The SolAARium: Discuss the craft of writing - Alphabetical Index in the 1st Post

Syt

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Talking about styles, yes, I've been experimenting a bit on this forum. Letters, "historical" documents, omniscient observer, tv commentator, were all means I've emplyoed in one form or another. The Klausens remain my most serious attempt at prose so far.

Jacob's diary was born more out of the want to start something new for a while and pursue it. Slightly inspired by Tolstoi's vague descriptions of people and places, it's written rather easily at the moment and progressing quickly. The quick pace is easily explained.

I write an installment, re-read it, edit a bit around, and occasionally leave in some inconsistencies or errors for the son the complain. It's an interesting experience to write an installment only to criticize and and occasionally rip it apart a few paragraphs further down. :D

However, I find this sort of writing more natural to me. I always marvelled at Chris' and Bruce's details in their stories, and wished that I was capable of such prose. However, I've come to realize that even though I have detailed images of the scenes in my head, it "is not my style" to indulge myself in so much detail, at least not at this time. Maybe this will change with a different topic, but I think one of the reasons my current story progresses so well is that I'm a bit more true to myself. :)
 

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I'm surprised to hear you say that I write with a great deal of detail since, in my own estimation, my narrative has been extremely sparce with regards to anything surperfluous to the story. I would agree that I am tackling a project at the moment that has a great deal of complexity (and maybe that's why it seems rich in deatail), but most of my internal struggles while writing are more issues of how to get ideas and important plot points across, rather than anything else.

I'm really not sure how to answer Bruce's question since I must confess that I haven't done a great deal of reading of any sort in the last little while. The "branding" of an author plays virtually no part in what I do read, however. Usually I rely on word of mouth from people who I have come to discover share similar tastes to my own. Then, once I've found an author I like, I tend to read everything I can lay my hands on of theirs.

There's no one particular style that appeals to me...or that doesn't. Usually it's a case of whether the author can engage me with their story, and whether the style they employ seems to jive with it. That said, I'm usually far more likely to be captivated by novels that involve deep exploration of some aspect of the human condition or of a political situation, and for a spy/action/thriller to get my attention is quite rare.
 

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One of the reasons for tackling 'HistoryPark' the way I did was to force myself to use many different characters and points of view, along with much more dialog. How successful the piece is I can't say, but I think I have more skills and tools now than when I started. I have an upcoming collaboration wherein I hope to develop some skill with humor, and another intended to help me develop some ability with drama.

Wouldn't it be fun to have, say, five writers contribute a page each of new material, post them without attribution, and let us guess who wrote which? Maybe that would answer the question of personal 'style'.

MrT - I find your work rich and complex. I think if we polled readers they'd say your work was deeply detailed but no-one would agree on what those details were. You have a way of describing relatively little and allowing us to fill out the scene with our own details.
Nice trick. :)
 
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Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Director
Wouldn't it be fun to have, say, five writers contribute a page each of new material, post them without attribution, and let us guess who wrote which? Maybe that would answer the question of personal 'style'.
What an absolutely great idea! One person would have to author the thread, then invite people to submit posts by e-mail so they would be attributed to the thread starter only. Then, let the guessing begin. That's cool. :cool:
 
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Syt

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Chris,

I think I didn't get my point across well. :)

What I meant that you have a lot of detail to your story, and that none of it is superfluous, and that is what I adore in your writing. Adding little details, or observations add a lot to the immersion of your stories, I think. I'm thinking here for instance of the scene where Friedrich and his aunt sit to have a hot drink, how the warmth of the cup spreads to their hands, etc. It's this attention to detail I envy, because I would simply have written that they were glad to have something warm to drink. ;)

Your stories are full of such little, keenly observed details that slip through the lines of my writing. :)
 

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I'm game, although I have a feeling that people would have little difficulty picking out which of the posts was mine unless I purposefully tried to disguise it as someone else's (I've been practicing adjusting my style to fit other people's when I've guest authored ;)).

