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The Best Technological-Literary Stunt In Recent Memory

The Best Technological-Literary Stunt In Recent Memory

“In the best technological-literary stunt in recent memory, fantasy author Silvia Hartmann is letting the public watch her write and edit a novel in real time.” 
Andrea Denhoed, The New Yorker

British author Silvia Hartmann has been receiving worldwide media attention this week with her “Naked Writer” project which allows readers to see words of her latest fantasy novel “The Dragon Lords” being typed live through their web browser. In doing so, the author aims to achieve a world-first by penning the fiction manuscript using Google’s free-to-use collaboration cloud-based software Google Docs.

This article is a roundup of what global media have been saying about Silvia Hartmann & The Dragon Lords...

The Guardian’s Alison Floodcalled the project “mesmerising” seeing the novel appear on her screen.

As well as giving people the chance to see the creative process unfold before their eyes, the author has invited readers to participate. Before the project began, Hartmann polled her personal mailing list to “crowdsource” the title from her fans. The winning entry was “The Dragon Lords”, submitted by a British fan near Bristol.

The level of sauciness was also a decision that the author chose to leave to the readers, by conducting a poll online. Out of the 80 people who responded within a few hours, the top three results were:

  1. 50% said “Don't care, just want to get on with the story!”
  2. 28% said “Contains sex scenes, described accurately as experienced by the participants at the time.”
  3. 21% said “Erotica - steamy sex scenes.”

Only 3 out of 80 respondents said “No sex whatsoever.”

  • Note: The full survey results show interesting comparisons between what different groups of people want. To see the data grouped by Age, Sex & Location visit - http://tolu.na/RQK0yd

Many writers would find the thought of an audience watching them type, or even daring to offer suggestions, to be extremely distracting. The Atlantic Wire wrote: “Having fans breathe down your neck sounds stressful, but it could prove to be an interesting collaboration.”

Online tech site Engadget wrote: “Writers, we're delicate souls. While we may try and act noble and bold from behind the relative safety of the keyboard, or computer screen. Put us up front and center, and we'll start questioning every single phrase from under a thick veil of self doubt. That's why we have untold amounts of respect for fantasy author Silvia Hartmann.”

However, in an interview with El País magazine Silvia Hartmann says she loves having an audience: “No matter what any writer says, they always write for an audience. Else you could be sitting in the garden and daydreaming the whole thing instead, save a lot of time.

“If you are a writer, you really really WANT people to read what you have written.

“To have people respond as you are writing it connects you much more to your readers.

“I am an old fashioned story teller. I tell stories live to audiences all the time and it's a wonderful thing, the story becomes more than the sum of its parts, we all create it together and that's a wonderful feeling.

“The very opposite of being the lonely introverted writer slaving away in their dark tower by the sea ...”

Some journalists have begun asking whether “The Dragon Lords” project heralds a new trend in how the bravest of authors will communicate with their readers. Adrian Mursec, senior developer at theEword commented: "It is always interesting to see how traditional methods change with new developments in technology, and this is just the latest example. If Silvia Hartmann is successful this could become a common trend for authors."

Drew Olanoff from TechCrunch.com wrote: “It is quite an experience to feel such a bond with an author. I have never read Hartmann’s work, but this is something that definitely got my attention. You might get a chance to read the book before it’s ever available for purchase. It’s like being in a recording studio with your favorite band.”

It is only in recent years that technology such as Google Docs has allowed authors to write “in the cloud” thus allowing readers globally to see every word being written in real-time. This technology has its limits however, such as only the first 50 readers will see words being typed. Everyone else will see the story refreshed every 5 minutes.

Because of the high-traffic to the manuscript, the author herself was locked out of the document for 30 minutes, having to wait for someone to close the page before she was allowed in.

There is also a limit of 100,000 characters, therefore this novel will likely span several documents before it is completed. This will mean that whilst the editing stages will happen online in front of readers eyes, the final paperback composition may have to take place in industry standard publishing software such as Adobe Indesign.

In an interview with Donald Liebenson from the Chicago Tribune, Hartmann said “The disadvantages [of the Naked Writer Project] are probably primarily the technology at the moment. I was writing a moving scene, as in emotional, not U-Haul, and lost my internet connection. Then I couldn't log back in because too many readers were trying to get into the document. But it's relatively new technology and really, we're just playing and discovering how it works as we go.”

Social networks have also played a key part allowed fans to communicate directly with Silvia Hartmann. Facebook user Christopher Page wrote: “Silvia I just wanted to say I haven't read any of your stuff prior to your new project but the fact that you're actually bringing your fans in in such a close way is just so great and refreshing. I started reading the story last night and love it so far :-) I will definitely be picking up your novels going forward. You rock :-)”

Whilst the first commentators of the Naked Writer project were mainly discussing the technology, praising the courage of the author and guessing future trends in the publishing industry, now the first 21,000 words have been written people have begun discussing the novel itself. Many journalists have found the storyline gripping.

Alison Flood from The Guardian was one of the first to pickup on the relationship between the two lead characters: “I'll definitely be checking in to see if the Dragon Lord and Mrs Delhany get it on down the road.”

Reader Karen Affinito on Facebook was also impressed: “Wow.... You are a really good writer! Andrew DeVille is seriously scary and I love the way you left the sex scene so tantalizing!”

It isn’t just the English speaking media that have picked up on the Naked Writer project. With articles written in Portuguese, Spanish, German, Russian, Italian and Mandarin, it is clear what Silvia Hartmann is attempting to do transcends the language barrier.

Whether or not “The Dragon Lords” will become this years Christmas best-seller remains to be seen. What is clear is that the author Silvia Hartmann has forever evolved the relationship between writer and reader, which may perhaps usher in a new age of publishing ready for the digital age.

Silvia Hartmann said this on the subject to El País: “It's awesome. We're right in the middle of a revolution that is far more wide reaching than Gutenberg with his printing press. It's a good time to be an artist on this planet.”

Key Details: 

Here follows the key details on the project. For all media contact & interview requests please contact us.

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