"A round robin is a science fiction tradition dating back some 70 years. It works like this: a number of authors agree to write one chapter each of a novel. There is no plot. There is no outline. Author #1 writes the opening chapter and sends it on to Author #2, who has no idea what he's about to receive. He can continue the plot, branch off from it in a logical way, even contradict something that came before if he does it fairly (such as showing that the main character was being purposely misled). It then goes to Author #3 and so on down the line; the final Author wraps it up. For this reason, not only can't we tell you what the book is about yet, but we can't even give you a title (but never fear: there will be a contest open to all Fictionwise.com readers). Okay, those are the ground rules. Now enjoy."
I had never participated in a round robin before, although one of my favorite works ever, the comic book DC Challenge, was a round robin. So I jumped at the opportunity. Mike passed along the first fifteen chapters and told me to start thinking of a way to bring the book to a conclusion.
I was honored when I discovered who else was part of the book. The previous participants were Mike Resnick, David Gerrold, Nancy Kress, Robert Sheckley, Brian Herbert, Laura Resnick, Kay Kenyon, Stephen Leigh, Bill Fawcett, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James Patrick Kelly, Dean Wesley Smith, Jody Lynn Nye, Jane Yolen, and Pat Cadigan. The book took some bizarre twists and turns, as you might expect from a round robin.
In my chapter, I created a scene in which a future version of the main character, Kendell Spencer, comes back in time to talk to the current version. The future Spencer explains the plot as it had unfolded before, while pointing the way towards the upcoming final chapter. (I think the book will end with either chapter 17 or 18.) My concerns were both artistic and mercenary. From an artistic perspective, I think it works well to have a "resting" chapter, during which readers can trace the aforementioned twists and turns, and see how and why it all finally comes together.
And from a mercenary perspective, I wanted to make my chapter stand alone, in case anyone out there wanted to buy it without necessarily buying the rest of the novel. Of course, my hope is that anyone who does start with Chapter 16 will decide to see for themselves how the other authors made the plot unfold...but at least this way, someone who is collecting the Burstein ouvre only will not feel cheated if they don't buy the rest of the book.
To find out more about my chapter, click "Your Title Here: Mike Resnick's Round Robin Spectacular (Chapter 16)". And if you decide you want to start from the beginning, you can get Mike's first chapter for free by clicking "Your Title Here: Mike Resnick's Round Robin Spectacular (Chapter 1)".