A journalist and writer on CNET has chosen an unusual way to mark National Novel Writing Month – a crowdsourced novel. But it’s not the kind of crowdfunding now commonplace for fiction works and anthologies. Rather, Eric Mack is helming a “monthlong experiment in creating [what he claims is] the world’s first MMOSFN – Massively Multiwriter Online Science Fiction Novel.”
Eric Mack is apparently managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org, so obviously he should be qualified to do this, if anyone is. He explains:
I’ve committed to drafting a 50,000-word science fiction novel by the end of the month, and I’m opening up the process to your suggestions and contributions via this open sandbox draft in a Google Doc. As of this writing, the document lays out some of the basics of the
universemultiverse where our story takes place.
h It’s not clear yet how much of this work will be genuinely crowdwritten. Mack says “I’m going to be functioning as the editor of the project, both writing and integrating the best suggestions,” but what he’s asking for is clearly “additions” and suggestions “that help set the scenes and move the story forward.” Will those be actual written-out parts of the story? We’ll have to wait and see, I guess, but at least Mack appears to have developed a functioning process for putting together all these collaborative inputs into one work.
This isn’t the first time in history that group collaborative writing has been done, of course. In the academic context, there’s almost a mini-Wiki of information and guidelines, and even theoretical perspectives, dating back to the early 1990s for the internet era alone. In collaborative fiction, there are even renowned hoaxes, like 1969’s Naked Came the Stranger, which seem especially timely as merciless satires of dumbed-down popular fiction. Crowdsourcing certainly could be the way to go for tomorrow’s down-market bestsellers – after all, it could hardly make them any worse.
Furthermore, the wikinovel is already a thing, in the shape of A Million Penguins and other imitators. It’s hard to tell whether CNET’s variant brings anything new to the formula. But I guess we’ll know once the final co-author input is in.