Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twitter User Generated Novel

I've been discussing, on this blog and on Twitter, the idea of using Twitter to compose works of literary art. Today Yesterday I started a conversation on how we could create a multi-author novel, how to get it going, how to edit it, how to deal with trolls, and other aspects of collaborative fiction composition.

In the midst of this debate, I composed a short comical novel with another Twitter user, Barry Carlyon, thus providing proof of concept.

To avoid confusion, I've separated that little Twitter collab novel and included it at the end of this post, in red type.

Here are the Twitter think tank replies to my provocations, in forward chronological order. Notice how the very act of discussing this idea on Twitter is a collaborative treatment of how such a collaborative process could occur.

Twitter User-Generated Novel
discussion on Twitter

(Me): If someone makes a Twitter account for a user-generated novel based on random input from other Twitters @ ing it, I'll collaborate on it.

vanhoosear: I'm seriously interested in the Dada Twitter novel. I think it's a GREAT idea!

(Me): Until now, I've focused on composing Twitter poems of several message units, and Twitter novels that were just one Twitter message unit.

David_N_Wilson @vaspersthegrate: The problem is, I think, that someone must edit. Updates protected, I guess...and the novel itself collected in a blog?

(Me): @David_N_Wilson - Edit the user-gen Twitter collab novel? Via one or by all (voting)? An aggregator assembles the novel, but others can also.

barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate: Agreed, give me a shout if it happens I'll play :-)

@barrycarlyon - Thanks for agreeing to participate in the Twitter user-gen novel. We may fail a few times, but we'll get it right eventually.

(Me): A Twitter user-generated novel would be like a wiki. No single author, by invite only? Could it be sequential with no editing? Depends.

Would a Twitter novel have to be written in reverse chron? Backwards? So that when you print out the profile page, you get it in order?

Ike Pigott ikepigott @vaspersthegrate - A Twitter novel would have to be reverse chron - and would involve people using hashtags for auto-collation.

Todd Van Hoosear vanhoosear @vaspersthegrate: That would be a fun way to do it, yes!

Barry Carlyon barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate: If there was a website for it then it would reverse it for you.....but this way means followers read it in order......

Ike Pigott ikepigott @vaspersthegrate - Twitter Novel would be a fictional story taking place in a real-time timeline, from as many perspectives as contributors about.

David_N_Wilson David_N_Wilson @vaspersthegrate: I can tell you from collaborative experiments of the past - if you just leave it open, someone will purposely ruin it.

(Me): @David_N_Wilson - Then the avant garde way to deal with ruination is to include it as footnotes to the main story. LOL

David_N_Wilson David_N_Wilson @vaspersthegrate: That might well be. The problem is, if you don't control the input, you can end up well down the road from the "glitch".

(Me): We could experiment as @barrycarlyon and I just did, created a (so far) 2 Twitter message unit novel.

(Me): Or simultaneous Twitter novels morphing adaptively amongst inner circle participants. Trolls are simply ignored. Assembled off Twitter.

Michael Wiik mwiik @vaspersthegrate: Why not write the novel in TinyPaste, then assemble with twitter?

(Me): Who will step up to the plate, and is so bored this actually makes sense, to solve the Twitter user-gen novel methodology? Get rich fast!

I will assemble into a Pluperfecter blog post my remarks and your @ replies on this subject of the Twitter user-generated novel soon. Reply.

Michael Wiik mwiik @vaspersthegrate: Recalling the Bynars from ST:TNG and how they would buffer conversation:

Michael Wiik mwiik @vaspersthegrate: Host a party, capture guests' conversation via something like Jott -> Twitter, insert into novel

Twitter User-Generated Novel
proof of concept

Barry Carlyon barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate The man said 'There will be a novel and it will be grand". He then sat down and turned to the right.

(Me): @barrycarlyon - As he moved, his elbow tipped over a Hungarian china cup of Folgers coffee, spilling it into his Hewlett-Packard keyboard.

Barry Carlyon barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate: The HP laptop began to whirl loudly as it absorbed the coffee, the screen became brighter and then

(Me): @barrycarlyon - [That previous tweet to you was written in the product placement prose style of William Gibson. Which I abhor. LOL]

Barry Carlyon barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate Smooth :-) I will have to get myself sponsored too!

Barry Carlyon barrycarlyon @vaspersthegrate the man was distraught at the loss of his HP machine, so purchased Mac Book Air from Mr Jobs himself.


mvs said...

I'm doing similar experiments, albeit with phoned-in segments instead of web text.

Mark aka @1god on twitter

matt searles said...


In art school some of my friends and I used to pass the note book around, often aided by various chemicals, and write poetry that way.. a friend of mine still has some of the sketch books of poetry, and we are now thinking of making an music based on the poems.. as some of it was kinda amazing.. thus the appeal of this project for me.

It seems like.. well the way we used to do it.. whatever came out seemed to be like an expression of.. a shared moment, the psychological state of it.. our relationship to the universe.. wired psycho-social subtexts..

I wonder what happens to all that in an online context.. how does social cohesion work differently.. and are there strategies that could be used to make stuff.. powerful? I mean beyond the novelty of the experiment...

Perhaps there should be some sorta initiation ritual.. like anyone could be a part of it.. you just gotta go through the ritual.. or something? Or maybe some sorta "virtual hanging out" in which life is discussed.. or something is discussed.. the forces which the art is in some kind of a reaction to?

Well I'm not sure.. I guess I'm thinking that the power of these kinds of things has to do with hidden forces that are at work beneath the surface, and so the question is what are the forces beneath the surface, and how does one optimize those.. that this should be a consideration

[im re posting this comment cause im not sure if it went through as of my last try]

David Niall Wilson said...

What you are proposing is to write a novel FIRST and then post it, unless you truly believe a novel can be written from end to start and make sense? Maybe.

I also believe you need to reword your concept...I've mentioned this before. There is no definition of a novel that does not say "a work of considerable length." At best you are talking a short story here, which is probably a better first experiment than a novel. A novel is around 50k miniminum....novella 15-40....short story before that (maybe a novelette category in the middle).


Barry Carlyon said...

Gotta love the produce placement :-)

steven edward streight said...

@david_niall_wilson: Technically "novel" means "new", e.g. "new inscription" or "new idea". Length and rationality have nothing to do with it.

My friend, let me courteously lift you from the doldrums of English professors and into the astonishing world of micro content: if I can tell an immensely meaningful and sensesless story in 140 characters, must I then be punished by forbidding me to call it "novel" as in "new" or even "odd"?

We are sick of normal literature and endless descriptions of hats, personalities, and scenary. We are fed up with product placement prose selling us trinkets and baubles while we seek to escape into fictional worries and worlds.

Micro content. Short songs. Brief poems. Email subject lines. Sudden prose. Anti-prolixity. Terse writing. Quick summaries. Pithy tales.


steven edward streight said...

@mvs: I'll check out your collaborative phone experiment.

@matt searles: I see spontaneous collaborative random participatory art, literature, music creation as similar to the great genius and financial success embodied in Post Secret.

Post Secret is the key to the new world.

@barry carlyon - Thanks for being a great force in causing this to come together.

Peter said...

There has been some talk in the blogosphere about real-time Twitter micro novels, this approach would be interesting in particular genres such as Twitter crime micro-novel ... A vampire did it

NYCrimeStories approach is informative (procedurally educational ) and the story interesting....