Writers talk so much about the hero’s journey, I think, because we take them all the time. We start from a comfortable spot, in front of a blank page, nothing ventured, nothing lost. We advance into the unknown out of fear or need or destiny, and all’s going well enough until we slip into the underworld around the beginning of the second act. After that, it’s all about slogging through Hades, grinding out words, fighting off demons, until by inspiration, hard work, and divine grace we win that golden cup of story, and bring ourselves home, and find a white page in front of us again as if nothing happened at all—but we’re changed, sometimes forever, by the experience.
By contrast, collaborative writing, like we do on the Bookburners team, feels less like the classic hero’s journey, and more like an epic fantasy quest, the sort you get in the kind of books hefty enough to use for home defense. Rather than a single protagonist, you have a raft of characters, all with their own expertise and quirks, and rather than entering the underworld of your own soul, you’re going on a voyage together. Maybe as a group you think you know where you’re going, but maybe you don’t. Maybe the journey will surprise you. But wherever you’re bound, you’ll get there together, or not at all. And, as in the epic fantasy quest, the real story isn’t about the task—it’s about the people.