Steampunk celebrates its 31st birthday on April 27, so join in the festivities with the high-flying adventure, Army of Brass.
“Steampunk” began as a literary genre, but has expanded to include fashion, music, art, and live events all over the world. During 2017, in honor of author K.W. Jeter coining the term in 1987, Steampunk Journal editor Phoebe Darqueling and the Collaborative Writing Challenge joined forces to create an amazing work that blurs the line between science and magic. Twenty international authors contributed chapters to this story full of gadgets, romance, and political intrigue set against the backdrop of a fantasy world informed by the culture of the 19th century.
With my new found love of steampunk and the thrill of writing (and not finishing) my own steampunk story, I couldn’t resist joining up on the book blog tour. Today’s offering is a guest post from the Collaborative Writing Challenge‘s editor, Kathrin Hutson, who also has written a few chapters for the book.
The Collaborative Writing Challenge
As CWC’s Chief Editor, occasional contributing writer, and former Story Coordinator, I am so excited to write about Collaborative Writing Challenge. With the launch of our newest project—our first Steampunk Adventure Army of Brass—upon us, it’s hard for me to contain my admiration for everything that makes CWC and its projects such a unique, engaging, and entertaining experience.
I joined the team in March of 2015, right as the first project, The Concierge, was gearing up for publication and as the second project, Ambition, was in its first stages. Laura Callender, the founder of CWC and the woman behind this brilliant labor of love, had told me the slots were filled for writers, but she needed a Story Coordinator for the third project, which later became the Sci-Fi Ark. I jumped on the opportunity to get involved, and the rest is history. I also became a last-minute writer for a chapter in Ambition, so I can say I’ve been a part of every CWC genre novel after the pilot project.
I have to give Laura all the credit for organizing this unique process; she had it in place far before I joined her, and it has proven itself with each project as a highly structured, diligently organized, and mind-baffling success. Each Story Coordinator brings their own insight into guiding the project as it unfolds, but the bones of the process haven’t changed in the last three years, and I haven’t seen anything else like it.
How Does the Collaborative Writing Challenge Work?
After Chapter 1 comes in—which is both written and voted on by the writers, who also voted on the new project’s genre—a schedule is then created for the next eight months. Anyone who signs up as a writer, for anywhere from 1 to 4 chapters, is assigned a due date for their chapter submission. Depending on the number of writers involved, 3-5 writers are assigned to a chapter. This means that every week, the Story Coordinator will, in theory, get 3-5 different submissions for a specific chapter from which they choose the one best suited to the story. Of course, life happens, and sometimes writers aren’t able to submit anything. This is when the Story Coordinators really step up their game, either choosing to skip a week where no chapter is accepted, reaching out to “backup writers” for a last-minute chapter (some even written and returned in under 24 hours), or, in Phoebe Darqueling’s case as the Story Coordinator for Army of Brass, writing a chapter that week themselves.
The real kicker—and my favorite part of this whole endeavor—is that the writers have no idea what they’re going to write until they receive their “materials” five days before their chapter is due. Five days to write 1,500 to 2,000 words. That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that every writer only gets the following information: a 500-word summary of each previous chapter, posted after the last accepted submission; reference notes, including details of character names and descriptions, locations, important plot points, etc.; and the full previously accepted chapter. So, the only people who have read the full novel in its entirety before publication are Laura, the Story Coordinator, and myself. Every contributing writer gets to read the story for the first time only after publication. Though you might not think so from reading these novels, the biggest challenge is for the writers themselves. But project after project, they exceed all expectations, and the end result is nothing short of magical.
When I got my materials for the chapter I wrote in the second project—which fell in the middle of the story—I read everything, devoured the summaries and notes, and found myself on the verge of panic. I’d joined the writer ranks halfway through the project, and I had no idea what was going on with the story or who the characters were. I felt alienated, lost, and overwhelmingly discouraged… until I realized that I’d received no more and no less information than any other writer who submitted a chapter before me. That was when the beauty of CWC hit me—all the writers come into this nearly blind, and yet an entire cohesive, creative, wildly engaging novel is produced at the other end. Though we follow the summaries week by week and write our individual chapters, we never really see the story unfold until we get the final copy in our hands. And it’s always a fantastically satisfying surprise.