Director/Sytass:

*blushes*

Thank you both. I think those are amongst the greatest compliments I've been paid here on the forum. As I've gradually been developing my own writing style here - as opposed to copying others or wafting in the breeze - that is probably one of the aspects I've been working the hardest on. It's incredibly difficult and it's actually one of the things that draws me to LD and SM's work since they both seem to do it so effortlessly and to such great effect. I now finally feel like I'm getting a handle on it, but I am too often blown away at their understatement which, at the same time, is so loaded with hidden meaning that I still feel that I have an incredibly long way to go before I would dare to try putting my writing in the same league as theirs.

If you'll permit me a slight digression...

When I read material here I often do it as much to see how authors are writing their material as I am to find out how their game went. I read through AARs and ask myself whether what I've just read is "memorable" or "striking". If my answer is "yes" then I immediately ask myself a very simple question: Why?

I've played perhaps 50+ full GCs and started (or played portions of) at least two or three times that many games. As such, I have very little interest in reading how person X did such and such in their game...or at least I have only marginal interest in it. What intrigues me is the way that they decide to go about communicating their experience to me...the decisions they make about the presentation, the characterisation, the narrative, etc. Perhaps this is merely conceit, but I feel like I can play just about any country pretty much as well as any other player can possibly play it. WC...no problem. Sit in the muck? Sure. I can mimic or replicate any game you care to mention.

The attraction for me is the writing.

When I read something that grabs me in a literary sense, my first inclination is to go with the flow...let the author take me wherever he wills. The harder it is to step outside of this trend and look back on the writing from a "skill" standpoint, the more effectively the author is doing his job. The habit I've been trying to develop is to recognise when I'm being swayed in this way and then force myself to analyse it closely to find out why I am being so easily subverted. Once I've identified the reasons/technique I try to break it down into a mechanism that I can try with my own material.

*hands Bruce a buck or ten*

That's why the FC is such a benefit to a writer such as myself. If you were to read through the several hundred posts that I've contributed to the four books, you'll immediately see me giving these "new" styles of writing a test drive to see how well I fit behind the wheel. Can I use them? Can I write with them and feel comfortable? In book IV alone I've been conciously employing four distinct styles at different times - and with different characters. If you step back and look at Sforza vs Osman...Roos vs Ishak, etc. you'll see this quite clearly (probably). This is, in fact, one of the most amazingly helpful aspects of writing in the FC for me; and if you really look closely at something like the RRR you'll discover that it is really an amalgam of all the effective things that I've learned over the past year+ of writing here. Friedrich, for instance, has his own distinct "writing style"; as does Stefan or Johan or Ludwig.

I have, in fact, been very conciously selecting my writing style based on who's POV I'm writing from....so for some characters certain details would be noticed and others ignored. For others, I ignore a whole different set of observations (since it isn't in their character to notice them) and have keyed on other things instead (that they would notice). Some characters pay more attention to their surroundings than others. Some listen better than others. Some have more internal dialogue than others....

Let's get back to LD and SM for a second.

I look at something that seems so deceptively easy...an AAR about Portugal that contains plenty of movie references, some snide political commentary (heavily right wing at that :D), a ton of "in jokes" about various actors...should be simple to write, right?

Wrong!

That's (pardon the expression) FUCKING HARD STUFF TO WRITE! Trust me. I've tried it and it's not easy to maintain for more than a paragraph or two, let alone to sustain it for a hundred pages or more. How did Bruce do it? Well, I spent a rather large amount of time (as he'll tell you since I bored him silly talking about it over milk and cookies one evening) disecting what it was he was doing and why it was so effective. I *think* I know how, now, and so I've been giving it a test drive in the FC and in recent instalments of the RRR. So far...so good. (Not the humour part...that isn't my forte. More the style aspects...). The killer? I think it comes naturally to him.

Look at Noble Lives.

Can you imagine the talent it takes to write a piece of such length (what is it now...some 400+ instalments?) and keep the reader engaged? Want to know how he does it? I *think* I know...and I'm giving that a sort of "test drive" too.

