Collaborative writing rules in Chinese

I went to a working bee today. It feels good to be part of a community, where you can nod and smile at people and chat with them at ease. There are no serious topics such as politics and economy, as we talk about gardening and football and everything else that is visible under the sun. Whenever there is a baby crying or a kid tripping over and getting hurt, there are always plenty of mothers ready to help.

Somehow this makes me think about writing. The definition of “collaborative fiction” in Wikipedia goes like this: “A form of writing by a group of authors who share creative control of a story.” At the section of “Recreational Collaborative Writing” the explanation is even better: “Collaborative fiction can be fully open with no rules or enforced structures as it moves from author to author; however, many collaborative fiction works adopt some set of rule on what constitutes an acceptable contribution.” These are fascinating ideas for writers to ponder upon, I am sure.

And it is my habit to always check out the Chinese version of each Wikipedia page, whenever there is one. In this case, whoever authored the page “Collaborative Writing” in Chinese suggests this form of writing can result in online novels. More importantly, while collaborative writing can derive from role-playing games both online and in reality, one of its potential results is the creation of fan-fiction. The term “online text-based role-playing game” is also mentioned as either the origin or the end-product of collaborative writing, or both.

But what I really want to talk about in this article is the rules that are likely to be adopted in common collaborative writing projects — according to Wikipedia in Chinese, at least. When a group of authors collaborate on a writing project, they need to:

  • Determine the number of contributors, how many times each can contribute, and when these contributions should be put together;
  • Contribute the minimum or maximum number of words with which all contributors have agreed;
  • Determine any necessary work outside of the collaborative writing project;
  • Limit themselves with one genre;
  • Focus themselves on one point-of-view;
  • Maintain the same theme, style and tempo;
  • Maintain the same grammar, spelling and written language;
  • Obey the consensus about “adult” contents;
  • Always keep the “story” going;
  • Never attempt to take over a character created by another contributor;
  • Never kill or permanently change a character created by another contributor;
  • Never “apotheosise” any character, i.e. never make him or her perfect while the other characters are making mistakes.

Each of these rules itself is inspiring enough. Yet, as a set, they combine to form something that is absolutely fascinating. All these limits conspire to force the participating authors to become flexible. All these boundaries encourage authors to seek freedom, to think outside the box while being enclosed inside. All these closed windows and doors help authors to take unprecedented adventures, to go wild.

Have you ever participated in a collective writing project? Please let me know your experience and what you think of it.

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