Belinda Roberts explains how a book of short stories came to be

The concept of TwelveTales started last Christmas with two of my very good friends bewailing the fact that they wanted to write but still hadn't got going ... or even started! The time had come to throw out the challenge: I would ask them and nine others - a mix of friends and family who I thought might enjoy the challenge, plus myself - to each write a short story. 

But there would be rules. TwelveTales rules. Each writer would be given a month of the year - randomly allocated - which would be their chapter and position in the book. We also had an overall theme. 'Red' was chosen. The month and the theme could be key to each story or just mentioned in passing. A short story between 2,000 and 6,000 words was required by May. Stories would be emailed to myself, along with photographs of the writers for the cover, and my company, Beetleheart Publishing, (which is basically me!) would publish them as a paperback collection under the title On The Edge. Editing and proof reading would be done by the writers, exchanging stories if they wished, commenting, encouraging and knocking off any rough edges! I would design and layout the books ready for print. Everyone would chip in the cost for six books minimum so only a small outlay each: a kickstart to get people writing by giving them deadlines and an outlet was the objective, not high volume book sales.

The first story came back almost by return, others took more time. For some, a lot more time ... deadlines were missed, deadlines were smashed! We wanted to get the book out in time to give to pals this Christmas and time was ticking on ... then a flurry of emails as tales of murder, mystery, romance and comedy landed in my inbox. By the end of October I had all the stories and most of the photographs. By November I was wrapping up packages of On The Edge to give to each writer. Six books was the minimum commitment each - but most asked for more - fifty and counting!

The most thrilling thing about the whole project has been the stories: they are remarkable. It is particularly enjoyable reading stories written by people you know! Our On The Edge group included four members of my own family. I could not wait to see what my husband had written about. His story turned out to be rather dark!

Initially this was going to be one TwelveTales book - but the idea is spreading. Right now I know of several groups who have writers beavering away. Each is writing to the TwelveTales guidelines and Beetleheart will publish the stories in the TwelveTales style. The aim is not fame or fortune – but challenge, fun and opportunity - a chance for writing to be aired not consigned to the famous dusty back drawer!

For some, TwelveTales might just be a one off writing experience: for others it has been the writing kickstart they have been waiting for. Two On The Edge writers are planning novels, another a book of their own short stories.

As for airing the stories to the general public ... have a look at www.twelvetales.co.uk for a taster! And who knows - you might decide to give your friends the TwelveTales writing challenge this Christmas and be holding your own book launch party in 2017!

Belinda Roberts

Belinda has written and illustrated a number of children's books and plays. Her work is both published and self-published.