“Writing is a lonely job,” but it shouldn’t be lonely fun


I’m giving a seminar at Nine Worlds Geekfest 2013 in London on Saturday 10th August.

Collaborate to Create: why story creation needn’t be a solo activity

10am-11am Saturday 10th August

Room: Rad 11

Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel

Get the handout for this seminar HERE


If you think that the only way to create a story is sitting on your own, staring at your computer screen, then think again. You can create new stories, sitting face-to-face with friends, being social and having fun.

During the day I sit at a desk in the office, writing into a word document and staring at a monitor. When I create stories in the evening, I sit at a desk at home, writing into a word document and staring at a monitor. Perhaps it’s not that surprising I sometimes end up feeling that my writing is more like work than my work. At work, at least, I have colleagues working on the same project to whom I can talk, joke and gain inspiration. At home, my stories are all in my own head. I can describe them to someone, but no one else is really with me. I’m on my own.

“Writing is a lonely job,” wrote Stephen King, probably while he was by himself. Maybe it has to be that way when it is a job, but when we’re not writing for money, but for pleasure, it needn’t just be lonely fun.

This is what collaboration can be. No sitting alone staring at a computer, but sitting around with folk you like, creating a story together, and helping to inspire and enthuse each other.

Collaboration isn’t the right choice in all cases, certainly.
If you:

  • have a detailed plan of exactly what happens in your story
  • want to control of every aspect of the universe you’re writing in
  • don’t play well with others

then solo writing is your thing.

However if you:

  • get inspired by other people’s imaginations
  • want to be surprised by where the story goes
  • create stories to have fun

then this seminar is all about how to get the most out of collaborative story creation.

Here are some of the seminar topics:

1. Collaboration – where do you do it?

2. The very basics

  • Who does what?
  • Who speaks when?
  • Who gets to say no?

3. Different models of collaboration

4. Getting more advanced

5. Getting it down

6. Getting the best from it

Here are a couple of examples of stories developed face-to-face with others:

First off, here’s a play script. This was written with five others over the course of eight weeks of face-to-face rehearsals and then performed for a short run at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington. This is the result of a collaborative model using unstructured group generation, individual ownership with a strong gatekeeper role.


Something very different, here’s the transcript of a story game. This was written/played with four others in just three hours sitting around a table. By contrast to the above, this uses a model of structured group generation with each participant enjoying equal status.


We’ll talk about how story games can be used as tools to aid easy collaboration.


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