It’s been a while but I have been doing writing-related things in the background.
At school, I have been doing a writing project with my Year 6 class. We read a load of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks (the ones by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson) at the end of last year and then in the Autumn term, we got started.
First, we invented a place for our story to happen. We used Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator, which gave us the countries, the borders and the seas – then we had to fill this world. The children invented races and nationalities and conflicts and history to make this world come alive, half of which barely even get a mention in the finished book. There were the reclusive lizard people of Qirzar with their high-tech weaponry, the cat people of the Chazc Theocracy and their longstanding rivalry with Tsogtsi, and the thousand robots of Gerefke. Having a good idea about the politics and organisation of the world they’d made gave the children all sorts of things they could draw upon as they wrote.
Into these strange lands, the children inserted a traveller. That is you, the adventurer. You are a security guard who journeys through a mysterious portal to recover a crystal stolen from the institute where you work. The children talked about lots of ideas for stories and then worked up their concepts into a narrative that would take the reader through different places in order to accomplish their goal. They even took some ideas from their own pop culture knowledge to adapt and play with as they went.
Once we had the story, we split up into nine groups. Each group was responsible for writing their own leg of the journey, having to work carefully to make sure their piece tied in nicely with what had come before and what would follow. It took about three months, one morning each week, to complete the rough draft of 30,000 words.
After that, we checked the story to make sure it worked and that it was possible (albeit incredibly hard) to win. Then began the process of editing, making sure things fit together and making sure that it read well. Some bits were easier than others and the children had to work hard to make everything fit – especially the bit where you appear to be swimming across a river carrying a horse?!
I was lucky enough to set up a Zoom meeting for the class with Sir Ian Livingstone himself, who gave them some history of the books and some tips on how to make it all work.
The children then completed artwork for the inside, wrote the blurb, found fonts for the title, experimented with cover designs and kept on going until we reached a place where it was ready to publish. We used the Midjourney AI to play with cover design ideas until we had something that looked professional and that we really liked. I couldn’t be more proud of the work that they have put into this. It was a very long process and I don’t really think that they ever really thought it would be a proper book that they could hold in their hands. Hopefully, they’ve discovered a joy for the writing journey and the knowledge that if they work together and put in a shift, they can produce something wonderful.
Anyway, I may not have made any headway on the journey to completing Part 2 of The Ardenna Crossing, but I’ve still had the chance to be creative and to get a group of children to have a go themselves.
It would be great if you could help support them and show them that they can be successful. You can buy the book on Amazon by scanning the QR code below, or by clicking this link. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chaos-Grayshott-Primary-School-Class/dp/B0C1J7KT32/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1U902000T6B2C&keywords=king+of+chaos+grayshott&qid=1681589421&sprefix=king+of+chaos+grayshott%2Caps%2C139&sr=8-1
It’s probably suitable for about 8 years and up. There are some nasty creatures in there to fight like headcrabs and mutant hornets but I’ve tested it on the boy (8) and he doesn’t seem fazed.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Hope to be back with more updates as soon as I can.
May your stamina never fail!