I’m having a whole lot of fun reading the Hobgoblin’s novel. Something about writing one’s novel on a blog strikes me as really, really cool. Part of the fun of reading it for me is recognizing some of the settings and characters from our real life. I won’t discuss those details because you probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about anyway, but the locations and some of the characters sounded quite familiar to me, and I was right: the Hobgoblin confirmed that he used some places we’ve spent time in and people we’ve spent time with as inspirations for his writing. One of the professors we both knew from grad school quit her job to write academic mysteries, and I remember people in the English department speculating about which character corresponded to which faculty member. In that department the “cookie key” was well-known — the key that got you into any office — and it made an appearance in this professor’s novel, which delighted us all.
I also think it’s very interesting to be writing a novel and getting feedback on it as he goes along. I’ll probably never write a novel, so I won’t know about these things first-hand, but it must be very, very different writing a novel in the usual way and publishing chapters online as they get written. I doubt any of the reader comments will change the way the Hobgoblin is writing his novel, but those comments have an influence anyway — the encouragement that comes from the comments must have an impact, and simply knowing that people are reading the chapters as he produces them must influence his motivation to write. It makes novel-writing a less isolating endeavour and a more communal one. I guess people working on novels in writing workshops can have a similar experience, but the reader/writer relationship is different, and the way readers encounter the novel is different too.
This kind of publication is like the old 19C way of serializing novels, so that the author could get reviews and other forms of feedback before the end of the novel is written. With a blog, however, the feedback can be more immediate and direct. I’ve come to see how blogging is a form of journal-writing gone public, so that one’s journal becomes more communal than private, but to apply that model to novel writing seems to be a different thing. Journals lend themselves to daily or at least frequent publication, where it seems more natural to be able to see the process of living and thinking and writing at work. But readers rarely get a glimpse of the process of novel writing (check out Bloglily’s excellent post on the subject if you are interested).
Okay, let me go and ask the Hobgoblin when I can expect his latest chapter …