PCKWCK: the novel you can watch being written, in real-time

15 Oct 2015

The internet has been around long enough for us to get used to successively more innovative ways of keeping up with something as it happens in real-time.

We have live streaming, live tweeting, Periscope and Facebook’s Live. We even have services for live-streaming video-game play.

But now there’s something new. Something never seen before.

Real-time novel writing.

For the duration of this week (12 – 16 October), Joshua Cohen – author of this year’s Book of Numbers – is writing PCKWCK, an adaptation of, and homage to, Charles Dickens’ The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

He’s writing it every day, in real time, on camera, from 1pm to 6pm EST (6pm to 11pm GMT).

And he’s writing it with an audience. Every word, every syllable, every comma will be watched by hundreds of people.

At the time of writing – a time when Cohen wasn’t – there were well over 200 readers online. That figure will no doubt balloon when Cohen sets fingers to keyboard.

Piling on the pressure, Cohen’s audience is far from silent.

A panel to the right of the real-time novel contains a live chat, with anonymous readers posting criticism and praise, as well as – it is the internet – some more eccentric offerings:

PCKWCK comment

Comment on PCKWCK live chat. www.pckwck.com

Adding to the real-time-ness of it all, readers can also offer on-the-fly support to Cohen. Clicking on the text adds a small heart, just like Periscope.

Devised by Adrian Chen and Alix Rule, two of the founders of online publishing collective Useless Press, PCKWCK was inspired by the abovementioned live-streaming video game service Twitch.

Speaking to BuzzFeed, Chen said, “I always wondered, ‘What if there was a Twitch for novelists? Would anyone actually watch someone write fiction?’ I mentioned it at a Useless Press meeting and, within a few weeks, Sam Lavigne [editor, Useless Press] had whipped up a prototype, Alix Rule had convinced Josh Cohen to do this crazy thing, and it was really going to happen”.

For such an internet-heavy concept, PCKWCK is staying true to its 19th-century roots: Useless Press will release a limited run of physical copies of the finished work – Cohen is set to complete his opus tomorrow night – with all profits donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Main image via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic