Early last year (Salem’s Fire #3), I wrote a piece on the possibility of a collaborative online effort being made to generate a work of fiction. The novel, the article said, would be the product of a group of people pooling their talents in a forum and led by a few very dedicated individuals who kept the project moving. Needless to say, not everyone found this idea to be workable.
Much of the criticism centered on the idea that anyone who had ideas worthy of being published would submit those ideas to a group for communal use. Even the possibility of shared profits, the critics said, would not be enough to persuade anyone with ideas that good to sacrifice to a pie-in-the-sky web fiction concept.
Then there were those who said that no group of people, no matter how well led, could ever agree on basic plot elements, let alone things such as character development, settings, atmosphere, and all those other aspects of a great work of fiction. The project, claimed the critics, was doomed to failure before it began because no one could ever on enough to get the project written.
Even so, I remain unconvinced. There are plenty of examples throughout history in which individuals have set aside their own potential for personal profit to achieve something greater. It is questionable in this case whether a combined work would be greater than one written by a single person. I think it would be. ?Two heads are better than one,? the old saying goes. Naturally, how much better depends on how good those two heads are to start with. I highly doubt that a joint effort by the Brewers ownership and me would result in a masterwork that tops Tolkein?s classic. However, the product would likely be a better book than any of us could have written individually.
Beyond my own doubts, there is another reason the critics failed to convince me.
Replies to that article letting me know of projects similar to the one I proposed outnumbered the nay sayers by such a margin that even Florida could have proclaimed a winner. In fact, the only difference between my proposal and a large number of existing projects (as of that article) is that no one was thinking of trying to publish their work. There was some fear that publishers would not be interested, or that the costs of publishing would overwhelm any interest.
In many other cases, publishing was something that just had not been seriously discussed. Perhaps now it has been, because there is a market. There is also a way.
Dragonmount, a fan site dedicated to the epic works of Robert Jordan, has launched an e-publishing venture. Works submitted for publishing are reviewed, and, if found to be good enough, are added to a list of e-books available for purchase off the site. Revenue is divided between the company that is backing the endeavor, Dragonmount, and the writer. Cost to the writer? Minimal if anything. And is there a more fitting way to first publish a work generated online than as an e-book, to be distributed online? This is only one example of this type of publishing, a method that is growing across the internet. There are other sites offering similar services, and a bit of time with Google should generate their names.
While giving Google a workout, consider hunting up some of the many interesting collaborative writing projects on the internet. Should I try to list them all here, I would no doubt miss one or two. To kick start that search, try looking for an encyclopedia. There is one, an open source encyclopedia if you will, that some consider to be superior to Encarta (ah, the irony!). There are also efforts at a couple Diablo 2 related sites, other than The Dark Library, that will result in a work of collaborative fiction. Wrestling fans will not be left out in the cold, either. Nor will fans of classic science fiction. In fact, just about everyone reading this will likely find something that suits their taste.
And if you have trouble, start a new project. The methods, the market, the means, it is all available. All that is required is the imagination.
Disclaimer: Salem?s Fire was written by Luke Blaize during 2002-2004, and hosted by Diabloii.net. The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.