Molly Barton, VP of digital publishing at Penguin Books, has me resurrecting my whacky idea to write the great American novel in serial form and in collaboration with readers. In a wiki. She writes in Mashable about crowd sourcing books online, giving undiscovered authors the opportunity to build audience and attract publishers.
I don’t know much about book publishing, other than that it’s harder to break into the publishing houses than it is to write a book. And writing a book is so hard that I have never gotten past Chapter 2.
Two drafts of those chapters lurk in an un-public area of this blog. I wrote them a couple years ago, with the idea that once I had four or five chapters finished, I would begin to reveal them a chapter at a time in a wiki, inviting readers to help make each chapter better. Kind of like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, which he first published in serial form in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I would impose some guardrails so that the contributors don’t take the story too far from my vision. I’m sure I would reserve the right to reject changes, but I haven’t figured out how much poetic license I would give to contributors for the sake of the experiment.

A part of me recoils at the thought of putting myself out there over and over again. On the other hand, in the more traditional approach, I put years of blood and sweat on the line with just a handful of book editors. Do I want to be crushed all at once by experts, or tortured drip, drip, drip by readers? At least I would have readers.

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