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Silvia Hartmann Will Write a Novel Live on Google Docs

6 September 2012

From Galleycat:

UK author Silvia Hartmann will launch “The Naked Writer” project on September 12th, letting her readers follow along on Google Docs as she writes her next novel. Hartmann . . . will share the Google Docs link via her social networks. Whoever clicks on the link can offer feedback and watch her work.

Link to the rest at Galleycat

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28 Comments to “Silvia Hartmann Will Write a Novel Live on Google Docs”

  1. Sounds like a recipe for “too many cooks…” I know Harlen Ellison wrote a story in the bookshop window that one time but I can scarcely imagine him taking input from anyone who happened to pass by. (I base that solely on what I have read of him, since I never met the man.)
    This sounds more marketing gimmick than evolutionary step in writing. Yet as a gimmick it has worked since we’re here discussing it, right?

    • It doesn’t look much different to me than when an artist streams their work live.

      When I draw my comic, I usually have fans watching & “feedback” usually means them chatting and being social in a sidebar. They comment on the artwork once in a while, but it’s normally an “oh~ Wonder what’s going to happen” or “it’d be cool if” sort of thing–which is fun & mostly for the watchers, not the person writing.

      Overall it’s a great way for artist & reader to interact and be more social.

      From what I can see, this looks like exactly the same thing–just with a book instead of a drawing/comic. 🙂

    • Harlan took the idea for the story from (reaching far back in memory here) either someone who won a charity raffle or the store owner. He did NOT take any input from passersby, nor would he ever.

      Anyone daring to offer Harlan Ellison tips on what or how to write should be sure that s/he has a fully made up will.

      • Actually I think he had people write ideas on bits of paper and put them in a basket, then he’d pull them out at random and work them into the story.

        He was really good at that sort of thing.

        It wasn’t, however, critique or tips. It was ideas.

  2. Wow. I could never do that. I would be like a having a web cam in the shower. Good for her, but no thank-you.

  3. Should be interesting to see how it unfolds. I’m not sure I could do that. At least, not at this point. My work evolves so much as I go along and I have to fight a nasty inner critic as it is. I can’t imagine doing all that in public. LOL. But it might also give others insight into the process and maybe encourage/inspire new writers too.

  4. I think I could do it, but there’d have to be an obvious reward for it.

    As a current unknown, it would be an exercise in futility, seen only by my close friends and family.

    That’s what my FB thread is for. 🙂

  5. Since I’m a layer-inner, and an utter pantser, the first things that come off my keyboard often bear little resemblance to the final draft. So, this would only work for me if observers wanted to see the process, but were not at all invested in seeing the actual book unfold. 😉

  6. Seeing a writer in the act? Book porn. “Stick the character there!” “Make the scene last longer!” “Can’t you grease the skids for her?” “FASTER!” “Phew! Yeah that was great finish, can I have a ciggie now?”

    No thanks.

  7. Watching me write fiction would be like watching paint dry.

    Watching me edit fiction would be like watching paint THINKING about drying.

    Non-fiction, not as bad. Opinions, maybe – but don’t expect me to listen (read) at the same time.

  8. The thing is…..

    This isn’t so very different from writing an online serial, especially the folks who would use chapter-by-chapter publications of first drafts to raise money with a tip jar.

    The main difference would be that, with Google Docs, she could build the novel the way I do — out of order, going back to edit, inserting notes, etc. Whereas with a serial, you have to tell the story in order, even when you’re doing it as a rough draft.

    My first impression would be that this wouldn’t be interesting, but when I think about watching friends in critique groups develop a novel… yeah, I could see it.

    However, just as with critique groups, too much interaction (even when positive) can also kill a novel. It’s a tricky thing.

  9. Um, no. Even for a plotter like me, it’s not a great idea. But someone outside of my head suggesting I do Y when I’ve laid the grandwork for them to do X–definitely not going to work.

    And what’s she going to do if she uses someone’s suggestion and he/she wants co-author credit and income?

    Ms. Hartmann is a much braver woman than I.

  10. Well, I’m in the minority here, but I think this is kind of cool.

    It wouldn’t interest me, as a reader, but there might be some readers who would like to participate in something like this.

    I think it would work best if the writer was already popular. Although, for a lesser known author, this would be an interesting marketing approach, I’d be interested to see if it was effective.

    I don’t have any issue with authors experimenting and seeing what works – to reach their audience, to build an audience and with new forms of creation.

    For me, as a writer, I could do this with something I didn’t take very seriously, something playful might be fun to create in a collective. For my more serious writing, though, hands off until it’s ready for critique. That’s for me and my muse alone.

  11. I’ve given some thought to blogging my next NaNoWriMo novel, as I write it. But many of my readers are writers themselves, and they’ve shown that they’re interested in seeing more of the process of writing a novel. I’ve been posting my progress on the planning phase, and, if nothing else, it’s a way of archiving it for myself. I don’t have any problem with exposing a first draft to the public. I write pretty tightly, and do light editing as I go along, so it’s not as if people are going to be reading a random mess.

  12. A friend of mine has done this a few times (though she writes flash fiction–she’ll do several in a session). She takes prompts, requests names for characters, and stuff like that. Also, I correct her typos 😉

  13. I’m sorry, my first thought on this was that it might resemble the Monty Python routine “Novel Writing (Live from Wessex)”.

    OTOH, a daily/weekly review of the WIP might be a handy way to see how someone else handles the various issues sure to arrive during novel construction. I don’t know Ms. Hartmann normal process of writing, but it would be interesting to review it at specific stages, with appropriate comments by the author, to understand the how and why of her decisions.

