Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Learned from The Novel: Live

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


  1. Wow, this is impressive. I don't think I could "perform" like this in front of others. I'm too slow of a writer, requiring a certain atmosphere at times. But this sounds very interesting to watch in action. Thanks for sharing!

    Ann Charles

  2. They did provide a "fortress of solitude" screen for "shy" writers but as far as I know, it was never used. Since the event was streamed from the Hugo House cafe, I think for a lot of the authors it was a familiar enough atmosphere to put them at home.

  3. Seattle sounds like such a terrific city for writers!

    Jacqueline Seewald
    TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS, Five Star/Gale historical romance

  4. A friend from the Issaquah Womens Club book group went to participate with Jennie Shortridge and loved being part of the writing process. One of them recalls meeting you! It must be fun writing with an editor there to facilitate research, kind of like a working muse on call.

  5. That was me - "muse on call." At one point I looked up the 7 stages of grief for one of the writers...

  6. How does this get started? How to get it going in Florida?
    Tips, resources? I seem to live in a no writer zone in south Florida. Thank goodness for virtual connections. Have more fun!

  7. Hi Lisa - The Novel: Live was created by the Seattle Seven as a benefit for Writers in the Schools. Here's a link to their web site:

    Perhaps you can contact them if you have some interest in your community about putting on an event like this. One thing I can tell you is that a Herculean amount of work was involved!