There is no “I” in Wolf
By C.D. Bell, author of Weregirl
Reading Weregirl, most people don’t know that it wasn’t written by a single author, but by a team of writers and editors working at the Vermont publisher Chooseco.
“How does that work?” my writer friends ask. Skeptically. Most assume that writing is an activity best conducted in solitary confinement. At the base of this belief is the idea that multiple voices will muddy the purity of intention that only a solitary writer can achieve. Nothing is more dreadful, the thinking goes, than what is created “by committee.”
But after having plotted and then written a book in this way, I am not sure they are always right.
As a culture, we humans seem to be always pushing for increased isolation, as if the ability to escape each other is the reward of all our technological advancement. By necessity, it used to be that families would sleep all together in a single room, warmed by a small fire as well as body heat. Children would routinely share beds until only very recently. Now, that feels unthinkable. What do we need as humans? As writers? A room of our own.
Really? Always? If we traveled back in time, I suspect the closeness humans used to share gave them a sense of peace and balance I often feel missing in the modern world, where the stress of our isolation is thought to be the cause of many mental and physical illnesses.
As I thought about these questions going into the collaborative Weregirl process, it wasn’t lost on me that Weregirl’s subject—wolves—do everything collaboratively. They sleep in tiny dens piled up on top of each other. They communicate with others in and out of their pack through the smells they lay down and through song. They divide into effective team roles when they’re on the hunt with the precision of a group of Navy SEALs. Watch them and you’ll see that it isn’t static, who does what. They’re in a constant state of negotiation—the alpha probably encounters a dozen micro-challenges to/confirmations of his position on a daily basis.
This kind of negotiation turned out to be a huge part of the Weregirl writers’ room. Just to set the scene, I’ll add some detail. It was March. It was Vermont. Everything outside was either ice or mud, depending on where the sun was hanging in the sky. If the sun was hanging at all. For three days, the team and I sat around in a conference room table while outside Vermont dripped. We ate chocolate and take out and, well, proposed ideas and asked difficult questions and argued about the answers and took notes and felt like we weren’t getting anywhere and what the heck were we going to do if we got to the end of the retreat and had nothing to show?
All the while, I was in interpersonal overstimulation hell. I’d propose an idea and it would be accepted and I’d think, Aha! That’s why I’m here. It’s all about me! I’m brilliant at this! Then, only ten minutes later, the most important part of that idea would be supplanted by someone else’s latest thought. How can that be? I would want to ask. (And I probably did ask more often than was polite.) That idea was the keystone in the arch of this story. Without my idea, everything will crumble.
But then something strange would happen. I would start to like the idea that had supplanted mine. I’d start to see that almost because it didn’t come from me, it had some strange power. It would be fun to write, because it would push me out of my own head. I’d go from a sulky, Fine—the battle cry of the passive aggressive malcontent—to ten minutes later, Okay, maybe that can work, to ten minutes after that, I get it. Let’s go. And then the idea would change again.
It was only later, when I sat down to write (and yes, that mostly happened in my “room of my own”), I came to see that what we created together was solid. Better than solid. Exciting. The rhythm was good. The story moved but also settled into itself. It was self-confident, which is a strange thing to say about an outline, but true. Maybe because our collective vision protected it from the whim of tangents? Maybe because six people means six times the ideas?
Or maybe it was me who was self-confident, not the outline. Maybe my awareness of the vetting process, my having lived through it, grounded me in each episode and character’s raison d’être. Or maybe I had a better time writing it because, on a certain fundamental level that wolves know about and maybe we humans should get to know better, I felt comforted by the understanding that in this one project, at least, I was not alone.
About C. D. Bell:
When she’s not biking the streets of Brooklyn, NY, you can find C. D. Bell writing in a decrepit RV clinging to the side of a hill in upstate New York, trying to teach herself to watercolor, or inventing her own recipes. She is a voracious reader of anything and everything fantasy, supernatural, or romance. And she swears that the monsters she often writes about are not real– at least she hopes not.
Created by a talented team of six female writers and inspired by the working tradition of television writers, C. D. Bell is a Chooseco author pseudonym developed with teen author Cathleen Davitt Bell, who has written I Remember You [Knopf 2015], among other novels for young adults.
The second installment of the WEREGIRL trilogy is already in the works.
Chooseco publishes the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Widely commended for its appeal to reluctant readers, the interactive, multiple-choice multiple-ending series is the 4th-bestselling series for children ever published, with more than 265 million copies translated into 38 languages. Chooseco has sold over 10 million copies since the series re-launch in 2006. Weregirl represents Chooseco’s first foray into full-length, non-interactive young adult fiction.
Nessa Kurland is running for her life.
C. D. Bell’s WEREGIRL is a fast-paced teen thriller set in Tether, Michigan, a town on the brink of shutdown since it was stripped of its resources by corporate polluter Dutch Chemical.
High school junior Nessa Kurland is a cross-country runner with her eyes set on one thing: a college scholarship as her one-way ticket out of Tether.
Talented teammate Cynthia Sinise invites Nessa on a nighttime run through Tether’s overgrown forest trails. But she speeds ahead, leaving Nessa alone to discover a trapped wolf. Nessa tries to free the animal but is badly bitten, seemingly ruining her hopes for a strong fall season with the cross-country team.
Instead, Nessa’s freakishly quick recovery is followed by improved running times. All her senses are heightened. Nessa has transformed.
She has become a werewolf.
In her new state, Nessa learns there are things about Tether that powerful people want to keep hidden. Why does a Nobel Laureate work at the small-town medical clinic? Are top college athletic scouts really interested in her emerging talent? Can she trust Chayton, the motorcycle-riding guide her friends have faith in? WEREGIRL‘s Nessa must navigate her junior year and true human darkness, while making peace with her new, wild nature.