Over 170 International Authors Come Together to Write a Full-Length Fiction Novel…One Week at a Time
Collaborative Writing Challenge, or CWC, is one of the best projects with which I have ever been fortunate enough to be involved. It is a non-profit organization, founded by Laura Callender of Yonkers, New York, in August 2014. She originally started the project as a way for writers, who found it difficult or daunting to write a full novel on their own, to contribute their chapters, ideas, and bursts of creativity for shorter length pieces as part of a cohesive whole. Laura wanted to create a place for writers to come together and highlight each other’s skills and talents, while simultaneously having full control of their own chapters and following an organized, ambitious schedule.
Here’s How It Works
Writers sign up to participate in a project the moment it’s announced. When we launched Project 4, our Fantasy collaboration, we filled the slots entirely just in the first few days.
Every week, three writers submit a chapter, having been assigned them the moment they sign up for the project. As Story Coordinator, it is my job to choose the chapter submission each week that best fits the story line, and that opens up the most possibilities for the future writers to insert their own creative inspiration. Chapters are chosen based on content relevant to the story, characterization, and voice of the novel so far; grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. are not priorities in selecting each chapter. This is a phenomenal upside to becoming a writer for CWC, because a lot of writers get turned down in competitions and from magazines and publishers because they do not have the specific mechanics of writing under their belt, whether or not their ideas are superb. We see so much potential go through our hands any given week, and sometimes it’s difficult to choose only one chapter to be included in the novel. So sometimes we choose more than one.
Once I have chosen the week’s chapter, I go through it and edit for consistency with the previous chapters, and for sentence structure and basic writing mechanics. I also write a 300-500 word summary of each chapter, along with picking out the important character, location, and plot line elements to include in the project’s reference notes. Then all of the writers for said project receive these summaries and reference notes, and the next week’s writers begin.
The best part about this is that each writer only gets to read the chapter written before their assigned chapter in its entirety. All other information about the novel is relayed through the summaries and reference notes. This makes for an incredibly spontaneous submission, and an incredible process for the writers, where they have five days to form a complete chapter that moves the story forward based solely off of notes.
Why Has CWC Become So Successful?
We are a fantastic community of writers and coordinators, who support each other’s successes through a very active Facebook page and CWC group, and in creating fantastic works of fiction. However, the writers do not defer to each other on ideas for the novel, on plans or characters – the setup of the schedule and entire system ensure that it would be remarkably difficult. And the Story Coordinators do not control the story. They are there as a type of ‘guardian’, a shepherd of the story to make sure that everything stays within the broad expanse of its territory lines. And already, we have finished and published a successfully selling suspense drama, The Concierge, which can be purchased on Amazon; we are in the final editing stage of our second, Ambition; we’re over halfway through the third, Ark; and are about a third of the way through our fourth Project, Wytch Born. Each project is projected to take about eight months to write, and so far the schedules have been tightly followed.
Multiple writers keep coming back for project after project, enthralled with the community and outlet for their creative talents. CWC gives so many writers, seasoned and just starting, a chance to become a part of something great, and to help jump-start their own writing careers with their work in a published novel on their resume.
Since I officially signed on with CWC in March of this year, I have come to know its founder Laura better than I ever could have hoped, as well as the repeat contributing writers, and even new participants who signed on specifically for our Ark project. In my second capacity with CWC as Chief Editor, I also get a remarkable overview of each project through its creation and into the publication process. I oversee the editing and revision of each finished novel, searching for consistencies in characterization, plot details, and writing style, and even get the opportunity to help revise a chapter or two as the novel is being built.
All of our projects are in full swing, with more writers sending in applications to become a part of our collaborative novels every day. Now, it’s time for us to focus on how we can expand, both in opening opportunities for new talented writers, and in getting their work out there into the open arms of the world. While CWC has been purely non-profit so far, and even gives proceeds to IBBY.org, we are hoping to very soon be able to offer monetary compensation to our writers when their chapters are selected to be included in the novel.
Please, feel free to browse the CWC website, where we publish updates on our projects and release a new interview monthly for our ‘Author Spotlight’ page. If you would like to sign up to receive our monthly newsletters, or to learn more about the current CWC projects and plans for the future, click here. We can’t wait to share with you where our collaborations are headed!
Publishing a book has a lot of facets – editing, purchasing an ISBN, creating and purchasing cover art, formatting, and all the marketing that goes along with getting the book out there. While we learn more every day about how to better market our books and the experiences behind being a CWC writer, we can still benefit from every bit of help we get. Donations are always welcome, in any shape or size. Just click here. And thank you for supporting, in any way you can, the phenomenal writing community and challenge that is CWC.