Keeping in Step

If you don’t participate in the Belles’ Brigade (the Bluestocking Belles’ street team on Facebook) you missed an interesting discussion last Saturday. The topic for Saturday Brunch was group projects—how a group of highly creative friends goes about creating a collection of stories to publish. Let me summarize it. As you can see, keeping everyone in step can be a challenge.

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To be clear: our “boxed sets” are collections of entirely new stories. Some authors create group anthologies out of pre-existing material. So far, all the stories Bluestocking Belles’ collections (you can find a list of them here) have been entirely new. It’s a challenge.

STEP ONE: Agree on a premise! With that many bright, creative minds, we don’t lack for ideas. Actually, we generally have too many ideas and have to winnow it down. We have done ones in loosely based on a trope and some common story elements, and we have done some in which the stories are linked by a single event of some sort. The latter ones have definitely been more popular. Fire & Frost is a good example. The five stories all converge when at the 1814 Frost Fair when the Thames froze over and the city took to the ice. All five stories also involved characters participating in charity work on behalf of veterans and war orphans. When people start envisioning stories, we’re off!

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We’re already brainstorming the next one. Travelers trapped in an Inn anyone? Or maybe

Step 1b involves things like deadlines, expectations and a contract that spells out copyright issues, reversion of rights, and division of proceeds. Most of that is too boring to put here except, we always allocate a share of proceeds for the Malala Fund, because we all believe passionately in the education of girls worldwide.

STEP TWO: Hammer out details. Withing the unifying theme, agree on what story elements must be in each story. As Jude Knight said, “The trick is to have enough to give the stories unity but not so much that we spend all our time twisting her imagination in knots.” Once we all had kittens. Once we had to have a sailboat and a sword. We often have characters that have appeared in previous collections.

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This one is mine!

STEP THREE: We scurry off to our individual writing caves and come back with a rough draft. Every story is read by two different people and when possible we all read all of them. We’re looking for timeline problems or anomalies. We find scenes we hold in common and may do some co-writing to line them up. We borrow characters — “Does anyone have an uppity aunt who can insult my heroine?” “A hero to share a dring with mine?” My Will, Earl of Chadbourn seems to worm his way in most years.

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STEP FOUR: We rewrite and polish, incorporating everyone’s feedback. More back and forth—sometimes heaps of it—and another round of beta reading. At about this stage someone has been creating graphics and each author makes a marketing file with blurbs, tag lines, and marketing memes.

STEP FIVE: Editing and Formatting. Every author polishes a final draft, proofreads it and self-edits. There are a variety of jobs to be divided up here. One editor compiles a single manuscript and edits it. Several people proofread the manuscript. when needed authors are consulted about needed changes, but it usually goes smoothly. We try to remember the time for big changes is gone. One person (usually one who owns Vellum) formats the manuscript for print and various ebook formats and produces Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).

STEP SIX: Get it out there. We’re in the middle of this one right now for Fire & Frost. One person puts pre-order up at various retailers. Various folks send ARC for review by individuals, magazines, and services. We agree on ad buys that require advancing funds, and we all begin to promote it.

STEP SEVEN: The home stretch. Whoever owns formatting collects whatever (hopefully minor) typos and formatting errors we’ve found, and creates a final copy which is uploaded to the retailers in advance of RELEASE. Let the celebration begin! Sometimes we have a Facebook Event with prizes. This year there will be a blog hop—stay tuned. There will be prizes.

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So this week, I’ll be knee-deep in STEP SIX above, while working on two new books—but first, coffee.

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Caroline Warfield, Author

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