Sunday, March 13, 2011


Neovella is a shiny new site that launched last month for collaborative writing--a concept I'm seeing more and more.

What I like:
  • As with brainstorming, I think mediums that force authors to release the death grip on their stories will allow pleasantly unexpected things to happen. I think we'll see creativity at its most unfettered.
  • It's social!
  • There are rules (you have to alternate turns every sentence) but not too many rules.
  • The site allows you to choose with whom you collaborate--or you can just collaborate with strangers. You've got control over who sees your work.
  • They're talking about selling on Amazon and paying authors!! Sweet. The more places to make moneyz writing, the better.
What I don't like, though, is that there doesn't seem to be much thought going into legal issues. Yes, it's understood that each coauthor holds copyright to the words they submit as soon as they type the first letter. This is true of all writing. So we know who owns what.

But when something collaborative gets monetized, there's bound to be conflict over who gets what--and Neovella purports to split royalties based on "the success of the web site and the given story." What about splits based on content? Do we divide based on who submitted the most sentences? Does the originator of the story, as the one who technically wrote the first copyrighted word and, it could be claimed, had "the idea," get a larger amount? What about conflict over quality of content? You *know* some all authors will feel like he/she carried the story.

Neovella won't be able to cover every conceivable conflict. Writers are just too creative. But they can track who submits what and pay accordingly. As for heading off the more complex issues, I think Neovella should consider the following:
  • Optional monetization. Just as you can choose with whom you collaborate, you should also be able to opt out of the Amazon program. Take $$ out of the equation, suddenly things get a lot less complicated.
  • Contracts. Neovella could make boilerplates available for story initiators to post with the opening line of the story. As you have to agree to terms and conditions before a program will install on your computer, you have to agree to the contract before being allowed to post. Users should be able to tweak the contract, submitting revisions for approval by the group before the story begins--no revisions after things are underway except by unanimous vote.
My advice: use with caution. Neovella is a great place for brainstorming and recreational writing. But anything you're planning to do more with/sell elsewhere--a character or world from your WIP, say--should be left for your eyes and those of your beta readers.


  1. Collaboration can be very useful to get the wheels spinning and it can enlighten you to look at your stories from a new pov but the money aspect is weird. I doubt there is a way to divide the profit and please everyone. Someone will always feel their sentences provided more to the overall plot development or character growth.

    I would use it for brainstorming or recreation if money was not involved.

  2. Your brain is a brilliant and fascinating place. Thanks for the excellent food for thought, Mer.

    - Liz

  3. You are not kidding about collaboration forcing writers to release the death grip on their prose. By the time it reaches the done&polished stage, ego has been sacrificed on the altar of compromise and only the story matters.