Story MOOC: The Future of Storytelling…and, My Word, That’s a Lot of Writers!

Ever willing to learn and improve, I signed up for an initiative ran by the University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam: The Future of Storytelling. The first of its kind, this Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) seeks to explore storytelling through all its mediums and consider where it is going in the future. Necessary stuff for anyone who calls themselves a writer, I would have thought. It’s not just for novels; it also covers computer games, films, television, and so on.

What struck me most about this course, however, was not the content (which is both interesting and engaging, I hasten to add) but the mend-bending number of participants. Sure, it’s free, which is quite the attraction. What you do invest is time and who amongst us has enough of that? At the last count, the number of people signed up to the course was nearing six figures. Take a moment to let that sink in. We’re talking almost a hundred thousand writers and those are just the ones signed up to a specific course. While I respect anyone with the stamina to finish a novel, good grief, that’s a lot! No wonder the likes of Amazon and Smashwords are swamped with content.

No wonder publishers can seem ignorant and self-important when you effectively cold-call them with your lovely book.

You spent hundreds of hours writing, editing, crafting and loving your work. You jumped through their hoops of their preferred manuscript format, even wrote the 2/5/10/20 page synopsis they asked for, and they can’t even be bothered to reply, right? Well, with so many authors–many of them talented–shovelling words at them, it begins to make sense. They become not so much ignorant as busy. Busy defending the bookshelves from hordes of slush, ensuring they don’t break under the weight of pages.

So, what’s my point and what has it got to do with this online course?

My point is the online course: The Future of Storytelling. Digital formats like the Kindle are here to stay. Web comics brighten their corners of the Internet. The likes of Wattpad showcase novels for free. There are plenty of free web-TV series’ and the amount of authors giving away their work is somewhat concerning to a person editing his own novels. The same word keeps repeating: free. Of course, many of these business models work on advertising or exposure to promote other products. Putting money aside because I believe that most writers, like myself, are in this because they want to make a difference, have something to say, want to give back to a medium that has shaped their own lives. That means getting read. Storytelling is changing. I have my reservations about how sustainable the flood of eBooks is. Word of mouth has dictated most, if not all, of my reading list for as long as I can remember. For word of mouth to happen, somebody needs to notice your story and become that first mouth. If you are a storyteller, ask yourself: what makes my masterpiece stand out?

So, what is the answer?

Hell, I don’t know. If I did I’d probably be parking my yacht next to J K Rowling’s. Right now, I seek only to raise the question. I’m certain to keep an eye out for emerging formats though, and will stick around for the duration of the Story MOOC.

For the interested, you can find the Story MOOC here:


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