Meet the Campions
by Jenny Crocker
The Alice Campions are pretty evangelical about group fiction writing. As far as we know, we’re the only group writing commercial fiction in the world - and we want to share the love with you. That’s one of the reasons we recently gave a talk for the SCWC at Wollongong University and it’s why we’re holding a talk this Thursday at 11.30, as part of the Sydney Writers' Festival (book here, or call 9250 1988).
When the band of Alices started off on our adventure of writing (thus far) two novels, The Painted Sky (Random House 2015) and The Shifting Light (Penguin Random House 2017) one of the things that struck us was that in film and television, writing is nearly always a team sport. No-one ever asks screenwriting teams the questions we always get: How do you make it sound like a single voice? Don’t you fight? What happens when you disagree? It’s an accepted norm. So why no group novelists? There were a few pairs: recently Tom Keneally and daughter Meg have teamed up to write two novels, Nicki French is a husband and wife team, and that icon of Australian literature Come In Spinner was written by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James. But why no group novelists? No particular reason as far as we could see, so we simply charged ahead and did it.
One thing we have learned is that you couldn’t really write literary fiction as a group. That requires a much more singular aesthetic and vision. But group collaborations are a fantastic way to write genre fiction. Whether it’s crime, mystery, horror, sci-fi fantasy or whatever, the constraints of the genre and the expectations of readers are one of the things that keep your vision unified and set boundaries.
If you want to get started on your own collaboration, our e-book (a snap at $10) or the talk is for you – there’s no space for the whole shebang here. However, I can share with you some of the joys of group writing. Firstly the discipline; as anyone who has ever played team sport knows, your obligation to the practice, to turn up on time and play your best game is absolute. As an Alice I know that the others will be sweating every word to make it as good as they possibly can. Whether I’m working up the first draft of a scene or offering suggestions on what someone else has written, I owe it to the group (and the quality of the novel) to make it as brilliant as I can.
Secondly, there’s the fun. Not everyone is suited to writing in monkish isolation. Our plotting sessions play about with bizarre ideas, scenes are acted out in living rooms, characters are gossiped about, story enhancements build in a huge pile till we suddenly look at each other and go ‘bingo!’. Travelling around talking about and promoting our books would be much less happy without our fellow Alices to riff off, laugh with and rely on for those times when your mind goes blank.
So, if you haven’t already considered writing as a group, what’s holding you back? Grab some buddies and get writing.
Written by SCWC
Posted on May 23, 2017