Writing by Committee?

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!


3 thoughts on “Writing by Committee?

  1. Based solely on the description above, I’d say that the purpose of this project isn’t to produce “a stunning work of genuis,” but simply to interest readers in her work. Readers want to know the men and women behind the books, and so I can see why some authors would want to engage readers in such a way (though I wouldn’t do it). I’m wondering whether she already has a draft manuscript or a very detailed outline, or whether readers are really seeing the creative process in real time.


      • I know nothing about this author, so I’m not insinuating anything specific to her, but I would be surprised if anyone undertook a project like that without at least a detailed outline. If she’s able to do it, that’s very impressive. But maybe the experiment is more like so-called “reality TV,” which isn’t very real at all.


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