The Naked Writer

A little while ago, I stumbled upon this article on LitReactor: Watch the Naked Writer Write. There is no limit to our voyeuristic society. No longer are we content to watch competitors battle it out on remote islands for money or scheme and plot the demise of their housemates on national television. Nope, entertainment now is watching a faceless writer at work by keeping tabs on her word-count via a publicly shared Google doc.

To summarise the Lit Reactor article: A UK author is going to write with the Internet watching and make her document available to fans (and trolls) for real time comments and edits. Interesting idea or just plain ridiculous? I’m tending towards the latter. When I first read the article, I thought it might be interesting to see how another writer works, what their process is, how they structure scenes and what they change as the novel progresses.

Then I thought some more about all of that and watching it happen in real time seems about as thrilling as watching paint dry. While the writer in me is mildly interested in this project from a craft perspective, I’d honestly rather be working on my own novel than watching someone else work on theirs. Perhaps this idea is more appealing to the author’s fans because they can actually have a say in what’s being written.

This did, however, get me thinking about my own writing process as a spectator ‘sport’. Anyone watching wouldn’t actually be able to see me, just my word document. That’s already boring. So all anyone will see is a blinking cursor and a blank page for a substantial part of the time. If they could see me during that time, they’d see me work through a range of facial expressions from a blank-faced stare to the light bulb surprise of a good idea to the frown of consternation as the words simply refuse to flow. They’d also see how easily distracted I am by the random paraphernalia on my desk when I should be working out plot holes and character arcs. I feel sorry for anyone tuned into that yawnfest.

Writing is exciting, it can even be thrilling especially when that perfect solution to the corner who’ve written yourself into arrives while you’re all sudsy in the shower and you have to make a death defying skidding journey from bathroom to computer to record the brain wave before you forget it. Writing as a spectator sport? No. Even as a writer, as someone intensely interested in other writers’ methods, I just cannot imagine anything more snooze-worthy than watching someone type up sentences, delete said sentences, retype, rehash, add coma, back space, add full stop.

While I do think the idea of an interactive or even collaborative novel written with fans could be an interesting pursuit there’s no way I’m spending hours watching even my most favourite authors type out a story. If Neil Gaiman or David Mitchell were at work, I might stop by to gawk and appreciate their brilliance of craft for about ten minutes, but certainly not longer than that when my own characters are screaming for my attention.

What do you think? Writing as a spectator ‘sport’ or not?


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