Building an online community to create collaborative publications – essentially books written page by page by different people from around the world – may sound like an ambitious project but it’s happening today thanks to the power of the Internet, and more importantly, the power of people.
It may sound foolhardy and unlikely to work in practice, but the concept of scores of unconnected people, perhaps even hundreds or thousands, working together to create group-produced publications is proving incredibly successful.
Some contributors see it as an opportunity to showcase their previously hidden creative talent to a wide audience of supportive and like-minded potential authors. Others like the chance to influence a book’s storyline as it develops, and perhaps introduce new characters, scenes, or even unexpected twists and turns. For many, collaborative writing is just about joining in and being part of something special which could actually result in published books that they have helped write.
Whatever the motivation people power is having an impact, and more and more people from every walk of life and from every region of the world are getting involved and ‘spreading the word’.
The concept will never mean the end of individual writers penning fantastic individual works (and so it shouldn’t be as where would we be without our rich culture of great literature from around the world), but it may make the traditional publishing industry sit up and think. After all, why would the aspiring author go through rejection after rejection only to learn that many book publishers are increasingly focused on just finding the next blockbuster when they can publish freely on a collaborative writing site and gain instant exposure and feedback?
More fundamentally the concept of online collaborative writing could be seen as the next true social evolution of the Internet after communication and networking. These ‘Web 2.0’ practices have, rightly or wrongly, gained much international publicity and rocketed the value of some social networking sites into the stratosphere.
But did they lead to the creation of anything tangible or enable previously unconnected individuals to work together on singular projects? Were they focused on providing a voice to the previously unheard and have they worked to harness creativity or instead, unwittingly, highlighted the fact that true creation has been missing from the world-wide-web?
Giving web users the world over the means to actually create written works of all kinds which they can later see in print (be these fictional stories, poems, academic works, business documents and so much more), opens up the true potential of the Internet.
Some critics are already saying this e-revolution is Web 2.5 – the next step the Internet will make – but as always it’s up to the people to decide. They will choose with their mouse clicks and their referrals, with their chats to friends and emails to colleagues. But from small beginnings, great transitions have occurred and although it’s still in its infancy, collaborative writing is gaining momentum.
Famous authors and high-profile celebrities are now joining in and starting fictional stories for others to add to. Jeffrey Archer, the author of epic tales such as ‘Kane and Abel’, and Joanne Harris, who penned the book ‘Chocolat’ that became a Hollywood film of the same name, as well as children’s author Dick King-Smith who wrote the book that became the film ‘Babe’, are amongst those that like the idea of giving the power to the people. For them, it’s a great way to see how works they start end up when many voices contribute to the mix.
Whatever your view, online collaborative writing is a novel idea.