Saturday, 27 July 2013

Writing A Souffle: Guest Posts and The Stickines of Real Life

Not long ago, I was approached by the lovely Seana to do a guest post on her blog - which, due to my unending enthusiam for such things, I did. Regrettably, that was one of the few things I did get round to doing recently.

The road to not-blogging is lined with shiny distractions. Also pizza.

And now I'm about to go and do very irresponsible adventure-like things in Bavaria for a week. No fear, my friends! Although the place is filled with cows, mountain pastures and people in lederhosen, they do have internet access, so I will be back now and then. Hopefully with pictures of me looking amusing while failing epically at performing the aforementioned adventure-like activities.

In the meantime, please enjoy the post I wrote for Seana - and try not to miss me too much. In the words of Schwarzenegger: I'll be back!

* * *

There are many varied and wonderful metaphors for writing a book, but, personally, I’ve always thought it was most like making a soufflé; incredibly time-consuming, needlessly complex, and unless it does anything short of explode, very difficult to tell if you’re doing it right.

Now imagine two or three other people in that same kitchen with you, up to their elbows in flour, eggs and all those other ingredients none of you can pronounce, each every bit as confused and sticky as you are.


Yep. Inescapably. You may be absolutely certain that your biggest priority is to bring the geriatric oven up to temperature, but the pie dish has other ideas and one of your companions is shoulder-deep in something that looks like it’s achieved sentience in the most malevolent meaning of the word.

That said, it is a lot easier to wrestle this culinary abomination into the oven when there’s three of you to keep it from dissolving into a portal to the underworld through the kitchen floor.

Writing, of any sort, is never going to be the easiest job in the world. But, should you choose to make an oxymoron of ‘the world’s loneliest profession’, here are a few tips from me on how, perhaps, to avert the worst of the inevitable ‘splosions.

1 – Plan! Set! Action!
Admittedly, with anything between two to twenty-thousand brains on the project, you can have a slightly greater degree of flexibility when it comes to plotting the exactitudes of the narrative. Nevertheless, having a plan is important. For all the oven temperature may rise with every exchange, the soufflé will be rising slower than a turtle in treacle unless each collaborator does their bit to make the mix.

What these goals are is up to you; whether you want to work out the whole thing, beforehand or just set goals as you go along. What’s important is that you have those goals, and that you’re all helping to reach them.

2 – Communicate!
Well done, Captain Obvious!

When writing alone, the need for communication is fairly minimal outside of talking, screaming and making deeply insidious noises to yourself at various stages of operation. Not so with collaborative writing – if even one of you is left behind when plans change, then you might as well add TNT to the recipe and wait for the blast.

Depending on the size of your group, you may need to adapt your method: three-way emails certainly proved more a bane than a boon in our case. But, whether it’s Skype or smoke signals, as long as everyone’s in the loop, that’s one less thing to worry about.

3 – Take A Chance!
My stronger sensibilities prevent me from bursting into the full refrain of the famous ABBA song, but the sentiment remains. One of the great joys of collaborative writing is knowing that, even if your wordy creativity is so low you wouldn’t recognise the alphabet if it sat on you, there are other minds out there who are still capable of producing herrings so red you can see them from the top of Mount Everest with the naked eye. Should a brainstorm turn up something that gets all three of you excited, don’t be afraid to get out the red pens and start redacting the original recipe. An idea that makes all three of you toss back your heads and cackle with glee is, in all likelihood, going to make a much better story than something that barely warrants an amenable “meh”.
Besides, if it all goes wrong, a semi-combusted plot is much easier to amend than a kitchen that looks like it’s been through a World War fought with angry dragons made of Martian space goo.


Now . . . soufflé, anyone?

~ Charley R


  1. Look hard for those adventures, I'm sure you can find them.

    1. Found 'em! Also found a tree, which I crashed into, a river, which I fell into, and a book, which is currently destroying my emotions :D

  2. Enjoy Bavaria! And great post!

  3. Whilst reading the comments, I misread "Seana" and thought you were writing a guest post for Satan.
    Needless to say, that was rather interesting. Also it made me wonder what the URL for Satan's blog is.

    1. "Guest Posts for Satan" . . . it sounds like a title for a magnificently ridiculous book, doesn't it?