Writing a novel in a wiki?

Software / Open Source Web 2.0

We’ve all heard of Wikipedia, and probably even played around with, or used some kind of wiki. Maybe you’ve planned a group project, or compiled information – wikis are a great tool for online collaboration.

But this guy took it one step further and wrote an entire novel in a wiki, and then got it published. It’s possible that this is the first published work of fiction that was written entirely in a wiki.

To me this is interesting for several reasons. Online collaboration
has proven itself to be a very powerful thing. Wikipedia now boasts
millions of articles in many languages. But fiction?

In English class we used to do the exercise where you start a story
and then pass that story to the person sitting next to you. They wrote
another paragraph and passed it to the next person, etc. The end
result was a worthless piece of drivel that went nowhere and everywhere
at the same time. Too confusing, too many voices. A mess. Kind of
like what happened over at 1 million penguins. A lot of good ideas and writing, but no clear direction.

But where this wiki novel diverges is that the author says he is
ultimately responsible for the content. If you make a change, and he
doesn’t like it, then it’s out. End of story. Decisions aren’t made
by the voice of the community, they are directed by the author. He
compares it to how a movie is directed. You have one director, but
that director doesn’t do everything. There are other ‘experts’ who
take their small piece, and make it work. But ultimately, the entire
project is driven by the director (theoretically).

I think this idea is powerful for the same reason Wikipedia is
powerful – depth. Maybe the author is writing about a character who
has an alcoholic father. The author may not have experienced an
alcoholic father, but if I have, I can go and give more depth to that
character. Maybe the ‘head author’ likes the depth I give so much that
he even assign me to write the ‘voice’ of this character.

It would be interesting to see what other authors think of this kind
of writing. Isn’t art an expression of a single person? If we add all
of these other viewpoints, doesn’t that dilute the overall message?

At first glance it might seem that way, but in fact may types of
‘art’ come from a group, rather that a single individual. Think of a
George Lucas film. Certainly the vision and direction comes from
Lucas, but there are scores of behind the scenes people who take
direction and make the end product a masterpiece. Television,
architecture, even painting is often the work of many people, not just
one.

Why can’t it be the same for writing? It will be interesting to see
if this type of writing starts to find it’s way into mainstream. People enjoy writing, especially when they are not in charge of EVERY
aspect of the book. Check out the millions of stories written in fan fiction for proof of that.

Personally I like the idea. I think it could be a lot of fun to
take part in a novel written by Orson Scott Card or Steven King.

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