I’ve Had a Crazy Writing Idea

I was struck by an idea the other day. Its one that’s been niggling at my mind for quite a while, not fully formed, never quite coming to the surface. Essentially, I would like to try developing a writing universe, and open up that universe for submission for anyone that’s interested, for any medium of stories – flash, shorts, novellas, novels, whatever. I, or some group of people, would retain veto / acceptance control over the stories, but anyone would be free to submit. For the techies out there, the domain would basically be open source.

Such a universe would be broad in its scope, and would be founded on an interesting setting with diverse groups and organizations that writers could take and build upon, to flesh out with meat and bones, so they become real, and not just ideas. This happens all the time with game universes, movie tie-in universes, etc, but those all have a gripping initial concept that draws people into the setting. I’m not sure if that’s required for the kind of organic growth I would like to see happen.

This idea runs counter to most licensed domains, where the intellectual property holder maintains rigid control of who can write what with their IP. The overseers of this endeavor would only exist to ensure quality and prevent continuity breaches. Beyond that, the writers interested in submitting work toward the universe would be free to do what they want with the story, including building on existing characters, events, locations, or creating new ones all their own.

In theory these stories would be collected somewhere they could be enjoyed as a complete work, or published traditionally in print. In a perfect world they would be commercialized effectively, and the writers paid for their work. I’ll be honest, I don’t know how viable that ideal is. I’m not even really sure how to get the project off the ground.

My brain tells me that a website is probably a good way to set the stage of the universe, to convey all the pertinent information in an accessible way for anyone who’s interested. On the other hand, my writerly heart wants to put together a pseudo non-fiction encyclopedia of sorts that relays all the information of the current state and history of the universe. A bible, essentially. Required reading for anyone who wants to dip their toes in the setting with a submission. I’d love to have graphics and illustrations in such a work.

After mentioning this idea on twitter, I got some signs of interest, and have begun hashing out some possibilities for the setting of the universe. So far it’s been a lot of fun. I didn’t plan for this project to fall from the skies this year, but it seems like that’s just what may have happened. If anyone is interested in hopping aboard on the ground floor, participating either in the creation of the setting, or writing a story once it’s designed, just let me know. I also welcome logistical advice on the publishing / presentation side of things.

It should be interesting, one way or another.


10 thoughts on “I’ve Had a Crazy Writing Idea

  1. To avoid careful foreshadowing being accidentally damaged, and so forth, I suggest some sort of locking rather than open season on everything: for example, if a writer has plans for a trilogy, they can lock certain characters or events that are necessary for the arc when they publish the first part. Otherwise people might be put off longer works by the need to keep rewriting.

    One, potentially tricky to enforce, way to leverage the property would be to make one of the conditions of the licence that all works in the universe had a list of several other author’s contributions; while there is no direct payment, everyone gets paid in free advertising. Whether the list is given to them or the author picks, and whether there are the same number for a novel as flash-fiction would need work.

    Alternatively, you centralise the publishing and release novels and collections (effectively becoming an Open Source Black Library); that has the downside that you would need several short stories before you could publish any of them.

    I am already on-board, and we are both in Fauxpocalypse, so you will probably not be able to avoid my thoughts on multi-author collaboration models, but I thought a would comment anyway so others can bounce off them.

    • Good thoughts Dave. Being able to reserve certain elements for a trilogy or series length work probably makes sense. Will probably want some kind of tracker so people can easily see what is “checked out”.

      The free advertising angle makes sense, if necessary. I’m of course leaning toward hoping it wouldn’t be necessary. Will have to see how things play out. I think the first content to be released being a collection of novellas, or even one or more novels might be ideal over a short story anthology, just to have more room to explore right out of the gates.

      • A couple of novels would be good; short stories are quicker to write though, and let people work in parallel, so might work better for building some volume.

        Maybe a good starting point is getting a couple of the people in your starting group to try writing novels while pre-public fleshing out the details of the universe is still going on.

        Of course, it will probably be quicker to get a universe to the point people can write in it than most authors can get a novel written and edited properly, so it might take some juggling, but that might give you a novel to release at the same time as opening the universe up for the public.

  2. I like this idea quite a bit. Not sure how much I’ll be able to contribute, but if I can I would love to participate! Right now I don’t have any thoughts on the logistical side of things. I think Dave raised some good points. I’ll ponder this a little and if I come up with any suggestions I’ll comment here again.

    • I’d be glad to have you contribute. I hope to put together a working document on ideas for the setting soon. I’ve been spitballing ideas with several people, including Dave, via email. When I get something up, I can share that out to anyone who’s interested to weigh in on before we finalize things.

  3. I would love to contribute anyway I can. I enjoyed working with you on the last writing contribution we did, and this sounds ten times more fun. A whole universe to play with, reminders me of Terry’s Pratchett’s Discworld.

    • Well, it’s unlikely the setting would encompass the whole universe (though, who knows?). It is shaping up that it could take place in a large chunk of our galaxy though. More info to come.

  4. Pingback: My Crazy Idea Has Become Project Schism | Schevus Osborne

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