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On Collaborative Writing: Prewriting Packages

Yesterday I laid out my plan for a collaborative writing project based on some prewriting packages. Today, I’d like to talk about those packages.

The Civilization Book

This one actually started as a suggestion from Toby. It’s not a new idea, but it’s a fun idea, and it could give rise to something very cool down the line. (A website that’s sort of a ripoff of Wikipedia and sort of a ripoff of the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guides. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the novel, though.)

In a world reduced to rubble by the foul technologies of man, the scant handful of survivors live a frantic existence. Gathered in tribes for some protection, they fight a daily war against nature and their neighbors, just to stay alive.

When one brave scavenger finds a cache of survival gear from the world that was, he’s quickly robbed of everything but a worthless book in a language he’s never seen. He takes it home, miserable, but an elder who remembers the ancient tongue is able to decipher some parts of the book and in them finds a roadmap back to civilization.

The secrets of The Book quickly raise the tribe out of obscurity, but bring with them a new struggle. There are warlords with no desire to see an end to the status quo, while others in their own tribe fear a rush back to the same society that has already destroyed the world once before. Through it all, one family must cling together and decide the destiny of their civilization.

Federal Express

Oh, and remember the story about my really lonely drive home from Wichita on Christmas day? Well here’s what I spent those two and a half hours working on. I dreamed up a heist story, with a complex set of characters and a twist ending. This one should be a fun romp.

A small gang of part-time crooks gets in over its head when a FedEx truck robbery nets them hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen money. They quickly find themselves on the run, not only from local authorities but also from the ruthless crime boss who stole the money first.

They’ve got an undercover agent embedded in their team, one of them quickly starts to lose it at the stress of their situation and another threatens to move up from robber to murderer. Meanwhile, most of them are just trying to get by. There’s enough money in this one haul to set them all up forever…if they can just survive.

Johnny Cass and the Castle in Catoosa

My first attempt at a children’s book, Johnny Cass is inspired by one I read in Category Fiction last year, and also heavily by my own childhood (significantly dramatized, of course).

Johnny’s life changed the day he learned about the Castle in Catoosa. A real castle, right here in Oklahoma! He saved his allowance, he begged his mom, he even did extra chores, anxious for the day he could visit the castle.

When he got there, he was disappointed. Instead of a castle, he found a half-finished shell hidden behind sheets of cardboard painted to look like something out of a kids’ movie. Johnny knew about real castles, and this one was lame.

In his frustration, he lashed out at a knight in paper armor, and a nosy little girl saw him do it. When she tattled, he ended up stuck at the castle all summer, volunteering his time to make up for the damage done. For a while, it seemed like a cruel punishment, until he realized it gave him a chance to fix things, to make the castle everything it ought to be…and a chance to make some new friends, in the process.

Make an Offer (Creative Writing Exercise)

The lovely Kelley, writing at a coffee shopAs I said, the detailed prewriting packages for these are done. That includes a Conflict Resolution Cycle Worksheet, a detailed Character List, and a full Scene List (a brief description of what happens in every single scene from page one to the very end).

Your job would be to write the story. Carve out the block of marble for me, and I’ll make it into a statue. Or, more likely, we’ll make it into a statue together, passing rewrites back and forth until we’re both satisfied.

The finished product would be a polished manuscript attributed to both of us, with all proceeds split fairly between us. Johnny Cass and the Castle in Catoosa, by Aaron Pogue and Heather Sutherlin (just to pull an example out of the air).

Think about it. Consider whether this is something you’d like to try. I do have a few more than three readers (although, not a ton more), but as I said, I don’t think this idea would be for everyone. If I do get more interest than I have projects here…well, it’s not a problem. You might have to wait a few weeks for me to finish up another prewriting package, but I’ve got lots of stories waiting in the wings.

Hey, we might even get Courtney to throw in an idea or two.

I’d want to see a writing sample before agreeing to do this, but as I said, I know I don’t have a ton of readers and most of you have shown me writing samples. I’d be thrilled to work with any of you who’ve had me mark up your novels (for example).

One last comment, though: I’m looking for this to be a fun, friendly activity more than I’m looking for some cut-throat business partnership. If it strikes you the right way, speak up and maybe we’ll have a grand adventure. If there’s no interest at all…well, that just leaves me where I started, and I’ll finally write my first children’s book once I’m in my eighties. I can live with that.

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