This past week I participated as a managing editor at a remarkable event - The Novel: Live. Thirty-six prolific Northwest authors took turns on-camera at Hugo House, in two-hour writing stints, to contribute chapters to what is now a completed (but not yet edited) book that exceeds 70,000 words!
The writers worked from a bare-bones, but extremely well-structured outline that contained information on the protagonist and some of the main characters (whose names were sold at a fun, pre-event auction).
It was fascinating to see each author at work - bonding with a particular character, writing in a new voice, moving the plot forward in unexpected ways, while doing their best to maintain story continuity. Some writers focussed on moving the storyline forward, others dug deep into a particular character's history and motivations. They took occasional suggestions from the audience in the Hugo House Cafe or from the online chat that went on for six days. I found the whole experience to be inspiring and would love to see it happen again next year.
As a writer, participating in this event reinforced my belief that a strong story structure gives us the freedom we have to stretch its boundaries and take the reader into new territory. I also learned that many writers love to "perform" their writing - that writing in public seems to heighten creativity (the pressure of writing a chapter in two hours definitely contributed some adrenalin too).
This event benefited the Writers in the Schools program and was organized by Seattle7Writers who did a great job recuriting volunteers and involving the Seattle writing community. You can go to the Novel Live web site to learn more (and even make a donation!) - at http://www.thenovellive.org/