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Adventures on the eBook Frontier - Dispatch 20

Hey all

It’s the new year and I have a question for you. Do you think it’s possible for a group of people to collaborate on a novel?

In the world today many things are open source, with all kinds of people contributing their unique skills to bring a better product to market. Think about the Internet itself. I don’t think it would have come into being had it not been for a group of  nerds determined to create the darned thing.

It needed a crowd to make it happen.

Can the same thing be done with a novel?  Is “we better than me?”

Let’s start off with why it might make sense.

Unless you’re Jonathan Franzen, if you’re a writer of fiction, the chances of an advance are practically nil. However if a group did it, you’d be spreading the time and risk around.

What if you had the writing of a novel broken down into a chain of command? And what would that chain look like?

First somebody has to have the idea. Let’s say it’s an historical piece about Sir John A Macdonald pushing the railway through Canada and all the trouble he runs into.

That person posts their idea and looks for other writers (say three) to build a very loose structure.

Then it goes to the researchers (two) who hit the libraries sifting through piles of source material, pulling out intriguing details nobody has heard of before.

Now’s it’s back to the structure folks who sexy it up; and then off to the wordsmiths who write the sentences.

Everyone on the team reads the novel, does a final critique and it’s finally in the editor’s hands (two) and product creation is complete.

Do you think it would work or would it get nasty?

Do you think a group of people, here I’ve got nine or ten, could write a good story?

Or do you think there is something in fiction that requires one person to see it from being a tiny seed of an idea all the way to a book inhabited with living breathing characters.

In olden days I scoffed at this product notion, insistent that a book required a single focused vision to make it truly feel alive. I felt that you couldn’t strip a novel down to simply the sum of its parts and build it like you would a deck.

There is a point to all of this. When Night Town is out the door, I begin on another novel that I’ve already written a first draft of. I’m currently noodling about possibly doing it open source.

What do you think? Do you think a collaborative fiction model would work? It hasn’t really been done before. At least nothing that readily springs to mind.

Let me know your thoughts…



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