Guest Post from Grammarly: Using Technology to Complete a Novel at Warp-Speed

We at Mindbuck Media are pleased as the proverbial spiked punch to have Allison VanNest of Grammarly.com provide a guest post for us.

By Allison VanNest, Grammarly.com

Over the last decade, technology has changed just about every part of our lives. From smart phones and tablets to ever-present Wi-Fi and HDTV, the list of incredible technological advances goes on and on. However, one area that technology hasn’t seemed to touch is novel writing. A proper novel will always require a dedicated author working tirelessly to develop a story and to bring compelling characters to life.

Technology doesn’t really figure in to the novel writing process.

Or does it?

GrammoWriMo LogoIn November, Grammarly debuted GrammoWriMo, a spinoff of National Novel Writing Month. As part of this project, hundreds of writers signed up to co-write a single 50,000-word novel. While this is would be a daunting project for any single writer to complete in 30 days, Grammarly’s writers knew that they were up for the task if they did it together.

And they were right. Although more than 300,000 people signed up for NaNoWriMo in 2013, only 41,940 novels were actually completed. Clocking in at a total of 130,927 unedited words, the GrammoWriMo group novel was among them!

Over the next few years, technology will drastically change the way that we communicate in writing. Grammarly is at the forefront of this change – having already created a project to make the writing process both social and democratic.

The response to GrammoWriMo was overwhelming:

  • Thousands of people participated in surveys to determine the plot of the group novel and submit potential cover art; 287 writers ultimately contributed to the project
  • Writers from 27 countries – and 44 U.S. states – contributed an average of 580 words each to the group novel
  • 70 percent of GrammoWriMo participants have a personal blog, and an impressive 55 percent have been published online at some point

Naturally, there are some hurdles to clear when trying to bring together a project of this size in such a short amount of time. Two of the biggest challenges that the Grammarly team faced were organization and cohesion.

WriteOnNaNoWriMoGetting organized

To make GrammoWriMo work, Grammarly divided writers into groups (around 25 people per chapter) that were assigned to work simultaneously on each of the novel’s 30 chapters. Each writer within each group was assigned a specific day on which to write. Writers built on the work of those before them until the chapter was finished and each author has applied his or her own touch to the manuscript.

Technology played a large role in making this kind of organization possible. A Google Doc was assigned to each chapter-group, so writers could easily access the growing document without having to pass around email attachments. Also, individual Facebook groups were established for each chapter so they could quickly and easily communicate and problem-solve along the way.

lonely wishgiverCreating a cohesive novel

Each of the 30 chapters was written simultaneously, so writers had to pay close attention to the outline created for their own chapter, as well as the plot points introduced in chapters before and after them. For this to work, the entire book had to be outlined in advance of the project so writers working on later chapters would have an idea of what would be appearing in the earlier pages of the novel.

A very specific and detailed plot summary was provided to all writers, highlighting the purpose and direction of each individual chapter. This document was continuously updated by the Grammarly team and established the main characters and storyline while allowing for some freedom of creativity for the writers themselves.

What do you think?

Is this project likely to change the way novels are written from this day forward? No – probably not. However, it is an exciting demonstration of how technology can bring people and ideas together with a common goal. No longer is the process of writing a novel limited to a solitary writer banging away on a keyboard until the story is complete. Projects like GrammoWriMo prove that innovative thinking can bring new solutions to age-old challenges.

Would you co-write a novel with 300 other people? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

AllieA self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at http://www.facebook.com/grammarly.