Monday, May 21, 2007

Any Comments On This New Idea?



I had an idea for my new web site that I wanted to share with my blog readers for feedback. I welcome anyone with an opinion or who might wish to take part to leave a comment.

It occurred to me that it might be fun, interesting, and enlightening to gain some writing practice on various aspects of the scene, and to do this along with other writers, in a way that enables those who take part to share their work alongside that of other participants. Hence...

THE PARALLEL WRITING PROJECT

On a bi-weekly basis, participants would write one scene and send it to me by email. I would post the scenes on my web site, side-by-side, as a series of long running "strips", with each new scene posted below the last scene by the same writer. You would recognize each writer's work as you scroll across because each strip would have its own color scheme. The description of the writing challenge for each scene would appear in the first column. Here is a diagram.


The trick is that these would not be a miscellaneous collection of scenes by different writers, but would be scenes focused around specific "challenges". Each writer would attempt to write the same scene in terms of plot/characters as described in the writing challenge for that scene, and with the same focus on particular aspects of scene creation.

It would be interesting to see how different writers approach the challenge or writing "problem". It would be interesting to compare overall style, vocabulary, sentence structure, and the way the scenes are developed or certain effects achieved.

I would set up another blog just for this project, with links between it and the web site. Participants and observers could post comments on the blog site regarding each of the scene challenges and each writer's texts (advice, observations, things to think about). Those taking part would be able to provide input into future challenges or items to focus on, so that it would be a collaborative experiment.

I think the benefit of participating in this opportunity would be:

Sharing work online and getting feedback;
Comparing your work to the writing of others where there is a direct parallel between texts;
Developing an increased awareness of the interplay between style and structure;
Refining your techniques for handling dialog, character development, etc., in the context of a progression of individual scenes.

There would be no fee to participate. Participation would be limited to 6-12 writers to keep the task of updating the site every two weeks manageable. The work you share (texts you submit by email) would remain your own property with your own copyright. There would be no commercial use of this material as posted on my web site as part of the Parallel Writing Project. You would be free to develop your individual texts and seek publication elsewhere, although that is not really the purpose: the intent is to do this as a shared, collaborative writing exercise, "practice writing" alongside whatever other projects you are working on toward publication.

Comments? Anyone willing to give it a try?

Adrian

9 comments:

Adrian Swift said...

Another couple of thoughts on this.

It might be more comfortable for participants if the writing is not identified by the author's name. Authors would be labeled as "Writer A", "Writer B", etc. Anonymity might help people feel more willing to share.

Also, I have thought of another presentation using frames that would be more convenient, where you could click a link and compare any two texts side by side, rather than scrolling across a wide page.

In any event, I'd like to create a forum for writers to share scenes for feedback, using a combination of the web site to display the texts, and a blog site for readers to share comments.

Any takers? Anyone have other thoughts on how this idea might be developed further?

Susan Flemming said...

Well it seems that my comment got gobbled up somewhere in cyberspace, so I'll just have to give this another shot.

I think this would be a fun thing to try. It's been a long time since I've done writing exercises with a group.

And as these are writing exercises... it could be a refreshing break from working on my novel or the short stories I have in progress.

Bryce Beattie said...

This is a pretty fun idea.

I think it might work a little better if you ran it like the songfight website. (It's a site for musicians)

Following that model, it would work like this.

1. Writers given a scene/character setup. That info is public and anyone can enter.
2. Writers have one week to construct their scene.
3. All submitted scenes are displayed publicly, but made anonymous (A, B, C...)
4. Everyone can vote on which one they like the best. You'd have to track IPs or make everyone who votes have an account or something to prevent cheating. Voting period = one week. Scenes are displayed one right after another, with a little "Vote for me" box to the right of each one.
5. Winner is chosen by number of votes. Writers's names are now displayed next to their scenes.
6. Winner now chooses next week's scene and character setup.

