Yesterday I had the privilege to share the ALIENATED creative development journey with a group of esteemed publishers (both digital and traditional) at the FutureBook Innovation Workshop.
I was showcasing and celebrating the idea of including the reader in the creative process, borrowing from both the Pixar way and the best-practices of Silicon Valley.
I wasn’t advocating creation-by-focus-group, but rather an iterative creative process of writing and rewriting with real-time, user feedback. With the beta-reader feedback for ALIENATED, some of it we (Matt Knight and I) took on board, and some of it we disregarded based on our own creative judgement.
It will be interesting to see if other creators and publishers expand on and take further the small steps we embarked on to rewrite ALIENATED.
The Bookseller magazine wrote about the session here: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/include-readers-creative-process-futurebook-hears.html
Those who know me well, know I love the Pixar films. I was fortunate enough to meet the creative development team from Pixar this past Autumn, and it changed my approach to creativity forever.
You may have seen the GeekDad/Wired piece on the bumpy development of the film Brave, which highlights the laser-like focus on story, but what the piece doesn’t get into is that Pixar makes each of their films about 7 times. Seven! They actually construct each film, in animatic form, between five and eight times to screen for both a vaunted ‘Brain Trust’ and the larger Pixar staff community. Everyone can give comments, and the film’s director becomes the arbitrator of which comments to accept and which to reject.
I met the Pixar people while crafting a new booked called ALIENATED, about the only human boy at the high school for aliens at Area 51. It’s a big comedy-adventure that combines the coming of age tales of a John Hughes film with the sci-fi chops of an Amblin movie or the original Men In Black. High School as an alien world!
I realized that Matt Knight and I who were writing it were operating in a vacuum, so we decided to open up the creative development process, literally sharing work-in-process chapters and prose with readers both on and offline.
It was a scary, untraditional move. Conventional wisdom asserts that you never show your work to the public until its 100% final and fully edited. I was doing the opposite. It was a risk; but I felt the bigger risk was continuing to create in a vacuum.
That was nearly eight months ago and now I’m pleased to share that we’ve come to the end of the first phase of iterative creative development and have a full manuscript in hand. We are of course doing serious editing on it before submitting to publishers, but the creative process of including a small group of intended readers has resulted in a funnier, stronger, and more poignant story than had we simply continued on amusing ourselves with the prose.
Thanks Pixar! Thanks for giving me the courage to share writing that wasn’t finished, to be brave enough to open myself up to feedback and criticism at an early stage in order to make the final book that much better.
(psst: You can follow ALIENATED on Facebook)