Group-written novels
July 30, 2019 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What traditionally published novels had more than three authors? I’m not looking for a collection of shared-universe short stories (a la Wild Cards Or Thieves World). Instead, I’m looking for something like Naked Came The Stranger, Naked Came The Manatee, or The Floating Admiral, where there’s (more or less) a single story from beginning to end. I’d also love to see articles on the process for writing any such novels.
posted by yankeefog to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Q by Luther Blissett and the other novels by Wu Ming, the group they started after that one.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2019

Wikipedia lists a few, although doesn't cover the writing process.

Melanie Rawn, Jennifer Roberson, and Kate Elliot wrote "The Golden Key" together. The novel is divided up into three sections and each, as far as I recall, wrote a section (there was a little discontinuity in voice, but I enjoyed). I realize that "three" is not "more than three".

"The Painted Sky" had five authors and "The Shifting Lights" was written by four of those five.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:32 AM on July 30, 2019

Draculas: A Novel of Terror by F. Paul Wilson, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand and Blake Crouch.

I read a little bit of it because I was curious how it would work, but didn't get far -- it's not my kind of book. The authors seem well established in their field.

The ebook includes interviews with them about their process in writing it.
posted by rollick at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2019

Atlanta Nights, although that's a special case.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:59 AM on July 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

The steel seraglio

(Goodreads is only showing one of the authors but there are three)
posted by azalea_chant at 10:06 AM on July 30, 2019

There was one in the last 10 years that sold really well, about... a hotel? It was written on stage by like 13 authors in 48 hours or something I think as a charity fundraiser. The authors were reasonably well known and I enjoyed reading it.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:26 AM on July 30, 2019

The President's Mystery Plot by Franklin D. Roosevelt et al.
posted by misteraitch at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2019

Oh and No Rest for the Dead, a mystery written simultaneously by 26 famous crime writers.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:33 AM on July 30, 2019

Star Trek tie-in author "L.A. Graf" started as a three-person team.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:28 AM on July 30, 2019

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Doomsday World (1990) by Carmen Carter, Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman and Robert Greenberger (0671702378).

From Voyages of Imagination (a 'behind-the-scenes' on novels):
Bob recalled, " [...] David [Hartwell] happily let me do some behind-the-scenes coordination and even let me try my hand at pitching a novel outline, entitled Orion's Belt. I was clearly not ready to transition to prose at that time. At a subsequent event, though, the notion of collaborating on a novel, similar to the then-popular Thieves' World series came up. I teamed up with Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, and Carmen Carter for the delightful experience in producing Doomsday World. It's been growing from there.

How does a story like this get written with four people? Bob commented, "When these collaborations happened, we talked about a general story and then I wrote the outline. It's structured so the crew is divvied up, allowing each other to write independently. In this case, everyone contributed some general notes on the world and characters we were creating. Everyone went to work, writing away. Once we were done, everyone got copies of the completed manuscript and we met over pizza and hammered out the contradictions or where to beef-up subplots. Invariably, Mike Friedman got to do the polish. We all proofed the galleys and cashed the checks.

Carmen remembered working on this novel with the others fondly. "Coauthoring with Peter, Michael, and Bob has to rate as one of the most fun experiences I've had as a Trek writer. The brainstorming sessions were almost immediately productive, and so lively that I can't remember where any particular idea came from. The collaboration was much smoother than I expected given how many strong and colorful personalities were brought under one yoke, and the resulting story appears to have been quite popular among readers."

Peter remembered, "Bob came up with the basic concept, if I remember correctly. We all got together and proceeded to totally destroy Bob's concept and totally rebuild it, which is what happens in these kinds of things. It's not like there was anything wrong with what Bob came up with, it's just the routine standing operation procedure that when you get other writers in the room, they stomp on it within an inch of its life, then restructure and redevelop the basic concept, and outline through the course of the meeting. Each of us would write one of the storylines from start to finish, and Mike put the thing together so it read smoothly as one piece instead of a hodgepodge of different writing styles."
posted by WCityMike at 11:39 AM on July 30, 2019

I know you said you didn't want "collection of shared-universe short stories" like Wild Cards, but I do want to point out that typically every third WC book is actually what they call a "mosaic novel", where multiple authors write parts of a single narrative plot. These mosaic novels fit your "single story from beginning to end" criteria and even seem (to me, at least) to be more collaboratively structured than your three given examples. Whereas your examples all have each chapter written by a single author as a discrete unit that is combined linearly with the rest, the WC mosaics have the different authors combining their threads throughout the length of the novel with the assistance and sometimes judicious massaging of the editor(s).
posted by roosterboy at 12:00 PM on July 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

if you don't read French, probably not terribly useful but Jules Romains and eleven other French writers wrote a combined novel le Roman des Douze
posted by TheRaven at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2019

I think it may be veering off your target a little, but perhaps you'd be interested in the history and authorship of The Urantia Book, a 20th century spiritualist text with tinges of esotericism and other religious philosophy. The group that first promoted it claimed that it had been written/dictated by 'celestial beings' - analysis of its history and writing suggests that it was written by several persons who had joined Chicago physicians William and Lena Sadler for periodic discussions on philosophy and metaphysics. A statistical analysis of the text suggested that there might have been as many as nine authors.
posted by the_querulous_night at 1:16 PM on July 30, 2019

Julian May, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Andre Norton together wrote the first book in the Trillium series, sequels for which were written individually.
posted by lhauser at 7:37 PM on July 30, 2019

Caverns is a 1989 novel written collaboratively as an experiment by Ken Kesey and a creative writing class that he taught at the University of Oregon.
posted by Clustercuss at 11:04 AM on July 31, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you for the great recommendations, everybody! I really appreciate it.
posted by yankeefog at 3:17 AM on August 1, 2019

A few more:

The Mongoliad is alternate timeline adventure story by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and many others.
Tremontaine is a prequel to Ellen Kushner's excellent Riverside novels, by Kushner and many others.
posted by mark k at 8:35 AM on August 4, 2019

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