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December 03, 2007



what are you waiting for? Start writing.

My novel for NaNoWriMo last year was written bout half in the form of a blog, but it was still intended as a print book. I like your idea, though. It's very...meta. Maybe we can get David Mitchell to write his next one like that....

Stephany Aulenback

Oh god, I'm still trying to learn how to write an acceptable *conventional* short story.

David Mitchell maybe. How about Rupert Thomson.Or Kate Atkinson?

Julian Gough

A novel in the form of a blog and a bunch of associated sites, if it's all written and built with the level of love and attention to detail appropriate to a real novel, is a lot of work. More work than one straight novel. So it might take more than one novelist.

Also, it's going to be visible, readable, as it's built. How do you go back, rewrite, let the latest notion feedback into the earlier ideas and modify them?

You need a strong idea that allows for all this, you build up a small cast of characters. Then writers volunteer to inhabit each of the characters. (You cast it, like a film or a play).

Then they generate the work by interacting in character, inside the frame of the story... which, if it works, will definitely warp and bend as it grows, into a shape that couldn't have been plotted in advance.

Might need a bit of technical support, as writers tend to build lousy websites.

Stephany Aulenback

I agree about the technical support but I'm not sure I agree with the idea that you'd absolutely need a whole cast of writers. I also don't think the internovel would necessarily have to be viewed as it was being written. For instance, in Typepad, I can post on a blog that is not made public to anyone else until I allow it. And the associated sites wouldn't have to go "live" until they were ready. I don't think you'd necessarily need a lot of associated sites, either. I think what you're describing is an interesting thing -- a collaborative, interactive, internet novel -- but it's not exactly what I'm imagining. I don't think that "hypertext writing" necessarily has to be as amorphous and uncontrollable as writers who are used to more conventional structures imagine. I don't agree that it's impossible to situate the reader in time and follow a somewhat linear, but branching, plot line, either. (I know you didn't suggest that -- but a lot of writers, particularly the literary, academic ones, seem to think that all the rules must change, absolutely, once the writing becomes hypertextual. At least as far as I can tell.) When I read someone's blog, for instance, I can tell exactly where I am in time. I do think it would probably be more difficult for a writer to figure out the structure, though. At least, for a writer of our generation. I'm betting the ones coming up won't find it as nearly as difficult.

Liz Blake

Don DeLillo's Underworld attempted, briefly, towards the end, something like this, and failed. I don't remember the context in the book, but he included the actual text of what should have been a link (http:// and all), written a bit wrong, and leading nowhere, if you were curious enough to actually go to a computer and type it in.

Maybe this is tangential, but it seems related. Frustrating, and maybe a warning about the difficulties of integrating the two media.


Walter Kirn's novel The Unbinding does something like this. He has links at http://www.walterkirn.com that correspond to phrases printed in bold in the book.

The book was originally serialized on Slate, but that version seems to have different links.

Stephany Aulenback

I don't remember that from Underworld, Liz. Thanks for mentioning it.

And Kevin! Thanks so much for the link to Walter Kirn's The Unbinding. I found the novel on Slate's site and will try to read it. Why do people persist in thinking a white font on a black background is a good idea, though? I know it looks techy but I can barely read it. Still, I'm going to give this one a good try.

And I found this conversation between Kirn and Gary Shteyngart (how odd -- or rather, how fitting) on Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2151004/entry/2151016/

Kirn has some interesting ideas about how an online novel would work (they're in his last letter, the fifth letter in the series) but he still seems to be making the whole enterprise a lot more complicated than it needs to be, I think. For instance, it doesn't need to be written in real time -- why not put up something complete and let all the interesting, real time stuff happen naturally, as people link to sections they like and comment on them. Others can extend the story at that point. Or the novelist can do a kind of sequel. A novel is a well-thought-out performance -- it's not an improvisation. Sure, a great deal of the stuff online is instantaneous and fly-by-night -- it doesn't necessarily follow, though, that an internet novel has to be or even should be.

And the pair of them seem a bit melodramatic about the differences between the computer-less past and the uber-techy future. They both write as if we're all going to shed our physical bodies like so many snake skins and float away into the ether. The future is going to be different from the past, yes, but I don't think it's going to be THAT different.

I must say that Shteyngart has excellent taste in bloggers, though.

D. Heikkinen

Laszlo Krasznahorkai's novel "War and War" has a link to where, if I remember correctly, the fictional narrator will post, so as to save forever, a literary masterpiece. You can go to it at www.warandwar.com. Unfortunately, I don't think it really adds all that much to the book. Interesting idea, though.


I tried starting something like that called American Hate last year. Turns out that a novel of letters (which is effectively what you're describing here) is not actually that easy to put together and my life got too complicated and busy to continue.

I have been thinking of trying again. If you don't mind the pimping, this is where the project sort of kicked off and stalled. Feedback very much appreciated:



I really like the concept of the online novel/blog. First of all, I think the idea of having a fictional personae online obviously isn't new, and I bet there are quite a few blogs that are entirely delusionally unreal. As far as a narrative, there are examples like youtube's LonelyGirl15 (well, video blog) which users didn't even know wasn't real at first.

Also, chuck palahniuk's "diary" would be a good example of the use of a interesting format. you would just need to translate the style to blogging, which is just like diary entries.

Which makes me wonder: if you post a blog that is meant to be entirely "in character," how do you inform readers that it is meant to be read as a work of fiction? In the case of a TV-character blog, I guess it's assumed people will figure it out. But an entirely original work would have some kind of banner on the top explaining what the story is?

Finally, if you were to have every blog post pre-written, and then posted them within the correct time span (as in: if the character is "writing" it late at night, than thats the time it will be posted... etc). If readers want to post questions or comments, maybe the "character" can respond, but this wouldn't change the narrative flow. The links would be especially interesting, as you could maybe link to some staged flickr.com photos, or even a mysterious youtube clip.

...maybe it would be more like performance art though...


My blog, www.project1968.com is a Blog Docu-Novel - adapted from a play that I wrote. It's based on daily/regional newspapers, 10,000 pages of government documents from the LBJ Library and books. It corresponds to the real world dates. Jan. 14, 1968 = Jan. 14, 2008. Links are included.

Geoffrey Philp

My novel, Virtual Yardies, which I completed last year now exists (partially--ten chapters) on the internet.

Here was the first post:

I'll keep you posted on further developments. Until then, you can begin reading it here:


Geoffrey Philp

Thanks, Laura!

I posted the link back to your article on my blog today:


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