I’ve always found myself emanating quite closely the ‘solitary writer’ stereotype. I like to be alone when I write, away from human interference, in peaceful quiet, with only my imagination and the distant sounds of the world to keep me company.
Recently Fantasy-Faction ran a collaborative writing project– short story, numerous contributors, 100 words per post, one month – which I was hesitant about joining in at first (as I think quite a few people were) but after a week or so I decided to take the plunge and give it a try.
Why had I hesitated? After all I consider myself a writer. I write daily in one form or another. My dream would be to make a career from writing. I think my main hesitation had been that, with so many different styles and imaginations coming to the table, there would be issues with consistency, and I thought that without one clear idea of where the story was headed (the end is usually what I have fixed in my mind in my own writing) it would be impossible to create a coherent story.
To a degree, once I’d taken the plunge and become part of the project, I did find that aspect a bit of a struggle and I think we all suffered from the same problems at times. Perhaps 100 words was not quite enough for contributors to fully explain and portray their intentions for that part of a scene, much was left ambiguous or with great scope for continuing multiple sub-plots, and as well as being very episodic and perhaps sometimes disjointed (though nothing that won’t be fixed with editing), there was also numerous possibilities for different interpretations of what was happening.
The end of the story was far different I’m sure to what any of us expected at the start, as was the journey there. I will certainly look forward to seeing an edited version of the story if the organisers choose to do so. Generating material was not a problem for us, it was shaping it consistently that was the challenge.
From a personal point of view, the biggest problem I found in making my contributions was that who characters were in my mind – how I saw them, what I wanted for their role, their characteristics and behaviour and so on – was vastly different to how other contributors saw the same characters, so some of their actions were consequently vastly different to how I envisaged them.
Contributing to a story with numerous other writers (that I only know from online interaction) was certainly a first for me. It was an eye-opening experience and actually helped me to think about how my own stories are shaped and reflect upon my own writing style. For perhaps the first time I really gave thought to my own process – where I start, where I want to end and how I shape the middle.
Being able to see things from a different perspective first hand was a valuable experience and I am pleased to have been exposed to the idea. It definitely had merit and was rewarding, despite at times my feeling perhaps a little out of control with it. I think I’m perhaps too precious about my own ideas and characters to consider a writing career that involves constant collaboration, but I’d never say never to the idea.