During five weeks all people on the globe can collaborate to the writing of a novel. The experiment – writing a novel using the wikitool – is initiated (and fully owned!) by Penguin and the students of the MA in Creative Writing and New Media of the Montfort University.
Participating into this is highly exciting. The wiki started off 5 days ago and hit more than 500 changes an hour. Hot discussions are going on about plots and characters. On the organizers’ side (an editor and a technician seem to be full time in charge of the wiki) this envolves all kind of funny problemsolving.
Apart of reading the story and seeing how it changes organically every hour, it is very interesting to have a close look at the decisions made on a structural level. The idea is to see if an unlimited number of people can create collectively a believable fictional voice and a coherent story. The first limit considered time and space. The name of the publishers caused the fear to attract people (or did it really happen?) to dump their entire unpublished novels on the wiki hoping to be spotted. So at this moment you can add only 250 words each time, during five weeks. The wiki has suffered vandalism, ugly words, boycotting, etc. And also has seen a hugh inexpected succes.
By the time you could read the entire story, you would go back to beginning to see everything changed. I must admit it was a very dizzling confusing disorientating ‘reading experience’. From today the editing part will be closed for a couple of hours each day offering a ‘reading window’. This means you can read a stable version of the novel. This means also the editor can go through it and put on his comments, and the technicians can find ways to keep up with the large growing crowd of visitors.
The quality of the writing is not as bad as I had expected it to be. The story started of as a crime story and is heading into a comedy genre. If their names have not changed by the end of this project (half March 2007), I guess Big Toni Scoletti and Carlo-in-the-wheelchair will have become very famous in the virtual writers’ community. Wonder what Penguin will do with the millions of penguins contributing freely, passionately agreeing with the fact there will be no author’s right for them, only for Penguin. For the love of the writing and the experiment, I decided to be one of them.
I don’t know what will become of us, of our words. Will the novel become more than it is? Will we become more than we are? Or will it just crumble into a pit of never-ending revisions and nit-picking and ego clashes?
Time will tell. I’m hoping for the best.