I guess this all returns to Bruce's question about style. My modus operandi is to look closely at styles that strike a chord in me and then attempt to figure out why. Then, quite conciously, I try to learn to employ them to express the images and ideas I have floating around in my head about the story I want to tell. My style, then, is an amalgam of all of the other styles that have moved me to feel something as I;ve read them.

Sadly, I have a feeling that it's too late in the evening and I've had one more beer than would be optimal to express this correctly. I hope that at least some of the above made sense...


....and count me in for the "identify the author" exercise. :)
 

Valdemar

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I'm sorry T but i beg to differ. True you have developed a lot since a few of my possessions to RRR and you possible do employ that analytical style to your posts (first figure it out then attempt to copy) but you are so much more than a glorified copywirter. You may set out the framework of a post that way, but you DO add your own style. It is not just a melting pot of styles that you've "borrowed somewhere".

Sure even I can with my limited experience and litterary abilities see the infulence in RRR from SM and LD's historic novella (the part that I've read) but there are light years of difference between them. You have your own style, you may not know it oyurself, but I readily identify your writing through all of your pieces I've read, whether they where tests or not.

Can you decieve me? Certainly, I wouldn't wager a false Krone :) on guessing anything right in the above contest, but I readily adjust my reading in the FC whenever i know your posts are coming (as i do to all the other writers) because I recognize your most basic "style" in your work (as i do eith LD, SM and everybody else that have written enough to make the comparison)

Rambling sorry

V
 

Syt

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Chris,

a major difference between your writing and my writing certainly is that you are way more methodical when your get down to work.

Sure, I have ideas for plots, and they are pretty complete in my head (I admit I lack your dedication to outline it for myself in any form but in my mind), and roll around phrases in my head for sometimes as much as days, but when I start typing (I prefer writing by hand, although that takes me longer, but it's a pain to edit :D), I don't think much about my style and try to get my idea conveyed.

And I think this is something I need to focus more on, to consciously think not only about what I want to tell, but also about what the most effective way of telling it is. What vocabulary? Short words? Long, twisted sentences? Dialogue? Points of view? Additional details and/or symbolic pictures? All of those I think of, at best, rudimentarily when writing.

I think I could add a lot of effect and depth which I find sometimes lacking in my writings if I were keener about how I say something as much as about what I want to tell.

I agree with Valdemar, though. I don't think you are a copycat ;) , but I think it is important to sometimes look at other writers to get new ideas or discover new devices that might be useful at some point.
 

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Hmmm, two different things I'd like to say.


First, just to reply to Chris's post in a general way, I would whole heartedly agree that it is the writing that keeps me coming back. I mean, let's be honest. How many different ways are there to play England or France or Mysore? Sure, there are about 50 different ways to play each country, but I've tried them all. But the clver and inventive ways in which some people write about their exploits, now that is far more inifinite in its variety.

With that being said, there is one thing (well, at least one..) that writing for the FC has done for me. <Puts the obligatory dollar (Canadian, because I'm a cheap bastard :D ) into the FC Memorial Dollar Bill Acceptance Machine before continuing> I've learned a little something about writing characters that are not inherently mine. That is, I have learned a bit about writing a scene with my character and also a character I did not invent or create. That is a very different animal than your classic style of writing, I assure you.

Now, on to my second point. Unless Director wants to step up to the plate and run the whole show, I can be the "Go-to" Man for the annonymous writing project. However, the reason I volunteer is because I have a secret agenda (I know, a shocker, to be sure! :) ) that I think annonymous submissions can be used for. As experience has shown time and time again, it can be like pulling teeth to get honest criticism of a piece once you have been around for some time. My contention is that, in addition to having us play the guessing game as to who wrote a piece, annonymous submissions can be a good avenue for getting honest, unbiased, criticism of written work. I'm not saying we never get honest criticism in our own threads, and I'm not saying that the atta-boys that are the norm are not good either (in fact, I now concur with Bruce that they are vital) but I think it leads to less mentioning of how something can be improved, and more just a rehashing of what people think is good.

