Sept. 12, British author Silvia Hartmann will lauch the “Book Live” project, where she will allow readers to “not only see the manuscript being typed, but to also comment on the storyline and provide feedback as the novel develops,” according to her website. Hartmann explains that she will start with a blank page, a publicly-accessable document via Google Docs, which will enable fans (and critics) to watch her as she types and to add their comments in real time. The project is described as a “worlds-first” kind of project, a “completely new level of interaction between readers and their author.”
I am less than impressed. Putting aside my personal idiosyncratic habits of writing – having even one person look over my shoulder and offer “input” could only end in bloodshed – I just don’t see how this would offer anything of value to the world of literature. Nothing written by a committee can be written well; an anonymous committee of hundreds can only make it worse.
Plus, how is she going to get any writing done if she’s reading all those comments along the way?
Perhaps I’m being a Luddite. Perhaps Hartmann’s “Book Live” project will culminate in a stunning work of genius, a tour-de-force that forever changes the worlds of publishing and literature.
Or, more likely, it will produce derivative dreck aimed at the lowest common denominator. Place your bests now!