I first heard the phrase “TwitLit” from writing friend Christopher Cocca. I’ll give him coining credit. We both write flash fiction, so he had suggested using the 140-character Twitter format to tell uber-short stories. His first submission: “His probation stopped on a dime-bag.” Mine? “The gourmand often ate too much, but she was living life to the fullest.”
So how else can writers use Twitter? You might want to refuse answering the assumed question, “What are you doing?” Come on, that’s boring. We’ve got Facebook status for that. Twitter is nimble, Twitter is quick, Twitter has the power to change the world. (OK, a bit of hyperbole there.)
Agent Nadia Cornier used Twitter to update authors on Firebrand Agency’s “query holiday.” From December 15 to January 15, Firebrand invited submissions without a query letter. At final count, she had over 3500 submissions with 387 read and 30 requested. Useful, clever Tweeting. Thanks, Nadia.
Of course, agent Nathan Bransford already covered authorly Tweeting with a guest post by Tracy Marchini two months ago. Marchini suggests 21 ways an author can use Twitter. Yep, she’s got TwitLit covered.
But I’m going further with this.
You may be aware of the cell phone novel phenomenom in Japan. Authors deliver stories a few lines at a time directly to mobile devices and welcome reader feedback regarding the tale’s direction. Once the novel is completed, readers rush to buy the paper copy because they feel invested in the story. After all, they had a hand (or a thumb) in its creation.
Some critics consider mobile novels an omen of a literary doomsday. Others think the platform can’t be ignored, especially with five of the top 10 novels in Japan having originated on cell phones.
So why not tell an entire tale in Twitter a few lines at a time? OK, perhaps there’s a certain level of literary integrity you want to maintain and this ain’t the way. But it’s a fun and interesting new venue for fiction, and one that could elicit reader feedback. Applications like TweetDeck help you to organize Tweets by subject and keep track of responses to others (using the “@” symbol). But be careful not to use Twitter for conversations that will lose other readers.
What about a Twitter account for your fictional characters? Don’t they have something to say beyond the confines of your book? A Tweet or two and they’re brought to life in real-time. Or maybe you can create a new character who only exists in Tweets.
The format is experimental. Who knows if it will catch on for story telling. But with Amazon’s Kindle gaining popularity and cell phones evolving into integrated entertainment devices for music, web browsing, pictures and videos, surely books and zines can’t be far behind. Can you imagine your phone’s screen folding out like a newspaper and delivering any story you want anytime you want it? Will Twitter help push things in that direction? Perhaps with a million authors using it, it just might.