Anyway, I think this endeavor might do double duty in this regard. If we do it this way, I would have a number of suggestions on how to run it in such a way as to make it fit our purposes.
 

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Gentlemen and ladies of the SolAARium.

After having a brief consult with the major parties involved, I have been nominated and accepted as the patron of Guess-The-Author. A thread will appear shortly, started by me, that will be for this use. Also, I will be the email point for this project.

However, before we get started, I thought it best to breifly discuss some things regarding rules, purposes, etc., regarding this new "project".

Purpose (also known as a Mission Statement for those of you in any line of work that involves paradigms and Dilbertesque lingo): The Guess-The-Author thread shall be a place where authors may write on a given topic annonymously, for the purpose of analyzing style and content in a fun and useful way.

Rules (suggested):

1) Actual story posts will only be submitted by me or the designated person in charge, to retain annonyminty. Critical/guess posts will be made under your own nick.

2) Topics will be picked before anyone writes anything on a particular subject. Topics will be very broad and general, giving authors maximum leeway to write. I suggest that we use very simple game events as a basis for writing. MrT's reference to revolts is a good start.

3) Authors will be decided upon before writing commences. That is, anyone who wishes to write on a topic must be given a thumbs up by me or the person in charge before going ahead. This would primarily be an administrative tool to keep things wel organized; however, it can also be used to prevent monopolizing of the thread by a few authors. By having the person in charge shuffle things around a bit, it aught to keep things lively.

4) Posts will have a deadline that they must be in. This is to facilitate all the posts being put up at once, so as to give "equal time" to them, in addition to keeping the manager of the project sane. This also keeps the project rolling, even if one of the authors has unexpected problems (similar to the way we run the Venice effort)

5) The number of authors writing on any particular topic will be limited to perhaps 5 or 7. This will make it easier to guess and analyze, in addition to keeping the volume of reading at a managable level. Those wishing to write will have to contact the individual in charge and make proper arrangements.

6) The list of authors will be provided right after the posts are actually posted, so as to narrow the field a bit. That is, I will post who they are, but not identify who wrote what. (Or is this a bad idea? Thoughts?)

7) I would suggest that if we know who the authors are, that the authors refrain from posting anything until their indentities are revealed. If we go with 100% blind, then I would encourage the authors to contribute guesses and criticism, just so their silence does not implicate them.

8) Length of posts will be decided according to individual decsions
of the writting assignment in question. We can dictate, according to our tastes, whether we want a longer or shorter post this week.


These are my suggestions, and I wanted to put them here before we actually launched anything. Input is always appreciated.
 

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While we wait for Secret Master to work his magic with the 'Guess-the-Author' competition and for Sytass to recover from the shock of finding out what Lord Durham REALLY looks like, I have a topic for discussion. Given my prolixity, the topic of course has several parts.


Of the authors who have written (or thought of) collaborations, may I ask:

1) Must a 'collaboration' be reserved for authors who write the entire story together, or may the term be expanded to include occasional postings, guest authorial spots and contributions? What makes a collaboration?

2) Who played the game? Was the game completed before the writing began? In the case of the Free Company ($1, ka-ching) was there a game at all?

3) Who wrote what, how much, and how often?

4) What (if anything) about your collaboration did not work as you had hoped? No 'blaming' fellow authors, please, but if you can discuss problems of any sort, please do so as frankly as is consistent with good manners. What should collaborators be alert to?

5) What makes for a good collaboration? What would be, for you, a perfect collaboration (in EU2 with fellow authors, please, no supermodel-induced Makers-Mark-soaked psychotropic fantasies). I'm not looking for names, here, but conditions and methods.

6) Do you have a 'system' you prefer (or think you would prefer, if you have not yet collaborated)? If you have collaborated more than once, do your efforts have common elements?

