Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

May 19, 2017

In Which That Escalated Quickly

I’ve said before that I enjoy collaboration. I am not a cabin-in-the-woods writer (unless that cabin has five bedrooms and a huge kitchen, for parties) – I write better with company, with a sounding board, with exchange. I really found my feet as a writer when I joined a local writing group, because even chatting for two hours about writing once a month was enough to open my brain up. I find collaborating energizing.

Which is all very well for me, one of the rare “extroverted writers” of the world, but I worry about my collaborators. Sometimes, I wonder if they regret what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Let me give an example. Let me talk about The Archipelago.

Last year, Andrew Leon Hudson contacted me and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a Patreon account. By pooling our audiences, multiple authors would reach more readers than just one, he reasoned. And readers, they’d get three stories for the price of one! We’d just have to commit to producing regular material over a long period of time.

Sounds good, right? Sharing, my favourite thing! This should have been an easy ask.

Sure, I replied. But instead of just releasing, you know, ANY OLD WRITING, why don’t we collaborate on the world instead? We could release serial novels in a shared world.

Andrew hesitated, but agreed. He had been burned by a shared world project in the past, but maybe if we were more diligent…

BUT WAIT, I no doubt ploughed right over his concerns. WHAT IF our shared world was COMPETITIVE? People could pick a faction/writer to support, and we could write our stories tactically, like a role playing game!

To his credit, Andrew rose to the occasion, and the Archipelago was born. But our ambition didn’t stop there.

We had soon brainstormed the beginnings of our world and recruited Kurt Hunt to the cause. “This should be easy,” we thought. “A chapter a month, a few thousand words… I can do this in my spare time.”

Ha ha ha.

Then we decided to create a three whole side-plots, for readers who wanted to “declare fealty” to one faction.

Then we decided to properly brand ourselves, and invest in art and design.

Then we decided to allow audience interaction.

Then we decided to launch with a Kickstarter campaign.

Pretty soon, we were committed to at least 5k words of fiction a month, much of it written on the fly, maintaining a Wiki, publishing ebooks, commissioning artists, writing world guides, and more. “Spare time,” indeed.

Bookmarks!

Do I have any regrets?

Absolutely none.

Here’s the thing about Archipelago: every time I mentioned to someone what I was working on, their eyes went wide. Every time I sent a draft to a reader, they returned it covered in exclamation marks. My cousin started writing Archipelago fan-fiction before we had even finalized a chapter.  Something about the world, about the project, just sings to me. I have had more fun writing over the last six months than I had in the preceding two years. I’m buried in it, but happily. There is treasure here.

Today, BlackGate.com are kind enough to host my first Archipelago story, “The Ur-Ring.” This is an introduction to my Nation, Al’Tahj, but also a stand-alone story in its own right. Kurt called it “our banteriest story yet,” and it is, indeed, very banter-y, but also marvelous and mysterious, I hope. You can read it here.

I hope you’ll read along. Starting June 1st, subscribers to our Patreon will receive three Archipelago stories per month. You can subscribe for as little as $1/month! You could also support us at our Kickstarter campaign this month for bonus material and an early chance to have a character, ship or even an island named after you.

Obviously, it serves me entirely to say this story is going to be great, but I’m sincere as well. It’s going to be great. It already is. I am so glad Andrew talked me into it. I hope he and Kurt forgive me for taking them into so much more!

Follow The Archipelago on Twitter and/or Facebook for updates!

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