If there is one thing Victor Lozada hates more than a bad novel, it’s a story about a teenage werewolf falling in love with a teenage vampire. He’s simply had enough of it.

The 32-year-old lives in fear of such clichéd tales making it into Eqlee, the online project that aims to produce a novel with chapters submitted by the public.

“I would lose faith in humanity if that happens!” the Kuala Lumpur-based Peruvian quips at a recent interview.

Born out of his love for literature, Eqlee.co is a unique platform that gives you the chance to be both a writer and a judge.

(Eqlee, by the way, is a combination of “eqteber” which means “to write” in Arabic and “leer”, which means “to read” in Spanish; and it’s pronounced “ek-lee”.)

Until Aug 16, you, the public, can send in a chapter, and once the submission period is officially declared closed, you get to vote for the entry that you think deserves to be the first chapter of Malaysia’s newest crowd-sourced digital novel.

The chapter with the highest number of votes will then be selected.

This process continues with further chapters until the novel comes to a natural end … or not!

It really depends on the story and the people, says Lozada, a digital strategist at an advertising agency.

“If I see many people commenting on why the story is getting complicated, then we might decide the next submission will be the last.

“If that does not happen, I won’t mind if my grandchildren are writing chapters for Eqlee. How cool is that!” he enthuses.

“I’ve just put the seed out there. What sort of tree it’s going to be depends on the public,” he adds.

When the novel is completed, it will be made available as a free e-book, according to Lozada.

Will this then replace traditional novel writing, where a singular author toils away on his solitary masterpiece? Perhaps even publishers will become a thing of the past?

Not quite. Rather, Lozada reckons crowd-sourced novels are a new branch of the publishing industry: “I don’t think the one will cancel out the other, but it’s going to be complementary.”

OPTIONAL: Eqlee democratises the novel writing process, allowing the public to submit a chapter until the crowd-sourced novel ends naturally. -- AZMAN GHANI/The Star

Eqlee democratises the novel writing process, allowing the public to submit a chapter until the crowd-sourced novel ends naturally. Photo: The Star/Azman Ghani

The beginning

But what exactly triggered Lozada to start Eqlee?

It all began several years ago when he attended a writing workshop in Madrid. His interest was piqued when one day a professor of literature picked up a book, looked at the class, and said “this book … this story is not a story. It’s a process.”

Puzzled, Lozada questioned the professor, who simply answered that it is a process between the author, the story, and the reader.

“Those three elements completely play with each other to actually make something new. The example he gave was a romance novel. If you read it when you’re falling in love, it comes across as a completely different story than if you read the same novel after you just broke up. So it’s a process,” Lozada recounts.

At that moment, Lozada had an “Aha!” moment: Stories are not static, even if they’re printed on the page. They are always evolving.

Merging that with his experience in digital and online media (and the help of a friend, who set up Eqlee), Lozada deemed it a good idea to provide people with the opportunity to come together and create a story.

“It’s a story for the people, by the people,” he asserts.

As of going to print, Lozada says there’s an average of six entries per day; he hopes to reach more than 300 entries when the submission period closes next month.

Interestingly, he has not read any of the entries and will only do so when the voting period begins. “I want it to be as much as a surprise for me as it would be to everyone else.”

Of writing

Lozada believes writing helps us understand others and ourselves better.

“For example, if people from America start reading more novels about people from Afghanistan and Iraq, and novels from Africa become more popular in Japan, the world will be a better place. Novels can teach us what life is like in other parts of the world.

“It’s one thing to read news stories about what’s happening in Afghanistan and it’s another to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. You gain a different view on what happened in that country,” Lozada explains.

He hopes entries that have themes that can “help humanity reach the goal of understanding itself better” will find their way into Eqlee – and not just clichéd stories about teen vamps and werewolves. But even if the clichés make it in, Lozada is not worried, as the second submission round for the next chapter allows people to take those clichéd tales and turn them into something interesting.

If you are thinking of submitting your writing, Lozada has this to say to you: “Let your creativity flow. When you are writing a novel, you’re always thinking about the ending, what’s going to happen to the characters and so on.

“But when you’re writing only a chapter, whatever crazy idea that you have, you can just put it in. You don’t have to think of how the characters will evolve. There is freedom,” he points out.

NEXT PAGE: Find out how you can contribute to Malaysia’s newest crowd-sourced digital novel!