I’ve just finished writing a book in five days alongside seven of my classmates. And it was amazing.
I should probably start at the beginning – or, in this case, with the brief that was handed around the Linguistics Lab on the rain-streaked morning that we embarked upon the UCLan White Water Writers project.
White Water Writers is a project that enables groups of writers to write and publish their own novel in five days. It uses special online collaborative writing tools to create a unique writing experience (which you can read more about here) and thus allows your average Joe to become a published novelist in less than a week.
UCLan White Water Writers started off as no more than a daydream, as myself and Charlotte sat in our British Children’s Literature lecture fantasising, as you do, about writing a children’s book. As second-year English Language and Literature students, one of our modules required us to undertake an English-related project that would in some way enhance our employability (HarperCollins are you reading?). I had helped conduct a White Water Writers camp in a high school some six months before, and it was this that prompted me to explore the idea of bringing White Water Writers to UCLan.
Within a week, we (Charlotte, Carol-Anne and myself) had a fully-developed, uber-exciting project idea: to collaborate with students studying English Language, English Literature and Creative Writing at UCLan and write a children’s book via the White Water Writers programme. The UCLan White Water Writers had been born.
Once we found our authors (competition) and fixed dates to conduct the project (clashed with exam/deadline week, but oh well) all that was left was to decide on a brief. As the team leading the project, Charlotte, Carol-Anne and I sat together and came up with a plot which we hoped would play to the strengths of our writers.
It was this half-side of A4 that was distributed to the eight writers on the morning of Monday 9th January – a mere few lines of guidance that had to be developed, morphed, Longbottomed – call it what you like – to produce a bestseller, in a week. The countdown had begun.
The first day was all about planning – which, if you’re a student (or have had any kind of experience at writing an essay) – will know is a task more daunting than the act of writing itself. Plots, sub-plots, characters – the foundations of our beloved book were all set in motion as we worked from a blank piece of paper to a fully-developed plan by 5pm.
Over Tuesday and Wednesday, we wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. And drank a substantial amount of coffee, whilst we were at it. Without giving too much away (don’t want novelists popping up everywhere now, do we?), we had, by the end of Wednesday, a first draft.*squeal*
Thursday and Friday were were dedicated to editing, and, after getting through an extraordinary amount of paper, by Friday afternoon we had our final manuscript.
All that was left was to design a cover, blurb and decide on a title. After four days of debating matters small and large, we agreed on these final niceties rather more quickly than anticipated!
And so, as our countdown struck 59 seconds at 4.29pm on Friday 13th January, we were relaxed and satisfied enough to photograph the countdown, knowing we had done as much as we could to prepare our book for publication. We had done it – we’d written a book, starting from next to nothing and producing a children’s novel, all in a matter of five days. And we were ecstatic!
A Sketch of Smoke was officially published on Friday 13th January 2017, available on Amazon as a paperback and an eBook.
Amy Lee Tempest, an English Literature and Creative Writing student and one of the authors of the book, reflected on the project:
“I was nervous about the project beforehand, as I had not written much for the age group that was proposed in the brief. My writing usually contains some adult language and themes! I was also worried about lots of writers coming together, all with different styles and ideas. I still cannot believe that nobody argued and that there weren’t any tantrums. I think the fast-paced structure and time limit meant that we all had to work quickly past problems, and we all found a great way of working together. My favourite part was the lemon drizzle cake brought in for us to keep our energy levels up on the last day! That, and spinning around on my chair when I needed a break from the computer!”
Jamie Douglas, another author of the book, expressed his surprise at how smoothly the project ran:
“Despite my initial thoughts that writing a book in five days, and subsequently publishing it, was a recipe for author-to-be suicide, it was a surprisingly engaging experience that will never be forgotten. Everything from the plotting to the final edits was thrilling and, sometimes, even heart-pounding with the countdown constantly looming over everyone. Working with each other really helped us develop our writing skills, so it was a really beneficial experience! And the delicious food brought in for everyone to enjoy (and to keep us alive) was a bonus. After all, what good work has ever been done without good food?”
All in all, the experience was extremely rewarding: we had fulfilled a desire many only dream of, and had fun in the process! A special thanks goes to Joe Reddington and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at UCLan who made the project possible.
Watch this space for book-signings, tours and upcoming books in the series…