One of my latest writing projects is writing a joint project with my writers group of three friends. I’ve met several people who have done co-writing (the Stiletto Gang’s very own Evelyn David, for instance), but as far as I can tell a group novel is either extremely rare or just not done. As my group of friends struggled our way through the initial phases of just how we were going to do this thing, I could definitely see why it was so rare. It’s hard. We all have different interests, different levels of time available, and different views of how work should progress.
My initial instinct was to treat the whole thing rather like one of my work projects. So the first thing I did in this oh, so creative of projects was to create a spreadsheet. I assigned jobs, estimated hours, traced what I thought was a likely work-flow, and estimated costs. Some of the group were much relieved by this gridded representation of a future novel. One of us was horrified. It was if I had taken her writing butterfly and shoved a pin through it. The idea of scheduling and circumscribing writing and creativity into neat little boxes was repugnant to her. Not to mention the fact that it meant that one of her friends would now be her “boss” – telling her when to get pages done and nagging her during what she thought of as her escape. And then we started emailing each other about our concerns (most of us don’t live next to each other) and it got even worse. How could four people who are relatively competent at the written word communicate so badly? I’m still not sure, but we managed it. But things rebounded once we talked in person or on the phone. It’s amazing the amount of difference that vocal inflections and facial expressions make.
So, here we are, on the verge of starting our project – we’re still friends and we think we have a system and a plot mapped out. Now comes the interesting part – the writing. I’ll keep you posted as to how this experiment goes! With any luck we can churn out a compelling mystery and still like each other at the end.