Have you ever wondered about an author’s writing process? If you could look over her shoulder and watch her fingers on the keyboard—or her pen on the page—what would you see?
One author is allowing you to find out. In “The Naked Writer Project,” author Silvia Hartmann is writing a novel, The Dragon Lords, on a public Google doc. Anyone can view her process right here. Be warned, though: it is a romance novel and apparently there is explicit sex. I only read the first three sections and stopped because I was bored. But I also read the author’s notes at the bottom of the document. She held a poll to find out how her readers felt about the graphic sex. She allowed their input to influence her writing process.
This isn’t a totally new idea. I’ve seen many authors post sections of their books on blogs and ask for reader feedback. Writing on a public Google doc, though, is new to me. I can see the advantages: good publicity, the readers feel like they are getting “sneak peek” of the book, the author can mold the book to fit readers’ desires. It certainly takes courage from author Silvia Hartmann.
But there might be some disadvantages. Who says that readers’ desires are always right for your book or your characters? I am a reader and an editor, but I do not presume to know what is right for an author’s book. If I don’t like it, I might not read it or buy it, but someone else might. Yes, you might lose one person’s purchase, but you might gain ten more. I don’t know that the writing process should be subject to the changing whims of your audience. Call me old-fashioned, but I want a book that comes from one author’s heart and passion and talent. If you’re an author, I’d rather you write exactly what you want to write—what you feel should happen in your story. Yes, there is risk. But if your idea is good, it’ll be worth it and you will be able to take pride in what is exclusively your work.
The art of writing has always been heralded as a lonely road. There’s something romantic about it: the author slaving away, pouring out blood and sweat and tears over their characters. Of course, it’s not always like that. Few authors are true hermits. Yes, social media is changing everything about our culture, but allowing it to influence your work to that extent seems unwise.
“Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.”—John Steinbeck, East of Eden