TooManyCooks At Croydon College

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Hi all, this week I’m writing a book with a wonderful group of kids in Croydon College, and one of the teachers has very kindly agreed to guest blog for us a teachers-eye view of the process. Jim is the man behind @Yayeahyeah and he’s also live-tweeting the whole novel process as @TooManyCooksCC so please find out what’s going on there!

Hi all,

Jim from Croydon College here, guest blogging about our involvement in the TooManyCooks project, which sees 10 of our students team together to write a novel over the course of 5 days.

By day, I’m a maths teacher, but by night/early-morning/lunchtimes/holidays, I’m a voracious reader of books, including a large amount of YA novels. So when my boss Chantal asked me if I’d like to be involved in the Too Many Cooks project, I jumped at the chance! (Apart from anything else, I’m able to spend the day on Twitter giving progress on our updates, and the thought of a job in social media – this definitely counts! – was too good to turn down.)

Up until last Friday, my attention has been devoted to teaching GCSE Mathematics (last exam was Friday morning), so I’ve very much come into this ‘cold’. This has been incredibly interesting because I’ve been having to pick things up in the same way as the students have. They were given a one page brief on Monday, spent the day mind-mapping and planning, and then were so far ahead of schedule that they started actually writing the novel on Monday afternoon rather than Tuesday morning as planned. The planning phase was simultaneously really fascinating and incredibly depressing – I believe we started off with 7 deaths (and we’ve only got 8 characters, I think), an abortion, drug abuse, and various other tragedies. Thankfully, the students have cut back on some of the darker, more depressing parts. (You may not believe this if you read it, but trust me, it’s true!)

It’s been particularly interesting to get to know students I haven’t taught before – the overall enthusiasm level here is fantastic! The project is certainly pushing them out of their comfort zone, with one student, K, being fairly vocal in her belief that this might be ‘cheating’ and that novels are generally written by one person. (Although as Joe’s pointed out, they’re also NOT generally written in 5 days) Despite this, she’s playing a full and active part in the writing, as are all of the rest, most of whom seem a little happier with the concept.

Seeing the students gain in their confidence as they get through the week and write more has been a highlight for me, as has listening to them discuss what will happen in particular scenes. (Each is responsible for a particular character and scenes involving several of them need there to be a consensus between the people responsible – it seems a weird way to write when you hear about it, but it’s working surprisingly well!)

What do you think of the idea of Too Many Cooks? Would you read a novel written by 10 people, or do you agree with K that it’s ‘cheating’? Follow us on Twitter for more live updates!


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