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How Should Authors Envision the Digital Novel?

Now faced with so many choices, authors will have to re-think how they conceive of their books.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

Novelists all start from different places and write accordingly. Some like to plot an entire book in advance, some in their head, some on a spreadsheet. Others begin at the end and work backwards. Still others begin with a voice, a character, or a scene.

But the “digital novel,” whether that is interactive or not, offers multiple opportunities to break the proverbial frame of the book. It can be read linearly or non-linearly; stories can be framed in such a way where action unfolds in different time frames and — here’s the difference — can be experienced as such.

But faced with so many choices, authors will have to re-think how they conceive of their books. As Jeff Gomez, author and Penguin executive, argues in today’s feature story “The Publisher’s Anxiety at the Electronic Book,” writers should think digitally from the very beginning, envisioning the novel as something with technology as part of its DNA and not as a distant cousin.”

Naturally, not all authors will want to go this direction, though — on good advice — they should.

But what does it entail? What’s the process? How exactly should authors envision this new “digital novel”?

Share you thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below.

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  1. Posted January 28, 2013 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    “…writers should think digitally from the very beginning, envisioning the novel as something with technology as part of its DNA and not as a distant cousin.”

    There is nothing particularly new about this. If the word ‘novel’ in the quotation above is replaced by the term ‘storytelling’ it would describe what has always been the reality in the Writers’ Room responsible for the narrative content of a television soap opera or long form series.

    In the context of the digital novel it could well be time to think of collaborative writing (and I do not mean the James Patterson approach).

    However for the solo author we can look forward to being given online tools which could make it as easy to create digital fiction as it is now to maintain a blog with embedded elements which go beyond linear text.

  2. Posted January 28, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I will turn the author’s argument around. One can look at the entire e-book phenomenon as a bright, shiny object that is taking everyone’s attention from something real — ie., the narrative form that has existed for hundreds of years. There’s a reason why a reader decides to immerse himself in a world created by a writer. When the words that the writer put on the page resonate with the reader, they carry the reader to a whole new, exciting world of possibilities. Nothing more than words are needed. Yes, publishers are just beginning to experiment with the technological possibilities of the novel. But the quiet experience of following words on a page has always had a deep purpose, and an excitement, of its own.

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