Two years ago, at the beginning of May, I went off for a writing adventure with three good friends. We went to Lyme Regis, the perfect place for a writing retreat and had a lot of fun plus really making progress with our different projects. Last year we went to Wales and had a magical and creative few days, and unexpectedly went on a second jaunt to a literary festival in Cornwall during which time we also pursued our own writing.
While in Wales we had, just for fun, started a shared story, taking it in turns to write a couple of paragraphs – no collaboration, no consultation, just take up the note book, read the latest part of the story and then carry on. At the end of the week, our story went into hibernation until we went to Cornwall when it continued. We came home and disaster! We’d lost the notebook and our priceless text! We searched all our bags and pockets, to no avail and were mystified because we had checked round, all four of us so carefully before we left our lovely accommodation.
Now in our new situation in this new world, we decided to start another story, this time on-line so it can’t get lost. We were well into the mysterious adventures of Barker and his comrade/companion/pet Bear, when a remarkable thing happened. The first story, lost since last autumn, was found in a walking boot (not mine!) so now we have two shared stories in the making, which we are enjoying very much.
As well as just the fun of it, we have reflected on how it challenges us as writers, and what interesting and unexpected things we have learned about our writing, and about writing in general. Obviously, unable to meet except by Zoom we have been messaging a great deal. Here’s some of our comments:
1: I feel that we make something really good when we write these stories together.
2: I agree. Love some of these ideas and descriptions.
3: It’s quite a challenge to let go of what’s inside your head and go a different way to follow the previous writer. Also interesting to see where the next person takes your ideas and how they have understood (or not) what you intended.
1: I think there’s also a freedom because we don’t have to know what happens next – that’s someone else’s problem.
3: Yes! And it’s exciting! I’m really enjoying this shared writing! It’s quite a challenge but a lot of fun with many unexpected twists and turns!
One of the things which has struck me, which I know but tend to forget, the reader doesn’t know what is in the writer’s head – i.e. in my imagination.It’s not just description but it could be motive, it could be likes or dislikes which affect choice, it could be a word I use in a particular way which is different from how other people might use it. It’s made me appreciate (as if I didn’t know it, and know it I should!) the need for clarity. It’s made me think about ambiguity, about interpretation, about reading closely and with attention. Yes it’s a fun exercise, but also interesting, and as a writer, very useful!