A Round Robin Is A…

Newsletter 025 – October 28th, 2022


About the image above: I’m going to start using it for the newsletter header. It occurred to me while I was writing the last few newsletters that I was spending more time rooting through old images from my travels than I was writing the newsletter (in order to find opening and closing images that tied in with that newsletter’s theme). I realized that I could have been using that time for other things (like writing and editing – or sleeping), so the header image on most of the newsletters will start looking like this, for a while at least.

Back in 2006, I was recording public domain audiobooks for Librivox, an organization whose aim is to record audio versions of all public domain literature (anything published before 1927, or anything an author has officially released into the public domain regardless of the date). As readers, we also agreed to release our own recordings into the public domain so anyone who wanted to listen to a recording could download a copy of it (or listen to it online) for free.

During some of our online forum discussions, several of us discovered that we were also writers, and that we participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNo) in November each year. We thought we could combine our writing and recording skills by cooperatively writing and recording a thirty chapter book during NaNo (one chapter per day), and releasing the recording on Librivox.

We decided to do it as a round-robin project. One person would write the first chapter on November 1st (Day One of NaNo), then post a copy of it in a Librivox forum so all the readers/writers could stay caught up with the plot until their turn came. Writer Number Two would pick up the story where Number One left off, and Number One would record their own chapter while Number Two was writing theirs. The last person would wrap the story up when they wrote Chapter Thirty. Easy, right?

There weren’t thirty volunteers, so a few of us took more than one chapter. I did chapters 5, 12, 24, and (along with several others) Chapter 30 (to provide alternate endings). We did finish the novel, which we simply called The Mystery, but there were lots of hiccups along the way. Especially when one of the writers went berserk and changed everything, abandoning the mystery genre to include space aliens in the plot, along with Martian DNA, and some other off-kilter ideas. Fortunately, the next writer turned that sci-fi scenario into a main character’s dream and got us back on track. Unfortunately, the trust between us was broken after that. Many of us wrote our chapters not knowing whether they would be completely negated by the next writer. It was an interesting experience anyway, despite the frustrations, and the writing and recording (although a bit strange at times) was often quite good. If you would like to listen to the audiobook, here’s a link.

2006 Librivox NaNoWriMo Project: The Mystery

In 2007, being the masochistic souls we obviously were, we decided to do it again, and called this one The Yellow Sheet. We were more careful about selecting volunteers that time, and didn’t try to go for a full thirty chapters. We decided to make Chapter Twenty the last one. I took Chapters 2 and 20 that year. It’s also available online.

2007 Librivox NaNoWriMo Project: The Yellow Sheet

I would recommend The Yellow Sheet over The Mystery, unless you’re really into chaos. I think 2007’s experiment was much better, even though the plot was more complex. Here’s a summary (created after the fact): “An atomic bomb explodes in the mountains of Montana. But was there really a bomb? And was it really in Montana, or was it in Tokyo? Are Liz and Elizabeth the same woman? Is she married with children? Is her husband a spy? These and many other questions are asked, and answered, in this round-robin small book.”

If you want to read a piece of it, I’ve linked a PDF of the Chapter Two text (one of the ones I did) on this website, along with an MP3 of me narrating that chapter. Alan Drake left me a surprise ending to his Chapter One. After he introduced the story’s main character, rock climber Liz McKenna, and set the stage for the story, he had her notice that an atomic bomb had just detonated in the valley below her. I had one day to write my way out of that plot twist. Check it out at this link.


Have you ever been involved in any cooperative projects where everyone’s success depends on each team member doing their part? Did any individual’s actions throw the whole thing into disarray? That’s how we felt in 2006.

The next newsletter will be about word combinations.

See you then,


[“And what will poor [round-] robin do then, poor thing?” Anonymous nursery rhyme.
“Why, he’ll write another chapter, because he cannot sing.” Michael Sirois, 09-25-2022.]

It’s true, I can’t. Rarely has an in-tune note escaped my body. I can drum, but it’s not the same as having a lead singer hiding inside you, wanting desperately to get out.

Standard Disclaimer: Please post a comment below if you would like to. All comments are personally moderated by a grouchy old guy, though, so posts by self-promotional schemers, spammers, and lunatic ranters won’t make it through. Everyone else, whether your thoughts are positive or negative, please feel free to speak your mind. Thanks.

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