So, have you been to visit A Million Penguins, Penguin’s “collaborative, wiki-based creative writing exercise” yet? I highly recommend it, although they hardly need my linkages, because they’re getting up to 10 hits per second and 100 edits per hour, apparently. Which makes writing anything about their content (of which I’ve read a fair bit over the course of today) pretty pointless.

As you may know, I have a small interest in online fiction myself, and one which I’m developing further this year (of which project I will write more in the coming weeks), so I’m really interested in how it all develops at Penguin. I reckon it is really exciting, and it gives writers and readers a lot of new opportunities.

What is there to learn at this early stage? The experiment is grappling with a number of closely related issues. Its absolute enormity is one, and one which they probably talked about beforehand. I’m sure they knew it would be popular (tho they might not have imagined they’d get as many hits as some p0rn sites). I have often thought of asking one or two people to join my blogopera to keep it going, but a million…that really is a lot of people. When I called my blogopera ‘adelaide sprawls’ it was a way of acknowledging the potential for the structural sprawl of fiction, a sprawl which is of course magnified when there are so many authors. Can there be any hope for a cohesive narrative? Does it matter? Of course, that’s what they’re trying to find out.

If it is to be a story of some sort, then there is going to have be a bit of give and take by writers. You might need to surrender your own brilliant idea for the common good. I have no doubt this can be done (just call me Pollyanna), but I do wonder if it’s a bit of a problem having such an experiment conducted by a major publisher.

In one of his early blog posts on the project, Jon, the guy from Penguin providing the running commentary on the developing story says “the wikinovel experiment is not a place to prove to Penguin we should publish your book”. Is that gonna cut the mustard? There is still gonna be a lot of people more interested in showing their individual talents than their ability to collaborate on a wiki.

Still, enough people are taking it on in the right spirit (edit: perhaps that should be enough people want to take it on in the right spirit, there does seem to be a lot of argy-bargy going on), and even in these early days, I’ve read a couple of great posts and am greatly enjoying watching it all unfold – if you do go over there, don’t forget to look at the discussion. It is, I think (and as I’ve already said), an extremely interesting development for both writers and readers.

And if you do want to join the fun, don’t forget to read the terms and conditions, in particular “By posting your submission on the Wiki Novel and the Site, you grant us a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, world-wide licence to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, publish, distribute and display any content you submit to us in any format now known or later developed. If you do not want to grant us these rights, please do not submit your content to us”. It will be the basis for an interesting law exam question in a few years I expect.