Most of the writers on this blog belong to a writing group that meets twice a month in the Phoenix area. Several weeks ago we decided to try a little project and each write a chapter of a new story as a collaboration. We thought it would be an education for us, and interesting for people reading the blog. We really had no idea how it would go, but there was one way to find out.
Everyone in the group has wildly different styles and backgrounds, and we all work on different types of writing. Some work on screenplays, others on poetry. We have both a pulp fiction western and a female centered romance novel currently underway. Trying to work together on a single project would be like making a salad from every item in your refrigerator: a little scary.
This is our thoughts on how it went. If you haven’t read it yet, go to the first chapter and catch up. Here is our thoughts, in the order we wrote.
We would love your input on what you liked and where we could improve next time around.
Jeff Moriarty (Chapter One)
I loved the different styles and what they brought.
I liked that I had no idea where the story was going, even though I helped start it off.
Our different views added ideas I never would have come up with on my own.
Barbara McAllister (Chapter Two)
I enjoyed building on the ideas of others while at the same time having the freedom to take the story in any direction of choice
I loved reading the different styles. Knowing the group for an extended period of time, it was natural to guess where each of us would take the story.
Rose (Chapter Three)
Taking on a different POV which allowed me to show the presumed protagonist in an entirely new light.
Seeing how the plot was developed after doing your part was interesting, because the subsequent writers can take a very minor point and move the story in a whole different direction that never would have occurred to me.
Scott Shields (Chapter Four)
I knew going into the project that all of the members of our writing group had distinct writing styles, but to see them side by side made me appreciate each writer’s unique voice that much more.
I also thought it was fun to see how the story evolved from chapter to chapter.
Tim Giron (Chapter Five)
The different styles made it interesting to read, both before and after my contribution.
The discussions around the process during the writing meetings.
Everyone stayed committed to the deadline.
M. Jaynes (Chapter Six)
I too liked the blend of different styles. Each chapter brought a new, fresh perspective.
I also liked that many used the last line of the chapter before to begin the next chapter.
I like that we didn’t lose the blind date storyline completely.
Eric Bahle (Chapter Seven)
Firstly it was just fun to try something new and it’s always interesting to see how different writers come at the same project. It’s an interesting storytelling concept and I enjoyed wondering where this one would go. Knowing you would contribute made reading the other chapters weirdly visceral. Like different people taking turns driving without bothering to stop the car.
What Could Improve
It was so free-form that it lacked some cohesion and was tough to read all the way through.
Some items changed from person to person (wine store to grocery store to bodega) which was confusing.
Huge range in the size of chapters, from very small to pretty big.
Establish a word count goal for consistency
Agree on just 2 or 3 things that must stay with the story
The change from 3rd person point of view to 1st person point of view was jarring for the readers.
The chapter lengths could be more consistent. Likewise, the POV should be either first or third person, but not both.
A few more rules so that the expectation for each writer is better defined.
I think establishing some ground rules such as word count (ironic coming from me since I wrote the shortest chapter) and using the chapter’s last line as the first line in the next post will help with consistency. Maintaining a consistent voice was a struggle.
It seems obvious now but we needed way more rules. The rapid POV changes, tone changes, and length differences made for some jarring chapter transitions.
What Surprised You
Where some of the characters went, and how others interpreted them from what I wrote.
The blend of all this being one story, but still having each chapter be incredibly different.
Bringing in of new characters. For some reason, I thought we’d stick with just the few we started with.
The excitement around not knowing what would be next. Very engaging.
How much fun it was!
It was another example of how much a reader brings to a story.
I was surprised to see what happened with the characters. When Rose added the gangster element in Chapter 3, I envisioned the story progressing from a simple armed robbery to a “Gangs of New York” type finale. And I certainly loved Eric’s twist ending.
How much fun it was anticipating where things were going before I took my turn at the helm.
The twists, turns and jolts that each chapter added to the overall story.
That we immediately wanted to do another one!
What surprised me was how much fun it was! There was a sense of anticipation as each person posted their chapter. Each chapter was a bit of a jolt since the story often did not go where I expected it to, but I think that may have been a good thing. I am looking forward to doing it again to see what I learn about myself as a writer. It is a great creative exercise!
Every damn chapter including my own. Actually I was surprised that depite the chapters being so different it ended up hanging together as a story. I definitely think it’s worth a second attempt.
We’re going to try it again. We have a few new rules to help us stay more consistent, like a word count, keeping the same perspective, and a few other things.
We hope you’ll keep reading!