Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Post: Leave Your Ego at the Door – Collaborative Writing

I invited a friend of mine to pop by The Write Type today. Eileen Bell and I met a few years ago and for a while we were members of a small writers group that met every week. I knew she was a talented writer the first time she read aloud part of a story she was writing. Today, Eileen is going to share her experience of working on an anthology with 3 other authors. ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

I recently finished a collaborative project called “Women of the Apocalypse,” a novella anthology that was released at the end of October. I worked with three other writers: Billie Milholland and Roxanne Felix from Edmonton, Alberta, and Ryan McFadden from London, Ontario. This is the story of how we survived.

From the outside, it looked like a simple assignment. We were tasked with writing one novella each for an anthology. A small cast of characters for each of us – one Horseman of the Apocalypse, one Archangel, and one female protagonist. We could write in any genre we wanted. The novellas were stand alone stories. No working story lines together. No “four writers writing with one voice.” Seemed like a dream come true, so we all said “Yes!”

We wrote our novellas without any input from the others, in order to allow each writer's voice and style to come through. It was a little difficult, due to a tight timeline and other aspects of our lives that demanded attention, but we all finished, on time, and barely scarred.

Then came the editing. We edited round robin style, giving each writer the opportunity to work on each novella. It was the right thing to do, because we all have different editing strengths, but this was the spot where egos threatened. As Roxanne said, “Need to lick your wounds? Rebuild your self-esteem? No time for such nonsense. Dive dive dive … into the rewrites. And edit your colleagues’ work, while trying to forget which one recently ripped apart yours.”

The hardest part about the editing process for me was remembering to leave the other person's voice and style intact, while cleaning up a wide ranging variety of issues – from grammar to plot holes big enough to drive a concrete truck through! We quickly figured out that ongoing communication was the key to keeping our stories our own, and keeping relationships with each other whole through this process.

The result? A unique anthology, with individual stories that stand on their own, but that work together to tell an even bigger story. And we all remained friends!

Women of the Apocalypse is now available online at, or on It is also available at Audreys Bookstore and Chapters Southpoint in Edmonton, McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg (after November 14th) and Pages on Kensington in Calgary (after November 13th.)

Eileen Bell has written (you guessed it) most of her life. She has completed 3 novels (one burned, one under her bed, one out in the world), several novellas, short stories and personal essays, and is happily working on several new projects. When she isn’t writing she’s living a fine life in a round house with her husband, her dog, her daughter’s cat, and two fish.

1 comment:

Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author & marketing coach said...

Eileen, thank you so much for visiting us at The Write Type ~ Multi-Author Musings.

I really enjoyed reading about your collaborative experience. I appreciate how candid you were about some of the challenges and how you learned to work through those challenges to put forth an amazing book.

Congrats to all 4 authors of "Women of the Apocalypse"!