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Scrittura Industriale Collettiva

August 7, 2009

As I still have not uploaded the photos from the Spain trip (I took a thousand! I need to be  picky with what I upload on my poor mobile broadband connection), I’ll tell you about another project I’ve been involved with this summer, called Scrittura Industriale Collettiva.

Scrittura Industriale Collettiva, or Collective Industrial Writing, is a new collective writing methodology devised by Vanni Santoni e Gregorio Magini. I have participated at some level in the project since its pilot a couple of years ago, in which a team of five writers produced a short story set in the Northern Italian province called Il Principe. (If you understand Italian you can read it here).

The principle of SIC is, according to its tagline, “everyone writes everything”. A subject and basic plot for the work are agreed upon, and the different elements of the narrative are divided into categories such as ‘Characters’, ‘Settings’, ‘Situations’. A team of writers working under an Artistic Director then tackles these elements, and each writer writes their own copy. The Artistic Director then collects all the copies and patches them together using the most interesting or most appropriate bits, but without adding anything. The second phase of the method then includes the actual writing of the piece, plot node by plot node, and assembling it in the same fashion. There’s a little diagram here, but in Italian I’m afraid. The starred man is the Artistic Director, I hope the rest is understandable after my explanation.

Chart (c) Scrittura Industriale Collettiva

Chart (c) Scrittura Industriale Collettiva

Currently, SIC is working on a novel with a stunning 200+ authors! It’s the first time the SIC method goes far beyond 5-8 people groups. We are writing a historical novel set during World War II, which makes it very interesting in terms of research. There are thee interlocked storylines, all including a symbolic or physical journey: a soldier travels from the South of Italy to the North, questioning his political beliefs on the way; his sister, alone in Milan, initially insecure and overprotected, grows stronger and even has a brief interlude of political activism; her husband, escaped to the countryside, slowly spirals into madness out of fear.

So far I have preferred working on the woman’s storyline, but I think I will also try my hand at the husband’s. I’ve written one minor character for the soldier’s plotline but found it hard to delineate the political traits satisfactorily. What’s great about having a team is that you can really play on your strengths (or, in my case, avoid my weaknesses), which makes writing a lot more approachable for people who, like me, aren’t particularly sure of their writing skills.

Two things that SIC taught me about writing were first of all the importance of research to create characters and situations unknown to you in a believable way. This is pretty straight-forward but often if you come from an “Iwrite for myself” background it’s not all that obvious.

But the most precious thing that SIC taught me is to be daring. Even in realist approaches to writing, you can be imaginative or just plain silly, and trust the Artistic Director’s judgement. Most of the times, the results are far better than when you try to be believable and realistic – when, in my experience, I end up being boring. I particularly enjoyed having this freedom when a relatively small group of us were trying our best at writing a detective novel – currently on hiatus unfortunately. The novel is full of ‘contour’ characters meant to hide who the real culprit is, and it was great fun to make them up! The more daring we all were, the more interesting and, paradoxically, believable the characters. They stood out of the page and were not banal, then.

Currently the historical novel is between the “Characters/Locations” and the “Situations” phases, we are taking a break to read what we have written and the Artistic Directors have put together and check for incongruencies. If you understand Italian, all the documents are available on the SIC website!

I’ll update you when we start writing again, but in the meantime I’d love to hear from people who have an interesting in collective writing to see what they think of this method and what other methods they know. And if you are a reluctant writer and have never tried any form of group writing, give it a go, I believe it helps!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 31, 2009 22:22

    segnialiamo nel SICtwit ^_^

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