LEAP, The International 24 Hour Book, was a project produced by Sarah Butler – an author who recently signed a two book deal with Picador – and Ben Payne, Co-Director of the wonderful Ministry of Stories. It was commissioned by Spread The Word, the literature development agency for London, collaborating with groups of writers and editors in London, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and Delhi, co-ordinated by the British Council in Malaysia, the German Book Office in Delhi and W2 Community Media Centre in Vancouver.
The 29 writers involved worked together on a novel called LEAP, which was both written and set on the leap day of the 29th February 2012. It was published as e-book, designed by Alistair Hall of We Made This the next day, World Book Day. It’s available as an e-book now for free at www.spreadtheword.org.uk. You can also visit the Facebook page to see how the day itself went.
As well as writing a few pages of it, my role was to run workshops with each cluster where we got to grips with how to share the creative process using the simple tool of Google docs, free to use and available to all, which makes it possible to work together on one document. It was astounding and beautiful to watch writers in India as they composed, seeing a sentence being stretched and kneaded, words appearing and disappearing, growing slowly like yeast, like friendship cake, but tastier, expanding across the page.
We made the first 24 hour book a couple of years ago with some of the same people and it can be read still at http://www.completelynovel.com/books/101632. The brilliant Kate Pulllinger oversaw us; the structure involved a set of allotments in Lambeth. We worked on our individual gardeners and their stories, then brought them together, like actors improvising, to meet and mingle. The new book, LEAP, has a more linear structure with one main character per city.
Plotting had to be agreed on together before individuals and pairs picked different sections to focus on, with Sarah and others providing a final write through, before handing over to Juliette Mitchell, our editor in chief, and her team who edited the final work. During the day Alistair Hall, who also designed the book, travelled on the Number 4 bus route tweeting in the identity of the lead London character, sending photos of his journey to inspire us.
You can read the results at www.spreadtheword.org.uk and download it as an ePub file to your iPhone. The Kindle version is coming soon. I’m still in the process of reading our collective work, but the process once again gives me confidence that there’s a huge future in collaborative writing, to make whole books and new forms of reading experience.
Chris Meade is Director of if:book uk (@ifbook on twitter)
Further info: In June 2012 if:book Australia are doing a 24 hour book.