though it is what we did this time) because every group of authors will bring something different to the story and the genre. I also think that if there are repeat authors from edition to edition of Chapter Seven, every effort should be made to slot the author into a different spot in the rotation so that an author is not always first or last or in the middle; while no slot is easier or more difficult in collaborative writing, they are all different in terms of the requirements, needs and obligations to the rest of the story and it is good for everyone to experience these different spots in the rotation.
All-in-all, I thought that this first round of Chapter Seven was a good, interesting and enjoyable experience. For my own tastes, I could have done with less pre-planning and more words per author, but overall I thought it was very exciting and I hope to be involved with it again in the future.
From Ani: First of all, it was very unusual to write a science fiction story, because my style is completely different and maybe that was why my creative part did not really click this time. It was amazing to realize that many different people, people who don’t know each other and live in different countries, in different cultural mentalities, are writing one common story, and it was very interesting to see that at the end, when you read the story, it feels like it has been written by one writer.
Apart from everything, it made me realize the biggest problem in my writings. I understand that I concentrate too much on feelings and skip many details of action, which actually make the reader get a more vivid picture and understand the situation better.
From Dale: Although I’ve done collaborative projects before this was a new experience for me. I wasn’t involved in picking the genre, and I was outvoted on the general story idea. Then, as the author for the middle chapter it was my place sit and wait while three other authors created, and threw wrenches into, the evolving plot. So it would be fair to say that I’ve never been less involved in the construction of a story that I’ve written.
But I think being backed into the literary corner, was a good experience. It’s more challenging to fit your writing into the space left by other authors. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted in my chapter, but if I found myself stuck, I couldn’t go back and rework the beginning. I only had limited ability to cast characters, as by the middle of a story its too late to add anyone new.
In a sense it’s freeing, only having the responsibility for a specific part of the story. And it was also quite fun, both to not know where the story would be when I picked it up, but also not knowing or having any control over where it went when it left me.
From Karen: Wow. When I organized this project I had no idea if anyone would even be interested in participating, let alone the overwhelming enthusiasm that came with it. These writers were AMAZING and I couldn’t have been more excited to work with them. I’ve always loved these sorts of projects because to me, it’s the ultimate writing challenge – to take an idea, that someone else came up with, and just allow the characters to take it over and guide me, instead of the other way around. I tend to give my characters free reign in my stories anyway, but it’s really different, and exciting, when these characters are being shared by other writers.
I would have to agree with Rob, I think I tried to do too much pre-planning. Considering I personally loathe outlines and tend to just take an idea and run with it, trying to pre-plan this story, with six other writers who had six other ideas, was nearly impossible. I think, for future projects, we’ll just concentrate on going with the creative flow and see where it takes us. That might be a more “freeing” exercise anyway, especially for those writers who like to plan every little detail.
And I also have to agree with Rob in that each of the writers did a fantastic job of making their chapters open-ended so that the next writer had several avenues to explore. It’s so much more fun when we have creative choices.
It’s challenging to write a scene that will keep the story moving forward. And it’s doubly challenging to just leave it hanging. It’s a rewarding, creative experience and I’m really looking forward to participating in many more challenges with many more amazing writers.
Let’s now turn our focus to the Chapter Seven Winter 2009 project.
We’ve had four volunteers so far. I still need two more.
Many thanks to:
Contact Me if interested!
Our overall goal: To have the Winter Edition publish the week of February 20 – 27.
Don’t be shy! This is a great opportunity to stretch your writing muscles! You can find out more information about the program by clicking on the badge below.
[Fiction] Friday will resume December 5th. You can find out the prompt here.
SAY IT ON SATURDAY IS TOMORROW!! Come back and tell us what you’ve been up to this past month.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog format. 🙂 Welcome back WA writers!