Friday the 16th is Jane Austen’s birthday and we of Jane Started It! will be participating in the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree. This is a multi-blog event put together by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn and Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club. (Be sure to stop by and then start following links. There are many participants and lots of give aways. All you need do is comment to enter.)
Our contribution to the Soiree will be one of our signature “Guy” pieces, with all the Austen heroes in a stew about what to get The Lady on her birthday. You will find that nothing has changed much in the gift-buying realm over the past 200+ years, and that the fellows are stumped when it comes to satisfying one of the major ladies in their lives.
Now my point is that three writers working on one piece can be challenging. Egos aside, the logistics is a nightmare. Writer 1 takes the piece and does what they will, Writer 2 then gets her hands on it and, eventually. Writer 3 takes her best shot. After all have had some time, there is the final edit to be done. This can be weeks of shifting the manuscript from one in box to another, to another. Google has changed all that.
Those of you who have Gmail know that on your toolbar sits innocently enough a tab for “Documents.” This is an online word processing tool and storage area. It’s not as powerful as Word or Corel but it is handy for spiffing up documents you get in emails and now, we have found, it’s a great group writing tool.
Laura Hile and I have used Documents to write some Sir Walter post in the past. It was a little slow but considering you could, in real time, see additions, deletions, and edits in a document, it was pretty good. Google now has added chat to the Documents window.
Much like Gmail chat, you can open a chat window with your collaborators. This makes it possible to ask questions about the text and changes you plan to make. At one point I just sat and watched as Pamela and Laura were writing along. Each person in the chat is assigned a color so you can see them, again in real time, putting in new text, taking out and rearranging old text. Laura later said it felt like improvisational jazz. What was fascinating is that many times, each of the ladies went to a line I was intending to work on and I found that they had basically the same idea I did, changed the structure as I would, and even used the same words I was going to use.
Both Pamela and Laura use the Regency language more fluidly and elegantly than I do. This is a good thing. In a collaborative piece like this, my clumsy wordings get a good polish. But seeing how similar we are in thought was rather astounding.
Maybe for this reason, there are many writers who could not, and would not, use this tool. As I said in the beginning, egos aside, this is a great tool for writers. I have no illusions that I would want to tackle an entire novel with another writer in this form. But, I do see that online tools are helping to shape writing in ways that will be surprising in the future.
You will be able to see our collaboration on Friday, the 16th. Let us know what you think of our brave new method of writing.
Take care–Susan Kaye