For every project since I joined the CWC team, I’ve waited at the edge of my seat to get the compiled manuscript from the Story Coordinator so I can edit the final draft. Waiting for Army of Brass was a particularly nail-biting experience, as I was more intimately involved in the ending of this project than any other. The writers had taken the story in such a complex, intricate, and large-scale direction that it was impossible to wrap up the ending within the 8-month timeframe. Phoebe took the reins and did a phenomenal job of reaching out to current writers who wanted to collectively brainstorm an equally complex and satisfying ending and write multiple chapters to that effect. I was one of them, and a small number of us worked together to ensure Army of Brass received the climax and final scenes worthy of its adventurous, explosive, page-turning previous chapters. I’ve never seen a Story Coordinator so actively engaged in the process of creation, and Phoebe went above and beyond her role to hone the finer points of Army of Brass into what is without a doubt the best CWC novel yet.
Collaboration is the Future
Collaboration is gaining both popularity and necessity in the writing world. For so long, the delicious craft of writing fiction has carried a self-imposed qualification: that authors must toil alone and isolated on their work, and that it’s “every author for him/herself”. Especially with the rise of Indie Authors and authorpreneurs, who deliver such exquisite pieces into the realm of published fiction, it’s more important now than ever before to acknowledge that writing doesn’t have to be a secluded, solitary endeavor. That is CWC’s founding belief—that any writer, whether new to the trade or a seasoned author with multiple publications and novels of their own under their belt, can be a part of writing a full-length, successfully fleshed-out novel. If Army of Brass and CWC’s other genre novels don’t prove that the possibilities of success are endless and remarkably satisfying when multiple minds craft stories together, I don’t know what will. I’m in love with this organization and what our writers bring to the table, and I’m thrilled to have Army of Brass among our ranks.
Find out more about the CWC by visiting the website or following us on Facebook. You can also find descriptions of other CWC books on Goodreads. All of our projects will be available at a special $.99 price on Amazon for a limited time starting April 27 to celebrate our latest launch.
Pre-order your ebook copy of Army of Brass for $.99 and receive it on Friday, April 27!
Plus, Join us on Facebook April 28-29 to meet the writers and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Speaking of giveaways, there’s one happening during blog tour, so between April 13-May 13, enter to win ebooks by CWC writers and guests.
Follow the Book Tour:
4/13 – Ch 1 featured on SteampunkJournal.org
4/14 – Multiple sites, launch announcement (feel free to share anywhere!)
4/15 – Interview with Jason Pere on SteampunkParliament.com
4/16 – Update on Phoebedarqueling.com about coordinating/finishing the book
4/17 – Ch 3 excerpt on http://www.jimoloughlin.
4/18 – Crystal Burton posts about collaborative fiction with a few words from Phoebe about Army of Brass on http://crystalmmburton.com
4/19 – Interview with Jean Grabow on PhoebeDarqueling.com
4/20 – Launch announcement on www.blakeandwight.com
~~~> You are here! 4/20 – CWC editor Kathrin Hutson guest post on Growing Up Stephanie
4/21 – Chapter 9 excerpt posted by Army of Brass writer Michael Cieslak
4/22 – Chapter 11 excerpt posted by Army of Brass writer Dorothy Emry
4/23 – Army of Brass review on www.blakeandwight.com
4/24 – Character interview on www.blakeandwight.com
4/25 – Phoebe Darqueling guest post about the anniversary of the word Steampunk on chrispavesic.com
4/25 – An interview with Army of Brass writer Jeremiah Rickert on www.blakeandwight.com
4/26 – Guest post by Phoebe Darqueling, subject TBD on www.blakeandwight.com
4/27 – Excerpt on www.blakeandwight.com