What can Trent Reznor teach us about writing? A lot, if we look closely.
Nine Inch Nails and its front man Trent Reznor’s CD “Year Zero”, a concept album, involved him building Websites, writing songs and creating videos. What he produced in the writing world would be called “Meta-fiction.” This concept, simply put, is fiction within fiction, an entire fictional world worthy of a devoted following dedicated to that fiction.
Some Websites start when a fan purchases a new tour shirt and notices that certain letters are highlighted. In the album's case it spelled out “I am trying to believe” and then the site Iamtryingtobelieve.com popped up.
The Website suggested a fake product, flash drives (similar to a memory stick or portable hard drive)were found at Nine Inch Nails concerts, most often left abandoned in the bathroom. Whoever found the flash drive and installed it found a song with a phone number hidden it it that in one case contained a fictional message from the US President of Reznor's making.
More Web sites began popping up, each one different, each one revealing a little more of the story behind Reznor’s album, his work of fiction. What can you learn from this? Guerilla marketing. Thinking outside the page.
This can be translated into a writer’s own work. Writers as a rule have a tendency to assume they must remain constricted to the metaphorical pencil and paper, however this is no longer the case. Web sites can provide a level of creative freedom that traditional book form is unable to compete with. This has become even more important in the passing years as more and more people around the world are gaining access to the Internet and are consuming information from all corners of the globe.
Does a story have to be linear? Must there be a beginning, middle and end? For Renzor’s fictional Web sites, there is no conceived-of end or middle. The Web site simply exists, and those who visit it digest the information much in the same way a reader would digest a short story. The only difference is that Reznor’s Web sites have hotlinks. The pages are turned by clicking on links, which then tell another part of the story. The ending, ideally, exists on the album “Year Zero,” however each of the Web sites can be viewed as a singular, stand-alone fictional entity.
Is an advertisement in the New Yorker the only way to sell your book? Creative guerilla marketing can make or break an author, and traditional methods of advertising can only go so far in today’s bloated media. Each writer must find a niche for their own particular work by harnessing the same creative energies they used to conceive the fiction in the first place. This might mean offering a free chapter online, or it might mean contacting message board moderators or setting up reading groups or even taking it a step farther and employing unconventional means.
Embrace new technology and make it work for you. Writers don’t always have to use paper.