The Emporium Gazette
Issue 53 -- September 2003

The Round Robin or Writing Differently
by Bob Nailor

Sometimes, just to get the creative flow moving, you must go out on a limb; share your soul with another. What do I mean? Try the proverbial "round robin" writing technique.

What does this entail? A round robin consists of two or more people working together toward a final goal; in this case, a story. It is with this style of writing that you open up your raw writing skills to another. You don't spend eons of time editing and re-editing. You write a rough segment, clean it up and send it off. It's an unfinished, raw product; not a complete story, just a snippet of you to share.

I've been lucky over the years to be able to participate in many very rewarding robins.

My introduction was through a writing mentor, Denise Vitola, who teamed me up with another Washington, DC resident (Mary) and a writer (Jim) from Pennsylvania. Those two had already been bantering a story back and forth with tidbits inserted by Denise. What made this unique was the writing genres of the group; fantasy and action. When I was tossed into the group, my style was slanted a bit toward science fiction. Each of us wrote a small segment to carry the story forward, usually ending at a pivotal moment. Time Funnel, the story we were working on, was totally interesting and I looked forward to when it would get back to me so I could add my twist to it. Think this one over: bi-planes, revolvers, machine guns, a computer, Hercules, Pegasus, Aristotle, Judge Roy Bean, Texas, and other definite conundrums of the mind. Yet, this all flowed easily together and seamlessly. It was fun.

The second chance was again through Denise but this time I was creating the plots with two other men; one in New Mexico (Ron) and the other (Mitch) in Texas. The three of us were pretty well matched for style and genre: sci-fi / fantasy. I believe we continued our writing of this round robin for almost a year with some very interesting improvements to our skills. I still remember the April 1st segment by Mitch. Our "world" was basically an object that was on a collision course with our planet. It had some very unique creatures in addition to the scientists from Earth. Mitch's segment came in and it was flowery and so over indulged in romance that the remaining three, Denise, Ron and I were stunned. Did anyone catch the date that this was submitted? Yes, Mitch had caught us with an April Fool's entry which was enjoyed by all. Yes, we finished the novella. Has it been published? No. Could it be published? Very possibly.

The above two groups were years ago and I've only lost contact with one of the members over the years. All of the members that I've continued to have as friends are now published novelists.

I'm currently working with a robin group which has been writing something for almost four years now. It's a larger group but the talent within it is fantastic; all published writers.

What is so great about a round robin? To start, each member adds their own style and ideas to the mainstream of the story. There are no divas in a group like this since no one person can control the story's line. You wait your turn and then add your segment and see what happens next. It is through this exercise that you learn different aspects of the writing skill. You see how a simple thought can move left and right of where you thought of going. The most important aspect is when you read each other's segments and glean the knowledge of writing from it.

Do I recommend a robin group? Definitely. Find some friends and get writing. No friends that write? Check out different writing pages online; I'm sure you'll find somebody to entice with the idea of writing an ongoing story. This method of writing will enhance your skills and you'll find a new nook in your mind for a different way to think.

In the end, you'll be writing the same way, only differently and with more power.

Bob Nailor is author of "The Secret Voice," an Amish-Christian story, "Pangaea, Eden Lost," an adventure story, "Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold," a Celtic fantasy, and "2012: Timeline Apocalypse," an end-of-time tale. He is also included in several anthologies and collections. Check his website at

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