7) Is it better to work with an author whose style is:
...a) completely unlike yours
...b) somewhat like yours
...c) pretty much the same as yours
...d) lots better than yours giving you a chance to hide and learn :rolleyes:

7) What should I be asking about the collaborative process that I have not?
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Director
While we wait for Secret Master to work his magic with the 'Guess-the-Author' competition and for Sytass to recover from the shock of finding out what Lord Durham REALLY looks like, I have a topic for discussion. Given my prolixity, the topic of course has several parts.
Hey, come on. Two decades is not that long a time. I don't look like Gandalf, for Ckrissakes!. Though I do have rejection slips from Asimov, Ben Bova and John Campbell (a rejection slip that I really, really treasure - I'd be testing SF history if anyone knew why...)

Originally posted by Director

Of the authors who have written (or thought of) collaborations, may I ask:

1) Must a 'collaboration' be reserved for authors who write the entire story together, or may the term be expanded to include occasional postings, guest authorial spots and contributions? What makes a collaboration?
From my experience, I would say that a certain element dropping in and out, along with a core of solid writers willing to see it through to the end, works well. A project I began last year, that solicited a fixed amount of authors, fizzled out after a while, though I thought the contributions were exemplary pieces of work.

Originally posted by Director

2) Who played the game? Was the game completed before the writing began? In the case of the Free Company ($1, ka-ching) was there a game at all?
For all of the FC Books, and the aforementioned Genoa project, I played the game (typically hands off), and used the results to structure my storyline. So yes, in the case of the FC ($1, ka-ching) a game was played. That's why Constantinople falls in 1439... ;)
Originally posted by Director

3) Who wrote what, how much, and how often?
Oddly enough, for the ($1, ka-ching) FC, Rictus put together a list of posters in numerical order of posting. The author of the project posted the most (because he had to try and keep the story on course). The surpising part was the number of non-AAR writers who came next in line. (Like Rath Jones)

Originally posted by Director

4) What (if anything) about your collaboration did not work as you had hoped? No 'blaming' fellow authors, please, but if you can discuss problems of any sort, please do so as frankly as is consistent with good manners. What should collaborators be alert to?
Loaded question. You've been reading the OOC thread, haven't you... :) In my mind, the important thing about a collaboration is the willingness to follow the overall plotline, even if that plotline is a secret. Now, I know that's a pretty general statement, and it's one that has caused grief at times, but I feel the strength of a successful collaboration is not only keeping the story fresh, but keeping the writers challenged. It can be a tightrope at times, but the end can be an amazing read. The secret is to follow the author's lead. That is the most important part. If the author's mastery of the collaboration is usurped, then the story is lost, and anarchy ensues. What hasn't worked? I had an author once who thought he was bigger than the story, and caused so much grief that several other contributers offered to pull out. The key to a successful collaboration is teamwork.

Originally posted by Director

5) What makes for a good collaboration? What would be, for you, a perfect collaboration (in EU2 with fellow authors, please, no supermodel-induced Makers-Mark-soaked psychotropic fantasies). I'm not looking for names, here, but conditions and methods.
I'm biased, but my bias is based on success. The Free Company is a perfect tool for experienced writers, and newcomers, to mingle and contribute to an ongoing story that has a beginning, middle, climax and resolution. I've stated before, this particular style of historical collaboration is unique to the internet. It offers the fledgling author the chance to discover if he/she has what it takes to pursue a literary career, and offers the experienced writer the chance to hone their craft in a proper, literary way. (the last part may seem pompous, but I tell you, if any one of you got published, I'd be the first in line to buy a copy)
Originally posted by Director

6) Do you have a 'system' you prefer (or think you would prefer, if you have not yet collaborated)? If you have collaborated more than once, do your efforts have common elements?
My system is to experiment with as many diverse writing styles that I can. My work in the FC differs from Genoa, which differs greatly from "A Tale of Two Cities'. For me it's a tool to experiment with different techniques. Oddly enough, I prefer a first person POV writing style, but I seldom have a chance to employ it.
Originally posted by Director

7) Is it better to work with an author whose style is:
...a) completely unlike yours
...b) somewhat like yours
...c) pretty much the same as yours
...d) lots better than yours giving you a chance to hide and learn :rolleyes:
My joy comes from watching a relative newcomer struggle with his first post, receive encouragement, and then improve to the point where the other authors eventually say 'Wow, you brought me to tears'. I proudly cite Rictus, Valdemar, and Craig Ashley as perfect examples. If a writer comes along that is better than me, then I'll do what I can to improve myself.

