Fantasy author Silvia Hartmann is opening herself up to the kind of scrutiny most writers would pay to avoid: this morning, she started writing her new novel on Google Docs, and you can see it taking shape word by word as she types. (I just saw "something was happening here, and something was unfolding, and she was not in a position to put a stop to it" emerge on the page).
I've read the first pages of The Dragon Lords – she's already on chapter four, and she only started at 9am – and I'm not saying it's cracking stuff. It's fairly bonkers, to be honest. "At the beginning, she had tried to not feel so strongly about someone she knew nothing about. He could be an idiot, a pervert, a serial killer. Or he could be really boring, and when he woke up, his voice might sound like Kermit the frog." Goodness. Hartmann's taken the maxim of grabbing your readers' attention with your first sentence very seriously – "It was not every day that Mrs Delhany found a naked man in the driveway." And she's working her short paragraphs to the max.
But there's something, nonetheless, rather mesmerising about seeing the words emerge as you watch. Give it a go. Hartmann, who writes fantasy novels under the joyfully weird pseudonym Nick StarFields and self-help books under her own name, is allowing fans to comment on the story and make suggestions as she progresses, so perhaps it'll improve. It is her first draft, after all, and it's a brave thing to show it to the world.
She also tells me that she's read Fifty Shades of Grey, and is predicting that further down the line, things "may well be a little sexy". Crikey.
"I've never done this before. I do have faith that if something fits in with my vision and potentially enhances it further, it will definitely be taken on board. I am going to trust my instincts and go with what I feel is right, all the way through," she says. "For example, if I have a character and I love him, and all the readers hate him, I'll probably stick with him. He might be redeemed further down the line, who's to say?"
She's calling her experiment a world first. I'm not so sure – GalleyCat points to a few other similar efforts, and Will Self has already done so in three dimensions, twice, writing in public before any curious readers who thereby risked inclusion in his work. But hats off to Hartmann – "the Naked Writer", as she's styling herself – for laying bare her first musings to the world, and giving it a go. I'll definitely be checking in to see if the Dragon Lord and Mrs Delhany get it on down the road. Judging from their latest interaction, which has just tapped its way onto my screen – "he took a deep breath and slowly opened his eyes. She could not make out the colour in the dim light; but they were not dark eyes, they were liquid, beautiful ..." – I think they just might.
[Woman at computer via Shutterstock]