  14. Mira and Catana:

    The reason my blog name is “The Daring Novelist” is because originally it was just for posting daily updates on my writing progress — that is, an ongoing novel dare.

    It is something that attracts a certain following, especially among writers, but sometimes I am surprised by how many readers respond to my most self-involved posts.

    It can be a rewarding way to keep in touch while encouraging your writing. In a way, it was a little like one of those private forums where you can hang out with your writing and reading buddies. At the same time building an audience.

    It does, however, become a time sink (just as a forum does) and you do attract more writers than readers.

    Now, one thing I didn’t do was post my actual writing, at least not until this summer. I’d post excerpts and teasers about what I was writing. (Basically the some sort of thing I loved to read on writer friend’s LJ posts or forum posts.)

    Once I even blogged these long analytical posts of how I was developing a story, beat by beat. I was surprised at the response I got, especially privately. But those were long posts, and interfered with writing, so I never did go back to them.

    But this summer I decided to play at writing “live” by taking that same story and writing it as a serial. I did like Mira said and wrote something light and more trivial than other things I write. You might even call it personal fanfic — only it’s a fanfic of the stuff that goes on in my head unbidden.

    I had a big increase in blog traffic this summer (even though traffic usually plunges in July and August, and even though commeting and sales went down as usual), so I’m continuing the experiment for the rest of the year, to see whether it does get readers and not just writers.

    • That’s cool, Camille!

      Yeah, I think there are people who might be interested to watch things evolve. And I could see that might be really fun if the stakes were really low and it was just for fun. And the fact that your traffic increased, that’s food for thought!

      Also, I think I see the writer/reader thing alittle different, because most writers ARE readers. So, if you are drawing writers to your blog, they are still potential readers. 🙂

      I did something alittle bit like this. I posted a couple of posts on my blog too soon. They were meant to be funny, but I realized later they weren’t quite there yet. So, I kept editing the posts until they were where I wanted them, and some folks said it was really interesting to watch them transform, especially since they were humor pieces. So, it wasn’t intentional, but it was a nice thing that happened.

      • The problem with reading too much into a big raw traffic increase is that it can be caused by all sorts of things, including spam bots.

        This fall I’ll have a better idea of the increase is real. (Also, I did have an increase in RSS activity – which makes sense for a serial — subscriptions help people keep up.)

        As for writers as readers…. the problem with writers is that they fool you. We’re all so busy encouraging each other that we can get addicted to an unrealistic level of feedback. We encourage each other even when we don’t like each other’s work. We’re just like that.

        I do, however, think that one of the side effects of the indie revolution is that the line between writing and reading will blur more and more. More and more often, readers will become amateur writers. This horrifies a lot of writers; the idea that everybody will be out there writing books of their own, crowding the market, competing with those who do it seriously.

        But I think that will just be one more way that the fiction community will connect. It’ll be like blogging. Or like a sport or hobby. The professionals will have a deeper connection with the fans because the fans are doing it too.

    • Camille, it’s odd that you mention an uptick in traffic because I’ve experienced the same thing — more subscribers than commenters, though. Maybe the developmental posts have something to do with it, or it could just be a fluke. What does develop with some of the posts is a conversation that sometimes includes critiques or suggestions. Altogether, it’s an interesting experiment, and I enjoy seeing how it evolves.

      • As I mentioned above, it can be hard to tell what’s really going on.

        The current fad among spammers for “referral spam” means that a lot of little bots are running around hitting websites in hopes that bloggers will see the links in their analytics stats and will click — that increases raw hit counts dramatically. Google and other stat keepers are working hard to filter those out of the system, but they still have an overall effect.

        But if you’re seeing an increase in actual subscriptions, that’s more reliable.

        I noticed that when I advertise my books at the bottom of the page on my public domain blog (Daring Adventure Stories) I would get an increase in sales on the books mentioned. I haven’t seen anything like that on books mentioned at the bottom of my regular blog posts, but I’m experimenting more with that.

        We live in a wonderful brave new world….

        • You may already know about this, but I use Statcounter. It is free for a basic subscription, and it seems to weed out the bots, so I get a clear view of how many real visitors are coming to the site. It also tells you where they come from, etc. I really like it!

          • Yeah, I use multiple stat counters too – but mainly Google and Wundercounter. They look at things differently, so I can kind of triangulate the truth.

            Part of the problem with ones that weed out the bots well is that, just like spam filters, they sometimes weed out legit hits too. So it can be useful to use multiple measures.

  15. There is a certain fan mentality this could appeal to. I have friends who get obsessed with artists they love (of whatever stripe) and want to know *all* about them. A friend has people who follow her blog because she is the girlfriend of a musician, and his fans want to know about her because of that. So for people like that who just want to know EVERYTHING about someone they admire/idolize, this could be awesome. A way to see the process that goes into creating the final product, and a way to connect with a writer they love.

    For me, as a reader it sounds boring as hell, because frankly I don’t care about any draft before the last draft. I prefer to read the story that writer I admire decides is the best and truest version of the story they set out to tell, and that’s it.

    As a writer, I would never want to let anyone watch me write, in case the story changes. And because my rough draft writing might not be terrible, but it’s certainly, well, rough–a little too repetitive, not sufficiently developed in terms of physical grounding and scene-setting, and filled with a few too many long and winding sentences. Why would I want fans of my final versions, my edited and contracted prosse, to see how it begins?

    No thanks. But if she is the kind of artist who wants to connect with her fans on that intimate level, for those of her fans who like that sort of thing, this could be awesome.

  16. Hi all,

    Just thought you’d like to know that the Naked Writer project is now live!


    Hope you enjoy watching the novel being typed before your eyes…

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