Originally posted by Director

7) What should I be asking about the collaborative process that I have not?
Why aren't you involved?
What can you learn from it?
Will it make you a better writer?
Will it allow you to write from more than one perspective?
Does it allow you to engage in an ongoing storyline?
Is there any satisfaction in being part of a collaborative team, writing toward a common goal?
What can I learn writing in a collaborative environment?
Have I ever wanted to be involved in literally writing a novel?
Is it fun?
 

Director

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Originally posted by Lord Durham
Loaded question. You've been reading the OOC thread, haven't you... :)
No, I've never read the OOC thread. I'm working on a collaborative project to follow HistoryPark and I believe in preparation. If anyone can tell me how to avoid pitfall, I'm all for it; much less painful if one can learn from the mistakes of others.

My system is to experiment with as many diverse writing styles that I can. My work in the FC differs from Genoa, which differs greatly from "A Tale of Two Cities'. For me it's a tool to experiment with different techniques. Oddly enough, I prefer a first person POV writing style, but I seldom have a chance to employ it.
That's why I'm looking at a collaboration - there are too many tools I don't know how to use.

Why aren't you involved?
What can you learn from it?
Will it make you a better writer?
Will it allow you to write from more than one perspective?
Does it allow you to engage in an ongoing storyline?
Is there any satisfaction in being part of a collaborative team, writing toward a common goal?
What can I learn writing in a collaborative environment?
Have I ever wanted to be involved in literally writing a novel?
Is it fun?
Well: :D
Never got involved in FC because i was put off by the length. I'm a person who doesn't even like to pick up a series in the middle, and I just never felt the pull. Sorry.

I am really excited about a possible upcoming collaboration. I expect to learn an ENORMOUS amount from it, intend to have fun and develop skills.

By the way - didn't John Campbell die in 1971? That's surely more than two decades ago. Don't tell me you're receiving rejection slips by ouija board!
 

Lord Durham

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Originally posted by Director


By the way - didn't John Campbell die in 1971? That's surely more than two decades ago. Don't tell me you're receiving rejection slips by ouija board!
I've been writing since my teens. Remember, I'm old. :)
 

unmerged(6607)

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*speechless*

LD... wasn't that... back in the day when rejection slips were...

...PERSONALIZED?

*would kill for a personal rejection slip*

*has about a dozen form letters and growing* :D

No, I've never read the OOC thread. I'm working on a collaborative project to follow HistoryPark and I believe in preparation. If anyone can tell me how to avoid pitfall, I'm all for it; much less painful if one can learn from the mistakes of others.

This seems like a good time to remind people that I'm willing and able to participate in a collaborative project... :D
 

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Originally posted by Director
That's why I'm looking at a collaboration - there are too many tools I don't know how to use.

One thing LD modestly neglects to tell is the importance of the "owner" of the story. FC may have had its spat when ´half a dozen talented writer egos pull the story in every direction.

What LD does so exquisitely is his "tie in posts" as I tend to call them.

In one single post he can,

Introduce new characters

Move the story forward,

Leave hooks for three four other characters or pick up on other hooks

Change the scenery.

All without his character ever going out of character so to speak.

Where am I going with this?

Apart from appluading LD's talent I'm trying to say that his seemless control is what makes or breaks such a complex work as the FC IMHO.

He off course gathers key writers who know large parts of the plot, but the control of the story and movement forward is his.

