Posted on 14/10/2010
The TooManyCooks team speedily developing their latest novel
Having already successfully showcased their innovative experiment in accelerated, collaborative fiction writing – creating 60,000 word novels in under a week – Dr Joseph Reddington and Dr Douglas Cowie of Royal Holloway, University of London will be offering school children the opportunity to take part in their ‘TooManyCooks’ project, due to a grant from the College’s Outreach Fund.
The project has already seen a team of nine undergraduate students collectively produce two novels in summer 2009, with The Shadow Hours and The Delivery written in seven and five and half days respectively.
The concept of ‘TooManyCooks’ is to speed the workflow for writing fiction novels to unprecedented levels by using a procedure based on techniques currently used in designing computer software. Innovative software helps the writing team to see how the structure of their novel is progressing and whether they are being successful in achieving a consistent writing style.
The project employs cutting-edge linguistic analysis research developed by Royal Holloway’s Computer-Supported Narrative and Semantics Group, which as been featured in ‘Nature’.
Dr Reddington says, "The first time we ran the project we were just interested to know if it was even possible. It was only during the process that we could see how much valuable development the students were getting from it. The benefits were not just in terms of the pure writing that such an intensive environment would be expected to improve, but also in areas such as teamwork, feedback, productivity – ‘soft’ skills that many claim universities do not develop sufficiently in their students.”
In addition, the students benefited enormously from seeing the full workflow of a novel from the inception and development of high-level structure to proofing and choosing a cover illustration.
This view was backed-up during the 2010 Royal Holloway graduation ceremonies when the academic members of ’TooManyCooks’ won the College's team teaching prize for their contribution to student development.
Now, thanks to a grant from the university's outreach fund, a new generation of students from sixth form colleges and schools will be able to give the project a try, and produce their own works of fiction. Dr Reddington explains that "the project only works because our writers buy into the concept - and that only happens because they know the story that they want to write: it's amazing to watch them just pick up a concept and run with it."
The younger students will have a slightly cut-down version of the project and will co-operate to write a 40,000 word novel in five days
During this process they will get a chance to interface the cutting-edge linguistic analysis techniques developed at Royal Holloway, and will receive detailed feedback on their writing ability, style, teamwork, and editing.
Dr Emm Barnes, Outreach Officer, said, "We are really delighted to be able to offer local young people the chance to become authors using these exciting new techniques. The experience could be life-changing for those who take part."