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The Greatest Story

My old website, Four Island, may seem like a blog, but in fact it was more like a community. Its main purpose was to serve as a watering hole for my group of friends, especially after I moved to America and the rest stayed in Australia. Combined with the fact that we were a creative bunch of kids, it follows that Four Island ended up producing many a weird project, like a webcomic about linens or a newspaper chronicling the fake adventures of Four Island's inhabitants. Perhaps the most poignant of these projects (and probably the oldest too) was The Greatest Story.

It was almost five years ago that my friend Amelia came up with the idea to write a story together, as a group. Normally such an endeavor would be lost to the procrastination and disorganization of young adults, but we were different. We had a strong project leader. To quote her initial idea:

I wasn't sure whether to put this in Deck of Cards, Spam or here, but this is a collaborative effort and it's cool. I just thought this up.

So, want to write a story, but haven't got the time or drive? Why don't you work on a story with a small group? It can be insane, random, funny, sad or... anything!

My idea is that we form a small group, and we each contribute a character of our own making, using a bio sheet. Then, one person types up a chapter and posts it, another person makes another chapter after the first chapter and posts it and we keep on going until... THE END. The only rule is that you can't type two chapters in a row unless you has permission. Oh, and the story must make some sort of sense

Only three of us got involved: Amelia, Jonathan, and me. Despite this, in a manner of days we not only pulled characters and a story idea out of nowhere, we also developed a peer-reviewed process of creating the book. We came up with a system in which people would claim which chapters they wanted to write, and then they would have to write a synopsis of their chapter and have it approved by the other two members before they would be allowed to start writing. Also, one was not allowed to start writing their chapter until all previous chapters had been written. This rule in particular caused a bit of trouble, as it took Jonathan over 13 months to write Chapter 5.

All in all, it took us about two and a half years of nagging and cheering on to get all of us to complete 10 chapters of fiction. I believe I can safely say that 99% of this time was spent procrastinating. In the end, however, we finally came up with a finished product, and it's quite interesting to read such a long-term project because you can see how our writing styles developed over time. In fact, my writing style had expanded so much that chapter 10 and the first appendix (both written by me) make up almost 40% of the book. It was a fun project, and it was sad to see it end, especially as we had always planned on writing a second story after finishing the first one, which never ended up happening.

The book we wrote was called Starfall, and as there were three authors, there were three main characters: Ailé, Starla and Tamesis. The story is about magic, controlling magic, and the strength of friendship. It sounds incredibly corny, but I think it came out well. This story had some effects on our community of friends other than just being a fun adventure, however. In fact, I borrowed Starla's full name (Starla Insigna) and used it as my online persona for the last five years, and Jonathan has been using the username tamasys (based off the name Tamesis) for just as long. It's almost more of a memento than a story.

Herein Lies The Bind

So, six paragraphs in to this discussion, you may be asking, "Kelly, why are you talking about this? Is it Friendship Reminiscing Day?" Actually, the reason why I feel it's a good time to wrap up Starfall and make a nice post about it is because a couple of days ago, I finally did what I've been wanting to do for a while. I printed three copies of Starfall and bound them by hand. Binding these books was quite an adventure, I must say.

  1. First, I typeset the books with LaTeX, which I had actually done a couple of years back, but I had some extras to add to this printing which the other authors don't actually know about. Hmm. A subproblem of this was that Macs do not provide any simple way to print in a booklet format (with the correct pages on the backs of the correct pages), so I had to create another LaTeX document and use it to format the document for printing.
  2. Then, I had to wrestle with some argumentative printers that refused to be helpful. One printer did not want me to connect to it wirelessly, so I beat it up until it came online at which point it still did not let me print wirelessly, so I took it upstairs to my good friend Matilda who proudly professed that she was out of ink. In a fury, I went back downstairs, found a printer cable and plugged into the printer downstairs, only to discover that it did not support duplex printing. So, for the next half an hour, I found myself flipping over pages and flinching at the printer retching at me when I fed it a page a little too slowly. It was worth it, though, because I ended up with a full printed manuscript of Starfall.
  3. The next step was to copy it and slice it down the middle (I had printed it with two book pages on one page because the book is about A5 side), for which I travelled to a nearby Staples office supply, who happily allowed me to copy my manuscript and slice it down the middle. The only problem was that the two copies I made were black & white. Therefore, the First Edition printing of Starfall makes up three copies: one Full Color Edition and two Standard editions.
  4. Finally came the part that involved some handiwork and some instruction. I have had a tutorial on how to bind books in my bookmarks for many years, and it was about to make itself useful. Long story short, I liberally applied Gorilla Glue to the bindings of these three copies to some card stock and then put heavy dictionaries on them, which inevitably ended up glued to the books. Scissors were needed. It was beautiful. It was messy. I thank God that I did not choose to carry out this activity in my bedroom.

While this was a very amateur endeavor, and the bindings ended up a bit more glued than I had wanted, I am very proud of binding my first books, especially as I helped write these books. I do believe it is time for some pictures.

It was not until after I bound the books that I realized the covers had printed with the wrong font, but I don't mind, I think this looks nice. Also included for your viewing pleasure is a picture of me holding one of these books open. I think you'll find that it looks like I'm reading an actual book, which, I guess, it technically is.

The final step of the process involved mailing the Full Color Edition to our project leader, Amelia, and mailing the less glued-up Standard Edition to Jonathan. I am left here with the final first edition copy of Starfall and I am quite enjoying my handiwork. Printing a book that I worked on and then binding it has been a dream of mine for a while, and I'm happy that I was able to do this. If I ever win a NaNoWriMo, I intend on printing that novel too. Starfall, by the way, just made the mark for novella status (17500 words) with a total count of 18500 words on the dot. How...... nice.

So, what else?

If you've made it through my blather, I'd like to invite you to take part in this momento and read Starfall. I have no claims that it is a literary masterpiece, I just think it is a nice product that shows the magic that a few friends can make. The entirety of the First Edition of Starfall (sans the Epilogue and Appendix II) is available online at Four Island absolutely free.

TGS - Starfall - The actual book. Ten chapters and one appendix. Color is included.

TGS Discussion - For the more adventurous, there is also the 42 page discussion thread in which we developed the idea and eventually put it into words. It's a nice read if you'd like to see what was happening behind the scenes.

Well, that's The Greatest Story. It feels like it's representative of something more. I wonder. In any event, it's been fun, ya'll.

Hatkirby on January 11th, 2013 at 12:00:00am
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