V
 

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Well, since others have brought it up and the fires of controversy have died down enough in the OOC thread, I can respond to LD's post regarding collaberative efforts with my own take on the subject.


The secret is to follow the author's lead. That is the most important part. If the author's mastery of the collaboration is usurped, then the story is lost, and anarchy ensues.

I will concur with LD on this, but do so from the angle of a minor author in the FC. I, myself, have not been writing with the FC for very long, and I have only a minor role. As much as I do enjoy writing Foscari posts, I have had to constantly remember to keep them in a sort of "check". The reason for this because Foscari and Venice is not the main part of the action, nor is Foscari anything more than a "supporting villian" to the arch nemesis that is the Sultan and his dearly beloved Russian Bey. I could, given a bit of time, write up 20 posts a week about Foscari and Venice, but that would shift the focus away from the more important characters and action in Constantinople. If I really put my mind to it, I could create "The Free Company Book IV: Foscari's Bid for Power." Of course, that is not what Bruce has in mind, nor would it be worthwhile in a literary sense. Sure, my role may be limited, but that's what the story calls for.

The point to this is that a collaberative venture has no real room for prima donnas and whatnot. If it is to be successful, the minor players need to stay within their confines and do their job. The result is being able to say you were a part of something wonderful.

Furthermore, the secrecy part is there for a reason. I know alot of people were caught up in the whirlwind of ye ol' "Plan H", but trust me, it was nothing that special. We were merely doing some communication behind the scenes to make good on a particular idea. If the idea was let loose to the general population, it would lose its magical quality. We did some good planning, but those involved in Plan H should not be confused with some sort of "Inner Circle." Trust me, on my honor as a Secret Master (tm), such things are not the "Inner Circle." I should know, for I sit on the governing Inner Circle for the Illuminati, but that's not important right now.

For these feeling the need for more freedom and ego boosting (and trust me, ego boosting is important, if only because it makes us feel good :D ) then a solo project is called for. There you get to be the man or woman in charge, and you get all the credit. But on a collaborative effort, everyone should respect the boundaries that are set forth by the Grand Poom-bah in charge of said effort.
 

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Originally posted by Director


Of the authors who have written (or thought of) collaborations, may I ask:


2) Who played the game? Was the game completed before the writing began? In the case of the Free Company ($1, ka-ching) was there a game at all?


Way back at the dawn of the AAR forum there was a story of the growth of Venice into a world power. It was run by Warspite and was unique in one important way. He played the game as the various authors posted and changed the game according to what we wrote. For example if there was a major dispute in the Venetian senate he would edit the game and lower stability. Or if someone wrote about leading a revolt he would edit the revolt risk in the game and cause that province to go up in flames. It was one of the more interesting approaches that have been tried here. We mainly posted on the fly without coordinating our plots or subplots but it worked out amazingly well. It allowed the writers to develop their characters since the game time was played slowly. I think I had at least three generations of the Storia clan take part until it prematurely ended.

With the FC ($1) it started out with LD playing the game as we wrote but somewhere in book two (?) it became more of a story driven as opposed to game driven AAR. LD is the only one who knows when this came about.

One thing to keep in mind is that the type or collaboration story you do is going to be strongly influenced by the number of writers who take part. You can do things with two writers that are far more difficult with a dozen. With a dozen you need someone in LD’s role to coordinate the story. With just two writers that isn’t as important. Whoever you do this with should be committed to the project otherwise it will wither on the vine.
 
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I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts on how to answer Director’s question since – I think – I might be the second most “qualified” person here to respond to it (the first being our beloved LD). That’s not pride talking, but more a case of having now been in the “guest author” or “collaborative author” chair on many occasions.

Each of the projects I’ve participated in has been different. When I first joined LD’s ($1, ka-ching) FC I was simply a novice writer looking to expand my abilities. I chose a relatively minor character to get my feet wet and then gradually expended my roles (and participation) to the point that I was/am fairly deeply involved in the overall strategy and planning of the ($1, ka-ching) FC Book IV. I can’t begin to tell you what a valuable experience that’s been, nor can I recommend it strongly enough to novice or expert alike.