These phases can be going on for different scenes at the same time. Check out songfight.org to see how they do it.

Adrian Swift said...

Susan and Bryce, thank you both very much for your comments!

I think Susan had a good point, that this would be a nice way to do some writing apart from our other writing. As such, it would be stimulating, a "creative break" that is also a worthwhile activity in its own right. And there would be the sense of participating with a group of others working hard on their writing.

This could even be a way to work on issues we're having with technique as they apply to our novels, etc., but working on those things in a different context (and no one needs to know exactly what those issues are--you can work on them privately while sharing your work for feedback).

I think anonymity will be important. It would make me feel more comfortable, now that I think about it, if my work would be posted anonymously alongside that of others. I'd feel more comfortable sharing a writing sample online for feedback in that context.

Bryce, thanks for mentioning the music site. I checked it out and was very impressed with what they are doing there, and with the quality of the entries submitted.

I did think about the competitive aspect when first putting this idea together. This is an important point and should be considered. I invite more comments on any aspects of this idea, but especially on the issue of competition.

Also, Bryce mentioned weekly submissions. I'd be okay with that, or bi-weekly.

Bryce's comments also led me to think of having a combination of weekly writing challenges (scenes), as well as an ongoing opportunity for people to submit whatever they want, a scene, a chapter, for feedback, either a WIP or a contrived "excerpt" -- this would serve as a way to test out ideas, develop a technique that you are working on at the moment for your WIP.

I can see creating a blog entry for each writer, and having links at the blog site, so you can click on "Writer A" and go instantly to the generic blog entry for that writer and post a comment -- that entry could exist as a placeholder for a variety of comments specifically for that writer.

There would also be an entry for each writing challenge, so that people could comment on the challenge and compare entries (texts). Again, links on the blog created just for this project would make it easy to get instantly to wherever you want to post your comment.

I'll try to get some mock-ups together soon and provide a link so you can see what this would actually look like.

Thanks again for the insights!

More comments most gladly welcome!

Susan Flemming said...

Just adding my additional two cents here again.

While I would welcome written feedback from others on the pieces I post for the various writing exercises... I wouldn't want to have them voted on. After all, if I'm understanding correctly, these would be writing exercises we'd be using to improve our craft and not a competition between the writers to see whose work is best.

I don't require anonymity but I do understand why others might feel more comfortable with that.

Adrian Swift said...

I agree with you, Susan, but want to allow room for others to share their opinions on this, too, whatever they may be. I understand that some may find a competitive activity more stimulating.

In my view, I think if the purpose is to build trust, to foster a climate of respect and positive, constructive feedback, then it is better to do that without direct competition. A separate activity as a competition would make a better venue for that (a monthly competition?), and could be a fun thing as well, but to share texts for feedback is its own pursuit with its own rewards.

The idea of parallel writing, writing the same scene that others are writing but doing it your own way, would give fascinating insights not possible just by critiquing whatever different things people might write. The idea of comparing parallel texts is very intriguing, and could prove very enlightening as we seek to broaden and deepen our understanding of various prose techniques. Allowing a way for people to share other things as well for feedback would round out that process.

The more I think about this idea, the more I think it is truly exciting!

I'll stop expressing my own opinion now, and leave the floor open to others to share a variety of perspectives. All opinions are welcome.

Adrian Swift said...

I made a lot of progress on the mock-ups for both the web site and the blog site to go with the PARALLEL WRITING PROJECT. I hope to post links to them this evening (Thursday). I'm happy with the look and functionality of the text viewer for the web site.

Suresh said...

I am excited by the project and the opportunity to showcase my writing and get constructive feedback.

Count me in.

Adrian Swift said...

Cool! That's great, Suresh!

Sorry I haven't gotten the links up yet. I am busy entertaining family right now and my time has become a little more limited than I had expected. I'm almost done with the mock-up of the web site and will post the link as soon as possible, tonight or Saturday morning.