Jason Wright is bringing his new novel to the world — in real time.
Wright — a New York Times bestselling author, columnist and speaker who has written books for Deseret Book — is writing his latest manuscript for his new book “Bus to Gulf Breeze” in real time, putting it together through a Google Docs file everyone can watch.
In the document, you can see Wright type his novel — spelling and grammar mistakes and all. Wright said he will write at 1 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.
He started the project to connect with readers — something he has always wanted to do.
“I’ve always tried to remind myself that writers work for readers,” he told the Deseret News in an email. “In a very tangible way, the reader is the boss! Writers owe their careers and livelihood to those who spend hard-earned dollars on what we create. I’ve always wanted to listen to my audience, respond, adapt and trust that they know what they want.”
Connecting with readers is not a novel experience when it comes to penning a book. Writers will often reach out to alpha and beta readers for thoughts on the work. Everyone needs an editor, as the saying goes. So it’s not new to add readers into the early stages of production. But the live aspect gives a new spin on the process for readers.
Wright said he has used readers groups in the past or sent out chapters at a time to reader lists. But letting people see him writing his novel in real time was something he hadn’t done before. It was something he wanted to try — a new experience during the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic.
But, he said, it’s mostly for readers.
“They see the waves of inspiration, the warts, the clunky prose, and the awkward pauses when I’m in my office in Virginia looking up at the ceiling and wondering what in the world comes next,” he said.
Wright has enjoyed talking to people on social media about his book. He’s felt excited watching people wait for his live sessions and then follow his journey. He likes when people become “invested in the characters and their challenges,” he said.
On the first day, he opened up his laptop with a rough idea in his head and a working title. But this time, he knew people were watching him.
The thought terrified him.
“It was the first time in my life I felt nervous putting pen — or keystrokes — to paper,” he said.
Writing before a live audience isn’t necessarily novel, either. In the past, writers have set up live streams for readers to see the sausage made. For example, one writer built a live video feed during #NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge for writers to craft a book in 30 days — to connect with readers.
But going live when you’re writing a book opens you up to easy criticisms. Grammar mistakes, spelling errors and scrambled-eggs plot are just some of the problems that could pop up. Putting a story down from brain to page doesn’t always work the first time through.
Writing is a process.
Thankfully for Wright, his daughter Oakli Van Meter edits the file as he writes. She will graduate from BYU with an editing and publishing degree. She has edited books for her dad before and worked on articles with him, “but this sort of takes it to a new level.”
Her dad approached her the day before he started. She knew the book’s general idea and always wanted him to write it. So she jumped on the project.
This experience is “so different,” she said.
“I don’t think I would change anything,” Van Meter said. “We have a good pace ... and it works well. “
Jason and Oakli have a BIG announcement!
BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! The journey begins tomorrow at 1 PM/EST. This should be .. interesting. Please like and share this video. Also tag your reader friends, invite them to follow along, and get ready to witness a novel being written ... in real time. See you tomorrow!Posted by Jason F. Wright - Author, Creator, Speaker on Thursday, March 26, 2020
Wright has crafted such top books as “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The Seventeen Second Miracle,” among several others. But his experience doesn’t always ensure success. He still has his tough days. And it might be tough for readers since they don’t see the finished product. Readers might see plot holes, poor pacing and plenty of flaws you would find in a first draft.
“And it’s a lot harder to change the big ending when they’re reading it in the moment you’re writing it,” he said.
For his daughter, Van Meter, the hardest part is waiting for what comes next. The story is still in her father’s head. She said she wants to read more details.
Still, he said any novelist could handle such a project, although nonfiction writers or historical fiction novelists may have a tough time because those books require more research — slow moments that don’t translate well during a live broadcast.
“But if you’re crafting fiction on the fly and your imagination is the real driver, it could be worth a shot! It’s certainly one way to ensure some accountability and get you on a schedule,” he said.
Wright said he hopes to release the book for publication in the future, but it wouldn’t matter though because “it will be more than worth it to share in this communal experience together.”
That’s because he’s writing it during the coronavirus pandemic, when so many people can watch him at once.
He said it was the perfect time to craft a novel this way.
“For me, the pandemic was the push to try it now. We’re so isolated and socially-distanced. Books take a year, sometimes more, to make it from manuscript to bookstores and e-readers. I wanted to craft something readers didn’t have to wait for.”
You can follow Jason Wright’s progress here.