Author Silvia Hartmann has decided to do something interesting and brave called The Naked Writer Project. She’s doing something that I can’t imagine doing: writing a book publicly. Yes, if you want, you can go to her GoogleDocs page and see her work in progress and subscribe to her Facebook feed to be notified of when she’ll be typing away.
Now, I don’t think she’s the first to do this, just the first I’ve heard of. I knew I wanted to mention her, but I couldn’t recall her name, so I went to Bing and did a search for something along the lines of “author writing novel live on google docs”. I was surprised to find several authors came up. So, if you’re interested, search around. It’s definitely thought-provoking.
For me, however, it provoked mostly a ‘no flipping way‘ response. Although, to be fair, I could think of lots of reasons for doing it.
The upside for the writer:
- publicity from the stunt
- a way to give back to devoted fans
- the motivation that comes from knowing people expect you to show up regularly
The upside for the reader/viewer:
- the excitement of feeling involved in a project
- the pure, voyeuristic thrill of getting to watch someone do something (intellectually) intimate
- the ability to see the book months (if not longer) than it’s available in stores
But for me, the downsides are crushing (Clearly Silvia disagrees, but this is how I would feel in her boots.)
The downside for the writer:
- People would know I’m an atrocious speller. Sometimes, it takes me a couple of tries just to spell something wrong in a clear enough manner that Word can figure out what the heck I actually meant.
- People would know I make shit up as I go along. Yes, I outline, but that’s mostly to keep me from writing myself into a corner. In truth, I deviate from it by roughly 42% on any given day.
- 67% of my writing is starting out the window. I create my characters, put them into a setting (with obstacles), then watch it play out in my mind. Only 33% of my writing is typing. The other day, I wrote around 4200 words in 5 hours. That’s a typing rate of 14 words a minute. I’d absolutely hate feeling like I had to pick up the pace. My creative process takes as long as it takes. (And trust me, a 4200 word day is terrific for me.) But if I was working live and in public, I’d feel the need to type type type. I’d be perpetually aware of the viewers who might be sitting there saying, “She hasn’t typed anything for fifteen minutes. Has she gone to get coffee? Is she dead? What’s she doing? She really doesn’t work very hard at all.”
- At the rough draft stage, I really don’t want feedback yet. I’d get distracted (and possibly annoyed) to get a Facebook message saying “on page 48, you started 12 sentences with the word ‘he’ and wrote ‘passive’ when you meant ‘passage.’”
The downside for the reader:
- First drafts are shit. They have typos. They’re wordy. They contain too much telling and not enough showing. They’re messy and honestly, not very good reading. Reading any author’s first draft could leave a reader feeling disappointed in someone they’d once been a fan of. A bit like seeing a celebrity with no makeup on, except you’d be subjected to hours of it.
- It’s boring to watch someone type, especially if they type 14 words a minute and stop frequently to stare out the window
With all that being said, even though I wouldn’t do it, I have to confess I admire Silvia’s courage. Although I don’t know her at all, I suspect it’s a scary experience. I like that she’s willing to let people see her work, even when it’s in a warty stage. (I haven’t read her draft. Maybe it’s flawless. I sort of doubt it, though. I know a lot of writers, and no one I’ve ever met writes a polished first draft.)
So… authors, would you write publicly? Readers, which author would you most like to watch at work?
A final note that’s completely unrelated: I just realised the mentioned author’s surname is Hartmann, and in my current novel, one of my main characters is called Demi Hartmann. It’s a coincidence. =)