You asked, however, about collaborative AARs in less of a free-for-all format. I’ve been involved in several…

I’ll start with the collaborative Genoa project – an AAR that LD conceived of and that several of us enthusiastically embraced and worked pretty damned hard at. The quality of writing (even if I do say so myself) was some of the best that has ever been posted on this board…and what contributed significantly to its premature demise was the lack of response from the rest of the forum to our work. We had a few die-hards, but largely the thread was ignored. Of course that was the better part of a year ago and I think our overall standards and expectations on the board have changed during that time and that a reprise of the thread might garner considerably more attention than it did originally.

The modus operandi for Genoa was intriguing – LD would play a largely hands off “friendly” game as Genoa with virtually every message set to be copied to the history log. He’d then send the log for several years (3-10 years depending on how furious the action had been) and each of us would have a look at it and “bid” for an event or two (or more) to write about. We made few direct attempts to tie our work in with each others’ material, choosing to make the thread into a bit more of a collection of short stories about the various aspects of Genoa’s history during the period.

We did, on occasion, “plot” something out in a little more detail, but by and large it was more a case of a series of small solo efforts all contained within a single framework. It isn’t a terribly long thread, and I’d encourage anyone to have a look at it.

At somewhat of an opposite extreme, shwang1 asked me to be one of his guest authors in his Gelre/Dutch AAR in the summer. This was a case where he wanted me to write from the POV of a particular character who was one of the short-lived rulers of the nation. In this instance, he had played the game and had some fairly definite ideas of what he wanted me to write about. He gave me a strict schedule of events that occurred, an overview of the concept that he had in mind, and then I went away and thought about how I could write it and came back to him with some proposals. Then we “haggled” until we both agreed to the final plot outline and guidelines for the section.

After that, all I had to do was write my bit as well as I could – and he gave me some extraordinary freedoms considering the subject matter and his background – and stay within our framework. It resulted in some material that I’m very proud of. I guess that I should stress that throughout my brief participation I was always the “junior” author as far as any decision-making went. It was his thread, his overall story, his ideas, his game…he just happened to invite me to come along for a part of the ride.

Then we come to my friend Chris and his hysterical Gluttonic Knights thread (yeah…Heagarty and I have the same RL first names)…and I forget exactly how it came about that I contributed to his AAR except that I think he asked me to since he’d hit a bit of a road block and needed another perspective. It was, as I recall, after a series of e-mails that he asked me to, and I said I’d be delighted.

Part of the reason for this is that I’ve been really impressed with his writing style – quite different from mine – and this gave me a perfect excuse to see whether I could actually contribute posts of my own that were in keeping with the thread. I’m fairly pleased with the final results, but Chris is definitely better at it than I am.

For that one, Chris pretty much left me to my own devices. He’d give me some “here’s what’s going on” info, and there was the added plus that I scripted some custom events for him so I simply had to create instalments that would set up the rationale behind the silly events. Otherwise he simply told me “I’m ready for you to post” and then sat back to see what I’d pull out of my hat. There was little or no guidance and almost no strategy or plot…and it was a blast to do.

I’ve done a bunch of other bits and pieces here and there, but I think that to belabour the point any more than I have been is probably less than useful. The point?

I would say that the best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure that whoever is participating in a project is enthusiastic about the subject matter and its potentials. I think that whoever is collaborating needs to be sure that they’re on the same page with regards to what’s expected and what’s not expected – and whether there are any guidelines or “rules” to the participants’ submissions. Personally I’d prefer a fairly detailed, well-planned plot since I find it much easier to avoid some of the nasty pitfalls of writing (DEM springs to mind) and to craft a more interesting and far-reaching story. On the other hand, sometimes it’s a blast just to shoot from the hip and see what happens. As longs as everyone agrees with the approach (whichever one is chosen) and sticks to it, you’re probably going to end up with a pretty great AAR.

I hope some of that was useful…