How it started, redux…

We started by exchanging two paragraphs of what became a four-part 120,000-word novel of Neolithic life. In time we’ll revise and publish it as well, but the Norm and Burny books must come first. Below are those original two paragraphs, copied from our journal.


10/20/2011 9:44 AM jay->peggy

I propose we do some writing together, trading narrative responsibility back and forth. I’ll volunteer to be scribe, by which I mean I’ll keep whatever we write in a coherent and growing form. If you’re interested, add something. If you’re not it will save you a lot of time & energy in the upcoming.

Darkness at daybreak

We rose before first light, a rare occurrence, and were dressed and headed toward the shore when we could first barely see the path. The storm had subsided. The morning was chill and grey, but windless – so unlike last night. Whatever we might find, whatever had caused such an enormous noise, I was convinced our lives would never be the same.

10/20/2011/11:16 AM peggy->jay

What an interesting idea. What made you think of doing something like this together? If I can’t kick-start [name withheld], perhaps you can kick-start me? Is that the idea? I guess I can give it a try although I think when it comes to wrting like this, you are much better at it than I.

The path down to the beach is steep and littered with loose shale. It is difficult to manage even when dry, but last night’s storm has caused the footing to be treacherous. With our feet clad only in skins, we can feel each sharp rock as we hurry down the path. The cold air surrounds us like clouds and the beach is not yet visible because of thick fog. Our breathing is labored by cold and by fear. We have no idea what we will find when we reach the bottom of the pathway. 

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4 Responses to How it started, redux…

  1. Katina Mallon says:

    Okay, I see this worked out really well in the long run. My question is, was there ever a time when either of you had a certain direction in mind for the storyline and the other veered off? Was this a good thing or did it ever become a challenge?

    • I should probably let Jay answer this one, and I’m sure he will.

      Actually, that happened in the very beginning. In the journal Jay just started, he has two entries: the first is his e-mail to me, asking if I was actually interested in this writing experiment, along with one paragraph of fiction. The idea was for us to try alternating paragraphs to see what would happen.

      The second entry is my answering e-mail, along with a second paragraph. I’m not sure what direction Jay had in mind originally, but my paragraph accidentally led us in a definite direction. I put our characters in hide foot coverings, and that led us to a multi-generational Neolithic saga that consumed our first months of writing. I have no idea why I wrote that; in my mind that’s just the way I saw the scene he had described.

      Since then, each of us has veered off many times, taking various stories in unexpected directions. Most of the time, the direction is obviously a good one and we take it. Occasionally, a sudden yaw elicits a good deal of discussion and might be rejected. We seems to think enough alike that one of those episodes has yet to become a real challenge. Let’s hope that lasts!

      Thanks for following our blog, Katina!


      • Nick Williams says:

        Interestingly enough, it seems as though such vivid mental images are precisely what allows people to be so creative and profound while remaining so specific in writing. I think what is most amazing is the collaboration, seeing what different people visualize in each situation, and bringing them all together (if possible).
        Kudos to the creative outlet that has since spurned such a phenomenal outpouring of fiction. I look forward to more!

  2. jayhosler says:

    It’s true: I just had a generic adventure story in mind. The Neolithic setting came from Peggy’s hide shoes. But that’s the usual case rather than the exception. Our stories are always of the write-your-own-ending type, from the time we start them. Some characters and plot elements came from one or the other of us working alone, some from discussion between us. Who originally contributed what isn’t important, although in many cases we remember it, because we’ve scrubbed and manhandled every word and plot twist, working together. When you write a page of new stuff you open up one set of possibilities and close out others. Just like living a day. In both cases, surprises that change everything happen so often that they shouldn’t surprise us.


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