Monthly Archives: November 2012

Playful collaboration

I was intrigued by a tweet from Margaret Attwood: “Margaret Atwood and Naomi Alderman: It might seem rather unexpected, but there’s a Deeper Meaning to the zombie craze”. I went here to read more.

The most interesting aspect of the article for me was not the suggestion that zombies have a deeper meaning in our society (like all monsters), or the argument that fantasy should not be hived off from “serious fiction” (which I consider self-evident). It’s the idea of two writers, in this case mentor and mentee, writing a serial novel turn-and-turn about. I love Naomi’s description of “Waiting to get Margaret’s chapter, reading it gleefully, trying to come up with something that might take the story in an unexpected direction or give her a problem to solve. Then waiting again to see what she’s come up with for me.”

What fun that sounds! Trudy Cooper and I did a similar thing many years ago, writing and illustrating a children’s book. The book unfortunately never reached publication stage, but creating it was a delightful process. That was in the days before email. One of us would write a chapter, we’d meet at a cafe to read and discuss it (and to eat lots of nice things and talk the world down), then we’d go apart while the other person wrote the next chapter and Trudy got on with the illustrations, then we’d meet again. As Naomi says, “writing is storytelling, and storytelling… is play.”

Of course, the fact that Attwood and Alderman are using Wattpad to get their book out to readers is interesting in itself, in the context of current debates about e-publishing and the changing nature of “the book”. I wonder if Trudy and I would have finished our children’s book, if we’d had at our disposal the various digital tools that are available today – for communicating with each other, let alone with audiences.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the way my writing buddy and I are working at present. We’re both writing novels at the same time, so we spend almost as much time reading and commenting on each other’s chapters as writing our own. It’s a joyous, productive, supportive process, and it feels like we’re really achieving quality work – separately, yet together.

I’d be interested to hear stories of other people’s “playful collaborations” in the creation of fiction. Do you write alone, or with a friend?

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