Over the past year, I’ve been struggling with a problem. It’s a chicken and egg problem. Is my first fiction novel the chicken or the egg? Well, the answer to that question is not as simple as it seems. On one hand, it must be an egg, because it is produced (in this case, by me, aka the chicken in this story). But more and more, I realize that my first novel is really the chicken. Huh?
If you already follow my blog, I’ve discussed this issue in several posts. Last spring, I created this blog because I realized that I need a platform to eventually peddle my first novel. I began blogging to build a following…again to peddle my first novel. This summer, I realized that this strategy was not working as fast as I had hoped…so I switched up my strategy to include content marketing. To provide valueable content to my potential audience and readers, I’ve developed two series (so far): A Technical Series on WMD Issues and a Series on Film and WMD. I’ve discovered by reading a great deal, listening to many podcasts and doing intensive research that modern authors, at least the ones who are successful in the self-publishing industry, need to be multi-talented and engage in all facets of the publishing industry. In addition to producing the series, I plan to blog occasionally about the various tricks that I use like creating simple graphics in PowerPoint. All of this to build a following to sell my book…until I have a first book (chicken) to sell my second book (egg). The problem is that I have no chicken (existing published work) to sell/produce the egg (soon to be completed first work of fiction)…except for me and all my baby chicks (blogs, content, etc.). As many of you know, the more I work on the chicks, the less time I have for the egg (actual novel). It’s overwhelming sometimes. And did I mention that I have a full-time job that is not only challenging but exciting all on its own? I just want to write my novel and get it out there. “SQUAAAWWWKKKK!!!”
I’m excited to write this blog post because I’m planning to add yet another baby chick to my pen (hopefully it sells my golden egg or simply produces gold). I’ve had an idea to try something different for quite sometime. I’ve tried to supress the idea for implementation at a later date, but it keeps pestering me like a buzzing fly around my head. Many of you may remember reading those “Choose Your Own Adventure” gamebooks as kids, in which you, the reader, were able to make choices about the direction of the plot and follow divergent pathways leading to different conclusions. The series was published by Bantam Books, now owned by Random House, in the 1980s and 1990s and were quite popular until the late 1990s. The trademark for the series was picked up by Chooseco, which reprints the original gamebooks and produces new titles. My memories of this series gave rise to a modified version of this series to engage readers on their ideas for plot and character development. Instead of producing a finished novel and trying to get an audience, what if I allowed the audience to be part of my creative process in a fun, choose your own adventure sort of way?
In the age of the Internet and social media, people crowdsource all sorts of things? We go to Facebook, Twitter and other media sites to ask our friends and followers to share their wisdom on what plumber to use to fix our toilets or what graduation picture is the best one. Why not crowdsource some fiction while I finish my other novel?
This past weekend, I did some research to see if this has been done before and to what extent. To my surprise, it’s still not very common to crowdsource fiction. I found a few notable examples though. In 2015, Eric Mack began crowdsourcing an entire science fiction novel, which was finished last Spring. He served as the lead writer, developed the story concept and acted as admin on an open Google Doc where anyone could provide input into the draft. Hugh Howey, bestselling author of the Wool Trilogy Series, also has used crowdsourcing to get ideas for his novels. I also discovered that Andy Weir, author of The Martian, crowdsourced aspects of his bestselling novel (which is now a movie starring Matt Damon and other Hollywood A-listers). Despite these prominent examples, I did not find any online courses on “How to Crowdsource a Novel” or links to that many writers openly engaging in this practice. Please correct me if I’m mistaken. Perhaps, I need to dig deeper on my google searching.
So (drum roll), I have decided to start a new novel (title TBD) and crowdsource it in a slightly different way than Eric Mack did. I am calling this approach Version 2.0 of the Choose Your Own Adventure model. I will develop the overall book concept, create the main characters and then begin writing the first scene. At the end of my first scene, I will offer up 2-3 options for you, the readers, to choose from. Once the votes are in, I will use whichever option gets the most votes and then write the next scene (i.e., I will not write all 2-3 different scenes for you to go back and choose again). Again, you will get to make a choice about something (scene direction, the villain, etc). And bit by bit, we will write a (hopefully awesome) novel together based on many fantastic ideas. You, the audience will be my muse, and I will be your writer. I hope you’re as excited about this as I am (okay, okay, don’t all squawk at once, chickens).
To whet your appetite just a bit, I’ll offer a few details about the novel you all will write with me:
- Genre: Crime (Mystery/Thriller); Master Detective
- Working Title: The Bionic Bug (actual title TBD, subject to your vote at a later date)
- Location: The story takes place in 2021 in Washington, D.C.
- Protagonist: Lara Kingsley is a Private Detective with a military background. She is an entrepreneur and runs a two-person shop called Kingsley Investigations which specializes in electronic countermeasures, locating and dealing with unwanted forms of electronic surveillance and of course, and of course, the covert installation of eavesdropping devices.
- Sidekick: Vikrama “Vik” Abhay is Lara’s smart-ass side kick is a graduate student at University of Maryland, studying criminal justice. Born in India, Vik immigrated with his family to the USA in his teens.
This is an experiment. I don’t know if this will work, or whether it will be any fun. But you don’t know until you try. If you’re pumped and you already have ideas, happy to take them in the comments below in advance of scene 1. Otherwise, I hope you stay tuned to read scene 1 and vote on the direction for the next scene.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.