Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

I do not like to write – I like to have written.  ~Gloria Steinem

By: Stacey Purcell

Monday 6:30 am- Wake up, dress, eat cereal, drive to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.

Monday 5:30 pm- Leave office, walk to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.

Rest of Week- Repeat above steps over and over and over…

This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this scenario is practiced by countless millions, maybe even billions, of people around the world. So what does this have to do with writing?

Before I answer that question, I have a story to tell you about what a group of my friends and I have been doing. We meet every Friday at the best coffee shop ever (Drew’s Pastry and Coffee). It’s an open group, but there’s a core of four. Writers will stop in to visit, share their latest victory or defeat, brain storm or sit and stare blankly while the rest of us chat. It’s a wonderful time and every Friday is different.

The core of four consists of Melissa Ohnoutka, Jennifer Bray Weber, William Simon (Will Graham) and me. We call ourselves The Usual Suspects and have supported each other’s writing and careers for over 3 years. One Friday, Will had an unusual idea.

“Let’s write a mash-up.” He received silence as none of us knew what he was talking about. The accepted use of the word “mash-up” has to do with blending different genres of books into one.

That’s not what he was talking about!

He wanted us to try writing a collaborative piece. We’d mash up all of our entries into a cohesive story. The ground rules were easy. He’d start it off and we’d each take a successive turn, adding to the characters and plot. Once we’d been around the group twice, he’d finish it up. We were not allowed to talk about it with each other and there was no general direction the story had to go in. Who knew whether it would turn out to be romance, mystery or even steam punk!

Hmmmmm. Sounded fun. Sounded easy. Sounded creative and quick. My kind of project. I was in, as were the others. The merry-go-round of writing began.

We’ve just finished the story and it was a blast to be a part of something so creative. Just when you thought you knew where the story was going, BAM! It took a hard left and you were running down a different rabbit hole. The experience forced you to keep on your toes and get the character out of situations you had never thought of happening. Whew, what a workout for those writing muscles. Now what?

The story is very rough. Great ideas and great writing flow through the thing, but we have some plot holes you could drive a bus through! Since, we’ve never done this before, we’re making up the steps as we go along. Emails are flying between our group members. It looks like we’ll put together a list of items that needs to be corrected or tweaked before we meet to seriously edit. Sounds reasonable. After that we’ll get together with laptops and spread out across my dining room table for a “rip it apart” party.

So what does this have to do with the poor person sitting on the train for two hours every day?

Once again, the digital world has opened another avenue for writers. Almost all of those commuters, or anyone else who must wait around, have cell phones. Those cell phones have the capability of downloading stories. Traditional novels can be read, but it might be overwhelming to open up War and Peace on a tiny screen. Voila, the short story.

We’re all running around the mulberry bush in some form or another. Moms wait for their kids in carpool, waiters have 30 min. breaks, kids wait for the school bus and on and on. Why not make that time a bit more delicious? There’s a burgeoning market out there for stories that are short and well written, perfect for the phone. We’re creating our version of a mash-up and will sell it soon.

Stay tuned for next week. I’ll share an update on how we’re doing with our project and I’ll discuss the business side of stories for phones and other venues.

What about you? Have you done anything new lately? Tried a new genre? A new writing ritual? Come on now, you know you want to share!

20 Responses to Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

  1. William says:

    It’s been an experience, and a lot of fun, that’s for sure! I have not had this much genuine FUN writing in a long time. Just when I thought I knew where it was going, *wham*, a section comes in and shoots off in a new direction.

    It’s fun! It’s amazing! It’s scary as hell! (I mean, what’s coming next and from whom?)


