Collaborative Book Making

Produce a book in five days? Or, even quicker, produce one in 12 hours? Is that really possible? Organisations like Book Sprint and Book Dash have proved that it is. And a key to making it happen is collaboration. On a writing Masterclass with Getsmarter I did a few years ago I learnt what many book writers know already: that the process involved in having a book published traditionally is lengthy. Apart from actually writing the book (which took me the ten months of the Masterclass), publishing can take as long as 18 months after acceptance of a manuscript.

Book Dash, by contrast, does everything from the initial script to completed layout in just one day. They do this in a slick process of bringing together selected teams of writers, editors, illustrators and designers. These four-person teams work feverishly, producing one of twelve spreads every 45 minutes, until the book is complete. In Book Sprint the writing takes place during the Sprint, whereas in Book Dash the writer comes up with the story concept prior to the Dash. In the latter, therefore, the pressure on the day really lies with the illustrator. I took part in the October 2022 Book Dash in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, at a beautiful location in Kloof. I took part as a writer. Prior to the date I submitted to my team my children’s story on a template of twelve spreads. Then on the day I watched the illustrator, Cristy Zinn, draw one illustratable concept per spread onto her iPad Pro using a stylus and the software Procreate. Once done, she sent each spread to the designer, Salma Haffejee, who set it in a predetermined layout. In between, Salma designed the endpapers and chose one of Cristy’s illustrations for the title page. During the day, our editor, Zanri Kritzinger (who is a full-time employee of Book Dash), consulted with myself about the story flow. This meant that when Cristy sent in her last spread at about 7pm (and was able to uncramp her fingers), Salma slotted it in place and our children’s book was done!

One of the main reasons Book Dash has formulated this model is that it provides its published books free. This 12-hour process, manned by volunteers, cuts out the costs of traditional publishing. (For more information on Book Dash’s social impact publishing visit their website.) But I wonder if this model could be spread to traditional publishing, too? In the latter, for picture books, illustrators are generally appointed by the publisher and don’t work in conjunction with the writer. But I learnt so much in the Dash from seeing how illustrators and designers work. I got to understand their requirements better, saw how my writing could make their jobs easier. I enjoyed the repartee, making suggestions, hearing suggestions in return. It really made our book, The Sausage Dog, come alive! Collaboration was key.


Writer Podcasts

I grew up with the radio. Little People’s Playtime at a quarter to four on weekday afternoons was a favourite. I think that’s why, as an adult, I’m drawn to audio. Audio books, audio news, audio interest sites, like podcasts. Write for A Reason podcast is a writing tips site. Aimed at writers of children’s Christian fiction, the tips are applicable to writers of most genres and I’ve found them quite helpful. A recent episode is ‘How to Write a Book Review’ – in which I was the interviewee! I was delighted to be interviewed by Janet Wilson of Dernier Publishing on the subject – and very glad it was audio not video. Listen to the podcast episode here if you’d like to know more:

Another site/organisation for writers is London Writers Salon. If you are a writer, have you wondered how to balance the need for human company with the need for silent concentration? I found myself pondering this a few months ago and so was very pleased to come across London Writers Salon (LWS). It meets both those needs (for free). I signed up to LWS, received a zoom link, and then at certain times of day since then I log on and join hundreds of other writers from around the world in 50 minutes of silent writing togetherness. There is a five-minute chat session either side of the 50 minutes, but otherwise we simply write while glancing up at a bunch of other disembodied heads. Give it a try. I’ve found it so helpful for accountability, concentration and overcoming procrastination.

Talking of procrastination, read this article by the Daily Maverick on a café you can go to in Japan where staff put pressure on you to write. I’m not sure I would do well with this. I might cry. Or laugh.

Someone who makes me neither laugh nor cry, and who is just a podcast, not an ocean, away is Rebecca L Weber. Rebecca is a writing coach with a site called The Writing Coach Podcast . Rebecca helps freelance journalists on their writing journey. What I love most about this coach is how she makes me think. Question. Put disparate things together that spark new ways of thinking. Rebecca is excellent. I highly recommend her psychological, writerly thinking tips.

And, finally, not a tip but just for fun, try out The Fantastic History of Food podcast. It’s a super fun, historic, quirky, often hilarious podcast about food by South African, Nick Charlie Key. I really enjoy it.