Writing Your ‘Masterpiece” on Reality TV

Would you create your epic novel on a reality television show? That’s the premise of a new reality show being aired in Italy called “Masterpiece“. Contestants create their novel or ‘Masterpiece” bit by bit on the series. The winning writer will receive an enviable book deal with Bompiani, a major Italian publisher who will publish a first run of 100,000 copies, and give the author unimaginable publicity.

Here’s how the show works:

Contestants were selected through a ‘slush’ pile of nearly 5000 submitted manuscripts. Those that made the cut were then given screen tests and twelve writers were selected for each episode. A panel of judges will determine the finalists of four per episode, then that pool will head to the final round.

Each writer must attend a pre-determined event. On the first episode were sent to “watching a wedding, or spend a day with the blind”. They then head back to the studio and write about the event. Contestants are given 30 minutes to finish (the words appear on a screen as they write) and they must read their work to the judges and the home audience. The judges determine the two best works, and those remaining contestants have 59-seconds to ‘pitch’ their work to “literary celebrities” (published authors-judges) and one writer will remain until the finals.

The audience will see writers; “Facing the judges, four contestants perched behind their keyboards, with every typed word projected on screens for all to see, as a timer above their heads counted down and cameras swooped in for close-ups.” There is even a room where the writers can go and express their angst, writer’s block or other author style dilemma.

While this seems to be a gift for many writers struggling to find a publisher or literary agent, some authors are not very happy about the show.

“If you have someone capable — young, with talent and desire — and you want to make their life difficult, then make them into a TV star,” said Alessandro Baricco, a prominent Italian novelist who declined an invitation to be a judge. “Masterpiece, will give many people an idea of literature. But it’s not the idea shared by most people who actually do it.”

Judge Giancarlo De Cataldo however, thinks the program will boost book sales. “Italy is a country where people read less and less — they’re publishing more books and selling fewer,” Mr. De Cataldo lamented. “The book is dying, and we must do everything we can to save it. Even a talent show.”

If the show is successful in Italy, then producers are planning are taking the program to additional countries.

Would you write your novel on a reality show? You can read more about the program on the “Masterpiece” website. 






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