Ever wondered just how authors collaborate successfully? Today I have a guest post from Zena Shapter, one of NINE (9!) co-authors of the newly-released Into Tordon, where she talks about her experiences with collaborating.
Hi Deb, and thanks for having me on your blog. Collaborative writing seems to be on trend at the moment, and I'm loving it! I've been writing collaboratively to raise money for The Kids' Cancer Project since 2013 and it's so much fun. You get to brainstorm a plot with other writers who share the same goal as yourself, the writing gets split between you, and then you have automatic critique partners ready and willing to read, critique, rewrite and edit to a deadline. It's a refreshing break from writing alone in your quiet little author cave!
Of course it also comes with its difficulties, especially with nine writers involved, as with our latest release Into Tordon – this one wasn't written for The Kids' Cancer Project, and was quickly picked up by publishers MidnightSun and Scholastic Standing Orders, so everything had to be perfect.
Thankfully, when I suggested the book to the other authors, they were all members of my writers' group, the Northern Beaches Writers' Group, so were used to my style of leadership (I'm the founder and leader). I'm a diversity advocate who believes in playing to the different strengths offered collectively by a group (the more diverse the better!), as well as a perfectionist (handy for making things perfect!), and a bit of a mum with my leadership – I like it best when everyone feels nurtured, supported and happy with what's happening. Having a 'majority-rules' ethos helps with that.
We started by establishing that common goal I mentioned. We wanted our book to appeal to 8-14 year olds, both boys and girls, it had to be speculative fiction, and address issues relevant to kids today. My kids were (and still are!) obsessed with Minecraft, as were some of the other writers' kids, so we quickly decided that our main characters would have to be online gamers. In fact, thirteen-year-old Beth and her online nemesis Zane are both playing in the anniversary championship of their favourite online game, Tordon, at the start of our book.
My hubbie asked me the other day where the name 'Tordon' came from and I was proud enough to admit I got it from 'Flash Gordon'. I love semantics and word play and, after looking through the most popular online games, I knew ours had to be a strong-sounding name of two-syllables. I started to think about strong word endings and 'don' was among them. After playing around a little, 'Flash Gordon' came to mind, and then it was simply a matter of finding a strong-sounding first letter. 'Tordon' was born!
But we didn't just want our heroes playing an online game, there also had to be adventure, risk, excitement! We wanted to invent a new world! So we played to our strengths and brainstormed all the different countries the nine of us had visited, our different interests and childhood struggles. This gave us plot elements and stakes our characters would risk. We divided up the chapters according to who had the most relevant experience for that chapter, as well as whose writing style best suited its pacing, then we were off!
Several drafts later, it was time to play to our strengths again and, while others researched publishers, I took on rewriting the manuscript so it had a single 'voice'. This was one of those difficult aspects – with so many people writing, chances are against everyone having the same writing voice. There can be only one! So I set about re-working everyone's words until they sounded alike. The story's action remained the same, it just came to sound different, well, the same (he he)!
It was harder to do than when re-writing my own work because I wanted to be respectful of my fellow authors' originality. If diversity is a group's strengths, you don't want to lose that in a rewrite. So instead of simply re-writing a sentence until it reads better, as I would with my own work, I had to justify each amendment to myself – is this really necessary, how would I feel if someone rewrote one of my sentences that way, is there a less drastic option?
Thankfully, slowly, it worked! We soon had a beautiful manuscript that everyone was proud to offer to publishers. We ended up getting three offers!
We were of course very happy to sign with publishers MidnightSun, who are going from strength to strength at the moment. Into Tordon is coming to all good bookshops right now and I can't wait to see it on the shelves!
Next year I get to see my own book on the shelves too, as I've just sold my debut novel Towards White (written by only me!) to IFWG, who are also going from strength to strength. It's called "Towards White" and is set in a fictional Iceland. Scientists have discovered where the electrical energy in our brains goes when we die, which brings about certain cultural developments. Becky's brother visits Iceland to study those developments, but goes missing… Updates will go on zenashapter.com or my publishers'website, IFWG, as production progresses. Back to my quiet little author cave to get that ready for readers!
In the meantime, I'd love to know what readers think of Into Tordon, the book that sees two gamers discover there's more to life than winning on an adventure that's out of this world. We'd love to know what readers think! They're welcome to drop us a comment via zfkingbolt.com
Thanks for having me Deb!
Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, creating what-if worlds and adventures. She's the winner of twelve national writing competitions, including a Ditmar Award and the Australian Horror Writers' Association Award for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous online and print venues including the Hugo-nominated 'Sci Phi Journal', 'Midnight Echo', 'Award-Winning Australian Writing' (twice), and 'Antipodean SF'. Reviewer for Tangent Online Lillian Csernica has referred to her as a writer who "deserves your attention". She's the founder and leader of the Northern Beaches Writers' Group, a book creator and mentor, creative writing tutor, movie buff, traveller, wine lover and all round story nerd. Her novel "Towards White" will be published by the IFWG in 2017.
Only champions dare to enter!
Thirteen-year-old Beth has been waiting for weeks to play in the championship of her favourite online game, Tordon. Now tribes of beastmen roar through her speakers. Game on! She plays to win, until her gaming nemesis Zane challenges her to a real-life risk that has them sucked into a strange world. Here they must push their skills to the limit just to survive!
Faced with riddles, a multitude of dangerous creatures, exotic cultures and scientific impossibilities, Beth and Zane are forced to take on challenge after challenge if they're ever to return home.
'a pacy, exciting read' Books+Publishing