  2. Glad to hear you had as much as I did. Here’s hoping we get the kinks out and can get it up for sale.


  3. Marilyn Baron says:

    My blog, Petit Fours and Hot Tamales has 16 members. In the past 2 1/2 years we’ve written three blog novels. About 10 of us participate and we each write a chapter. The first two books were romantic suspense, the third a paranormal. We’re close to finishing a cozy mystery. We offer them as free reads on our site
    Marilyn Baron


  4. Love your blog!!! It’s one of the best in my humble opinion.

    Putting together novels are a super idea and a relatively quick way to get more content up for sale with your name on it. This is the same idea, but made for a quicker, less intimidating read. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  5. Kristina Gilley says:

    I had a “what if” moment a while back and began writing one from his POV only. And he’s blind. And it’s not romance. Very different. Kinda scarey in a good way.


  6. That sounds amazing.
    A very interesting idea with lots of limits- my kind of challenge! Let me know how it turns out. I love that you’re flexing those creative muscles. Masterpieces are born when artists push through preconceived ideas of accepted norms.


  7. Melissa says:

    I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve had writing in a long time. 🙂 It sparked my creativiity, blocked all the self-doubt, and helped me remember why I love writing so much! LOL I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. I loved the surprise twists! 🙂


  8. dandilyon says:

    I’ve started a ghost story game over on Gather that I’m about to import over to my blog. I take a random prompt and create a story from it. It was so much fun I’m making it a weekly thing next Friday. Here’s the first one that resulted from the prompt “a photograph of a dog”.

    Blogs like Musetracks have inspired me to have more fun and play at my own…thx!


  9. Ruth Kenjura says:

    umm, tried anything unusal? No, not really, still running around with umteen characters talking in my head. Writing- yes, squeezing in time here and there as I babysit a 2yr old and 4yr old for a week. Did I mention that there are also an 11 yr old, 6 yr old, 4 yr old and 3 yr old that live with me? I’m seriously thinking about alternate realities- like where I can put the kids on a different plane, keep and eye on them and still work at the computer, sort of like an “other world babysitter”. Or maybe write a short story about the woman who had so many kids, no wait that’s been done before. But I am looking forward to the write a thon this weekend. Who knows what I might come up with.


  10. Tess says:

    Good luck with the mash-up…sounds like fun! I’m doing a non-fiction short story about a woman who used to be out housekeeper. (she was like a grandmother to me)..When I was 18 she met a tragic end…whether I ever publish it or not, the story has to be told.


  11. Great idea! Can’t wait to see the finished product!


  12. Hey Missy- I had fun writing our story as well. Now, let’s see if the rip it up, tear it up part goes as well. I’m excited to see where it leads us.


  13. Dandilyon, that is a very cool idea. I think it’s a great thing to do on a weekly basis. I read your story and it creeped me out!!! Very scary stuff. I can’t wait to see what else you come up with- I’m making sure I say far away from any old pics of scrawny dogs.

    Thanks for the compliment to Musetracks, it is very much appreciated.


  14. Ruth- we’re going to make BIG strides in getting you to completion! I think you need to be set free so you can let those creative juices flow in multiple directions…not multiple personalities!! HA!
    I also look forward to seeing you at the write-a-thon.


  15. I can so relate to you needing to write that story about your housekeeper. When I provided the prompt a few weeks ago, I wrote about the lonely woman in the house. Odilia, my friend and housekeeper, died from stomach cancer. I still miss her. I’ve also named a character in my new novel after her. Good luck with your story.


  16. I can’t wait to see the finished product from our efforts either! How much fun to just let go and write whatever!! We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed. Thanks, Robin!


  17. jbrayweber says:

    This was definitely a fun experience. I must say, as a writer of historical romance and the occasional paranormal romance, writing in a completely new genre was a big step for me (Hmm..maybe I’ll even do a blog on it!!) I’m pretty darn sure I can pull of a suspense story now. LOL!

    Needless to say, I encourage all writers to do a mash-up short story! The fun to be had!!



  18. Maybe next time we could try steam punk??? What do you say, Jenn?


  19. William says:

    Steampunk? I’m in! (Been watching THE WILD WILD WEST with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin; talk about perfect timing!)


  20. I think that would be great! The whole point of this is to stretch creatively and maybe even make some money.


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