Harlan In Leather

Live-writing challenges the writerly ego…which is a very good thing

The rules were simple. Keep to the scheduled study hours, always wash your mug, and under no circumstances touch the coltan. So far Aidan had kept a clean sheet on all counts. Now he was planning to commit the only serious possible infraction. And that did not mean coffee rings on work surfaces.

Aidan’s Rock

Which is the first paragraph of my short story Aidan’s Rock, live-written on a Google document in response to prompts from friends on Twitter. You can read the full finished draft here. Writing a story with up to fifty observers not just looking over your shoulder, but directly at the words appearing on the page, definitely added something to writing this story. But what?

The Guardian pick up on live-writing here in response to a fantasy writer producing her novel live, also on a Google document. There’s certainly a potential car crash element to the live-writing experience, which writing an entire epic fantasy in the form might be playing to. Like the conversation around self-publishing, a lot of the conversation about live-writing is likely to be ‘look at how naff this is!’

Which, being a slightly perverse individual, is part of why I like it. Writers like to spin a myth around their work. They all want you to believe they are the authors of Heartbreaking Works of Staggering Genius. It’s part of the writerly sales schtick. And who can blame us? Writing is a tough profession. Cultivating the appearance of being just that bit clever than the common mortal is how you make it pay. But that doesn’t stop it being bollocks. I quite like the idea that someone looks at my half formed prose and thinks ‘hey this guy’s just an average schmo like me!’, because I am. So are you. So are all those other people. The only difference is that writers do the work of writing, and getting good at writing.

And yeah, I’m a bit of a show off and like attention. That’s the other reason.

That’s why Harlan Ellison made a habit of climbing in to bookstore windows and banging out a story. Because it was good publicity and he was a show-off, and because it showed people writers were mortal and what they did was write, and that writing was not and is not some higher thing. Its just writing. But it only happens because of hard work. So let’s show the writer working, faults and all.