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I keep coming back to this idea that I would like to make my book a website, which is progressively and openly developed. As I write more, the rough draft and notes get published. Eventually after a few years, the book can be considered "complete" and things stop changing as much (though error fixes and stuff like that can still occur, even the rewriting/improvement/refactoring of sections, like new versions of books sometimes have). But all these years, it would be accessible in unfinished form.

  • Would this work for a fiction book, or a non fiction book, or both?
  • Are there any examples of this in the wild? If so, what are some key takeaways?

I like this approach because it means I can give people "previews" of the story as its being written, so why not just make that all public. I don't like this approach because things will be changing lots as it develops (like a normal book probably would), and it might become distracting seeing things change all the time, and so you lose interest.

But maybe there is a different style of writing that allows this sort of more open process, something clever? My first thought is a blog of short stories (which you try and finish before release), so perhaps there are examples of that.

I am coming at this from being a software developer for years, using GitHub to openly publish code projects, even when they are just barely in the ideation phase, far from complete or stable. So wondering if the similar sort of model could be applied to writing books, and any examples of people doing this.

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  • I think you've missed any aspect of user feedback and community-building that would make this idea anything more than just self-publishing a work-in-progress.
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 14:17
  • There are many examples of blogs that resulted into published books, with the books consisting in reedited blog posts plus new material. One big advantage of this is that the blogger is building a community of followers while blogging, so that it's easier to advertise the book once it finally comes out.
    – Stef
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 14:40
  • Author Chris Nuttall is also notorious for posting most of his books on the spacebattles forums first, where readers can read them for free and give feedback; then deleting the posts when the books are published.
    – Stef
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 14:45

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No, I don't this would work, other than, like GitHub, a collaborative work trying to reach some goal where everyone is writing and debugging and reviewing, and in the end everyone gets credit and shares in the ownership.

There is a reason there are hundreds of times as many readers as there are authors. Readers don't want to read a story again, and again, and again, looking for bugs, coming up with suggestions to fix the bugs.

They want to read a finished project, consume it, and move on.

And even though I am an author and capable of producing publishable works, I am not going to collaborate on your novel for free.

Outside of answers to a few questions on StackExchange in my idle time, to point (mostly beginners) in the right direction.

In the Github or opensource model, people have skin in the game. Even Linux is free and widely used. Programmers are keen to contribute because everybody is volunteers and nobody is getting rich from the results, they just get their moment of fame/credit for developing the driver for the latest device interface or whatever. Coming up with a better priority handling scheme.

And the individual contributions have the same GPL on them as the entire project; and the contributor's names for each element are preserved.

Something like that might be fun to work on. Even on GitHub, with peer review of changes and additions, with the power to reject edits, word changes, additions, deletions, etc. With some ground rules for appeals.

But back to your question, I don't think your model would work. As an author, I have read all my books ten, even twenty times, and some critical passages even more than that. In a way, this is one of the secret weapons of authors: I can spend days, weeks, thinking of something that will take you one minute to read.

This is not something most people want to do, read, and re-read, and re-read your book from the beginning every time you make a change. 99% of them just want to read a completed story.

(The other secret weapon is time-travel; I can go back in time in the story, to the beginning if need be, to plant facts and scenes to support another scene in the middle of the book.)

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