Miércoles 10 de Mayo de 2006, Ip nº 152

Writers bid on eBay to create new book
Por David Ross

Andy tried to open his eyes. Searing pain forced him to close them again with a grimace. He attempted to lift his head, but the effort required was too great."

They may not win the Booker or claim a Pulitzer Prize, but they deserve praise for starting something novel. A novel kind of novel, in fact.

The sentences above are from the first page in a writing venture led by a Scot which is already attracting interest from a well-known American publisher. The authors hope it will bring recognition – to all 250 of them.

So far, eight pages of the unique book, Novel Twists, have been written by eight different people from Scotland, Canada, Ireland, the US, and England.

Nobody knows who is going to write the ninth page, never mind the following 241. Each author has to contribute between 250 and 450 words, making for a book of 62,000 to 112,000 words.

As for the plot, it's anybody's guess.
Writers have staked their place in the literary canon by going online to eBay and bidding one cent for the page they want to write.

The idea came to a Scottish computer technician as he recovered from lymphatic cancer last year.

Phil McArthur, 31, originally from Falkirk, has spent the last 15 years in the Argyll village of Taynuilt, near Oban. He explained the genesis of his unique literary project: "A year ago I underwent chemotherapy.

"So I had a lot of time on my hands and I was reading a lot, particularly thrillers.
"After a while, I started thinking about perhaps writing my own book, but knew that it was always difficult to get published. So I thought I would just do it myself on the net.

"Then I thought there had to be other people in a similar situation who would like to write a novel, but are put off by the stresses of trying to get it published. So why not make it open to everyone? Any budding novelist could have a go at writing a page.

"Would it work to have 250 people writing a 250-page book? There were bound to be logistical problems, but I thought it worth trying and at the end of the day if nobody was interested or it didn't sell, it wouldn't matter."

Mr McArthur spent a lot of time laying out a website, and decided the best way to get people involved was to put the pages on eBay. The response from wannabe authors was immediate.
He was impressed by the quality of writing, although he had to reject a couple of pages, and is checking to ensure the same person does not book all the pages.

"I am not claiming to be a great literary critic. As long as it makes sense within the context of the novel as a whole, and takes the story forward, then I am happy."

While there have been many collaborative fiction projects, this is believed to be the first to go to such a level of multi-authorship.

The closest comparison was when 15 Irish authors got together to write a book. "They wrote a chapter each, but it failed because they simply killed off each other's characters," said Mr McArthur.

He was attracted to the new print-on-demand system whereby a copy of a book is posted on a publisher's website and printed only when a customer orders it, thereby cutting out the gamble of publication.

"So I approached Lulu, the American company who are market leaders in that field. I asked how it would be splitting the royalties between 250 people and that got their interest.

"They thought it was a brilliant idea and are going to promote it in their May newsletter, which goes out to thousands of authors and readers. I am not making any money and won't if it doesn't sell in the end. If I make money, 249 others will as well."

Elly Rothnie, producer of Aberdeen University's Word writers festival, welcomed the project. "The internet has seen people becoming more and more inventive about what a novel is.

"I don't think people will ever be parted from their books, but it's great that new technology is allowing literature to reach new audiences. I think it is all part of a greater picture in which people are becoming more interested in reading and literature."

Read the evolving work at www.noveltwists.com

  01/05/2006. The Herald UK.