Publishing House Penguin Launches A Wiki Novel

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You know I love books. You know I love technology. You know my passion for social media. When I saw this news release from Reuters: Publisher Launches Its First “Wiki” Novel (hat tip to MarketingVox), I got all excited.
“‘This is an experiment. It may end up like reading a bowl of alphabet spaghetti,’ Jeremy Ettinghausen, head of digital publishing at Penguin UK said, adding there were no plans as yet to publish the completed work… ‘I’ll be happy so long as it manages to avoid becoming some sort of robotic-zombie-assassins-against-African-ninjas-in-space-narrated-by-a-Papal-Tiara type of thing.'”
You can check out the wiki novel,, here: PenguinWiki – A Million Penguins.
This sounds way too much like a PR play than a calculated strategy to see if a bunch of people can write, edit and produce a sensible novel. Something is not sitting right with me and this concept.
I’m guessing that the better books out there start with the end in mind and the author (or authors) is (are) able to construct a vision of how to get there through story and character development. The reminds me more of that game we would play in sleepaway camp where someone starts a sentence and the next person must continue the story. There’s never much rhyme or reason.
So here I sit, grappling with my thoughts. On one hand, I can’t imagine anything of substantive quality coming out of the wiki. On the other hand, I want to applaud Penguin Publishing for leveraging a wiki to see what kind of literature the wisdom of crowds can publish.


  1. I think there are lots of examples of successful authors who do not plot novels, and let them get discovered during the writing process. Stephen King is one who has written about this extensively, and though you may not like his work, you can’t argue that he’s created a lot of hugely memorable stories which have captured the public’s imagination.
    J.R.R Tolkein’s also written about Lord of the Rings: ‘This book grew in the telling…’
    Another recent example is Jonathan Safran Foer who I’m sure I read in an interview say something along the lines of ‘It’s easier to stumble on greatness than to design it’
    So, I wouldn’t consign a Wiki novel to failure on the principle of lack of direction. In fact, its as likely to succeed through group consciousness as any highly-controlled plotting effort. And who knows, maybe the community will actually evolve an outline. Its certainly an exciting project idea, and we’ll have to see how it turns out.

  2. I’m grappling with your ideas right now Mike. I know you’re right too, as I’m delving deeper and deeper into my first book. I’m just wondering if the whole collective can have the same vision to drive the story? I know it can work online. I’ve seen it. And trust me, I’m hoping it works here as well.

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