In the thick of the writing process I have often turned to online resources for quick feedback. Writers' forums or even Amazon's Mechanical Turk have proven invaluable tools for obtaining those harsh, unbiased critiques that will help me quickly determine the "legs" of an idea or the impact of a phrase. But if web communities have the power to help a writer turn a mediocre project into a good one, could they spawn a writing project of their own? And would it be any good?
For the creators of the social media experiment The Writer Collective, that was our question. And it was an intriguing enough question to motivate us to put away our pens and stock up on Red Bull for some late-night programming.
The Writer Collective is, as I mentioned, a social media experiment. Its purpose is to bring together a community of creative writers and readers with opinions in such a way that all their ideas and opinions can generate a novel. In other words the whole book - from initial conception to the "happily ever after", every phrase, every semi-colon, every plot arc - will be a product of thousands of individuals spread across the globe. Users submit ideas, vote on the good ones, bury the bad, and offer suggestions on the mediocre with the thought that the very best will combine and rise to become an international best-seller. After all, shouldn't thousands of minds be able to come up with something that millions will love? Or will we simply end up with "The Trip to Aberdeen" and accompanying compendium?
Either way, as with any experiment, the journey is as important as the outcome. Writers that join our community will have an opportunity to contribute to something that could not only become the first of its kind, but will help us develop some important models for improving online writing collaboration. And for some aspiring writers, it may even provide an opportunity to have their name on something quite new and noteworthy in the writing community.