I have recently grown interested in the idea of writing a litRPG novel where each two days I will publish a chapter describing a single day of the main character and at the end of the day the readers will decide what the main character will do. What I wish to ask is are there any tropes or guidelines that have been set in the genre of books written with audience participation?
I ended up doing this once, not at all intentionally, and the result was actually quite good.
I had had a long running RPG campaign that had gone on for years with a set of regular players. I moved overseas, and we were unable to continue our campaign for obvious reasons. Luckily, the internet was rapidly evolving at this time, and we all signed up for the brand new free Gmail accounts which had significantly improved storage, which helped, and also skype, which proved to be the key technological enabler.
I launched a new virtual campaign, which turned out to be extremely successful. What I did was write up an email outlining the background, the locations, the world setting, and what important things are happening since last session. (After I had done all the DM homework stuff). After the email, we would usually get on the chat and go back and forth a bit with initial character reactions to things. What they do, what they say, etc. We didn't realize at the time, but this plus the emails provided a written record of the entire RPG campaign later on.
For particularly important, high stakes moments where I wanted to maximize the drama, I would set up a VOIP call, and we would roleplay through that encounter the same way we had done traditionally. This maximized my ability to do improv based on character reactions in real time. Often, this encounter would end up being summarized and included in the next email I would send out.
To facilitate, we even found a site that allowed us to roll dice online (this was a fancy, new-fangled deal back then).
The limitations of writing speed forced us all to be more focused than typical for an RPG campaign, and I planned out the plot extremely well. The campaign was very dramatic, relying on one of the mainstay PCs to voluntarily sacrifice themselves for the good of everyone else, and I knew my players so well, I knew they would actually do it. I also had a plan up my sleeve to save the PC at the last minute, but nobody knew that but me. I played the moment out for maximum drama, and the entire story came together beautifully.
After we wrapped up that campaign, the players were so impressed that they went back and copied all the emails and texts into doc files and started editing them into an actual story. First, it was rough, with some parts basically in outline form (my emails) and some parts nothing but endless dialogue (the PCs texts). After some back and forth and filling out, it evolved into a no-kidding really good story that came in about the size of a standard novel.
We never did anything with it, mostly because I had borrowed freely from various IPs that sparked my imagination as a DM, but which would not have been too happy about us using their ideas, places or characters in a published story. Back then, fan fiction was less accepted as a genre, and it wasn't really worthwhile to pursue. It still worked out quite successfully as a legitimate way to put together a book while engaging in performance theater at the same time.
Key lessons were probably:
1) Know your participants. You can do so much more with the plot if you know how they are likely to react to certain events. Railroading them into forced choices is cheap and no respectable DM would engage in that. It also leads to less interesting stories. If you have to just force participants to choose certain things no matter what in order for the plot to work, don't write this kind of thing, just write a normal story with characters you totally control. The lack of control is the key element of collaborative storytelling and leads to some extraordinary, creative outcomes.
2) Don't invite people who will burn the whole thing to the ground just for kicks. Invite people who will treat the endeavor with a certain respect and who will take their roles/characters seriously. That way they will try to really do what those characters would do, even if it isn't what the person would do.
3) You have to be disciplined and put in a lot of groundwork. You have to have the plot prepared, the locations planned out, and have everything about the story down so cold that you can ad-lib and keep things consistent.
4) Don't be afraid of things going off your planned track. You can loop things back together with some creativity, but if your participants start to think their choices don't really matter, they will lose interest very fast.
5) Choose a medium that allows you to edit the text easily. It turned out that a standard chat program wasn't optimal for this because we ended up with a ton of weird formatting and timestamps and whatnot in the text and it became a time sink just to make the dialogue readable. Since we hadn't planned on making our campaign into a book, that was kind of inevitable, but if you are planning it out in advance, choose a collaboration tool that allows you to easily and quickly export into an editable document form you like to use.