LiveBook is a new collaborative writing project that aims to write two separate novels via applications on two different social networks: one on Facebook, the other on Bebo. The Facebook novel, "Helen and her Facebook" chronicles a girl named Helen who has just recently signed up on the social network, while the Bebo version, "Brian from Bebo," follows the similar tale, though this time it's a boy and Bebo. The stories are written sentence by sentence by the members each network with no outside editorial influence, though co-founder Dmitry Honcharenko thinks there exists the possibility for the two books to reference each other and for Helen and Brian to meet.
LiveBook works via a voting system. As each new sentence is added (anyone can add one), users vote it up or down and the first sentence to reach a certain point threshold is added to the story. Sentences that receive too many down votes are removed from the system and considered spam, or inappropriate.
In theory, the system might work, but LiveBook may rely too heavily on its points scheme. Points aren't just used to add lines to the story, but are also a sort of creative currency within the application. It takes 5 points to add a new sentence, for example, starting a new chapter costs 20, and every time you vote for a sentence it costs you a point. Earning points is, according to the FAQ, a matter of inviting new users.
Presumably, having a sentence selected for inclusion also earns you points, but what this adds up to is a book that heavily relies on the popularity of the app to succeed. Since new users only start with 10 points (enough to add a couple of sentences or dole out a few votes before going bust), the app has to be popular or run the risk of having very few users with enough points to contribute -- which would suddenly make the crowd a lot smaller. Right now, the Facebook version of LiveBook has 45 active daily users.
Other Innovative Ways to Write Online
We've looked at a number of innovative new collaborative writing applications on ReadWriteWeb over the past year. Here's a brief overview:
Recently, Sarah Perez reviewed the very slick Protagonize, on which users can work together to create choose-your-own-adventure style stories, as well as more traditional linear collaborative fiction. Last June, we looked at six "fiction 2.0" applications. Collaborative writing apps Novlet, Portrayl, and Ficlets, are still going strong, but Unblokt, has since shut down, which is too bad because it had produced some suprisingly readable fiction (note, you can actually still read the completed stories by navigating to this link).
We also looked at the National Novel Writing Month, in which people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a single month. For the 2007 edition this past November, there were a whopping 1,187,931,929 words written, and of the 101,000 participants, over 15,000 managed to crank out a full 50k word novel. For the even more insane writer, there's the 3 Day Novel contest during which people compete for cash prizes by writing a novel in 3 days. They actually publish the winners, some of which have won awards.
On more than one occasion we've mentioned the One Million Penguins Project. A collaboration between De Montfort University and Penguin Publishing in the UK, the idea was to see if a novel could be written by the crowd via a wiki. The result? According to one organizer it was "unlike anything Ive read before." The novel has been broke up into sections, which you can read online. The banana version may be the oddest.
Clearly, there are a lot of new and interesting ways to write fiction online, and participating in any one of which can be a lot of fun. What's your favorite?