Co-authored writing online has been around for a while and picked up considerably with the introduction of wikis. Notably, Lawrence Lessig used a wiki to help update his book “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace“. Collaboration is catching on, especially in journalism (iReport, Wired Assignment Zero). Here are two sites that take a lighter look at collaboration, letting you anonymously co-author short stories and books.
Potrayl is a small project we discovered in TechCrunch Forums that launched this month. The site lets members write their own stories a chapter at a time or more importantly collaborate on them.
Anyone can start a story. All you need is to describe the what the story will be about and kick start it with a first chapter. From there, the crowd takes over. Other users can edit unlocked chapters, end the story, or add new chapters to the previous ones. Chapters can be closed to collaborative editing or left open in draft mode. Stories can also fork into alternate storylines as users add new versions of existing chapters that take the tale into a new direction.
As a story is developing, you can subscribe to it via RSS and follow the developments for any of the storylines. Once a story is finished, you can view the whole storyline in PDF. Unfortunately stories don’t support graphics within their pages, so it’s text only.
Ficlets is an AOL site that lets users collaborate on short stories. Ficlets are a little different from Portrayl stories. Ficlets are unstructured short stories to which other users can contribute prequels and sequels instead of co-editing and adding chapters. Instead of maintaining distinct storyline threads, Ficlets shows users all the prequels and sequels that inspired or were inspired by the current story, which can also be followed via RSS. Each short story also supports reader ratings and comments so authors can get feedback about their stories.