‘The man was clearly mad! No rules? It would never work! You may as well get penguins to write a novel!‘ - from the wikinovel
Editor Jon is going to blog about the editorial content of the wikinovel here; my reading of the novel has, I’m afraid, been rather sporadic, since I’ve spent much of the last five weeks refreshing the recent changes page to see what has been added, altered and deleted in a forlorn attempt to stay on top of things. But a fifteen hour plane flight on Friday will enable me, I hope, to read it in a single sitting, as I would read a traditional novel.
We’ve also been monitoring the stats and wanted to share some with you now. Nearly 1500 individuals have contributed to the writing and editing of A Million Penguins, contributing over 11,000 edits making this, in the words of Penguin’s Chief Executive, ‘not the most read, but possibly the most written novel in history‘. 75000 people have visited the site and there have been more than 280,000 page views.
So what of the experiment - can a collective really write a novel? I guess the answer has to be a qualified maybe. Watching the recent changes and the discussion pages and the user talk pages gives me hope - it is clear that some people have really worked well together, discussed each others contributions and have even made plans to collaborate further in the future which is really encouraging. But clearly opening this experiment up to ‘the whole world’ caused problems - we had vandals, pornographers, spammers and any number of people who had such differing ideas about what would make a good novel that a real sense of cohesiveness was always going to be hard to achieve.
As the project evolved I think I stopped thinking about it as a literary experiment and started thinking about it more as a social experiment, and from this point of view *slips lab coat on, adjusts safety specs* my, what a great bunch of subjects we have gathered! The department of Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University are going to employ a researcher to write a paper on the project later in the year and boy, will he or she have some great material to work from.
So what happens now? We’re actively looking at how we can convert the 1030 pages of the wikinovel into an ebook and as soon as we work it out, we’ll let you know here . We’ve also learnt a lot about wikis and about communities from this project and I hope and expect that we will see a great many more ’social’ experiments from Penguin in the future and also that we will use wikis again as a way of encouraging discussions and conversations around particular books, authors or topics.
One last thought for now - in the beginning we had Carlo, and Inu, and Mikael, then Big Tony appeared then Big Bababooey Benjy (and variants thereof) and then the whales appeared and then Jim and, well, you can see for yourselves here. This project has been exhilarating, controversial, frustrating, engaging, funny, touching and at times it has nearly driven me bananas. But one thing it has never been is boring and everyone who has contributed a character, a plotline, changed a spelling, added an apostrophe, blogged about it or even just read it can take great credit for that.
And so, from all at Penguin - a million thanks.
Jeremy Ettinghausen, Digital Publisher
PS I should have said that you can still read, but not edit, the wikinovel here.