Tuesday, December 09, 2008


By Darvell Hunt

I write best when I’m alone. I don’t like others seeing what I’m doing until I consider it “done.” However, there is great value in four eyes as opposed to just two (and I’m not talking about wearing glasses here).

This month, my writing group is participating in the creation of a group Christmas story. Once finished, this story will have been written by 20 or 30 different people. This is a fun exercise in creativity, but it’s also a lesson in getting your point across efficiently to the reader.

In this Christmas story that we are writing, each person has volunteered to write one chapter of less than 500 words, starting the day after Thanksgiving and concluding on Christmas Eve. Each writer is given a single day to complete his or her own chapter, then they must hand the story over to the next person.

It’s been fun to take elements from other writers and expound upon them in our own chapter, but the most educational part of this process has been seeing what people do with what you have written. In my case, writers who came after me didn’t seem to understand where I was trying to go with my part of the story. It’s kind of fun to see how different hands mold the same story, because the plot goes in different directions each day, but yet, it’s also frustrating to see that your readers don’t always seem to be getting the obvious points in your story.

In my own reading, I get frustrated when I don’t understand what the writer is trying to say. If I read pages and pages of text without absorbing much content, the story gets boring for me and I’m likely to put it down.

I’ve never considered this idea before, but I think there is great value in collaboration by allowing other people to evaluate what you’re writing before you consider it done. This way, you can find out, right up front, if you’re not being clear. It’s amazing what other people may think you mean when you write a particular scene; it may not be what you intended, unless your writing is very clear. Collaboration can help you understand how to clear up your writing, even if, in the end, you intend to write the story solely on your own.

Collaboration is closely related to critiquing, I believe, but is not quite the same thing. I recommend that all writers experiment, if even just a little, in writing collaborative works. As a writer, you just might learn something about yourself, both as a reader and a writer.

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