Twitter novels: when will they be the next big thing?

9 February 2009

Would you read a novel that was served in 140-character instalments? Text message novels are already proving popular, especially in Japan, and with the ever increasing reach of Twitter, it’s only a matter of time before the 140-character novelists put aside their phones and try the idea online.

In fact, there are already several people tapping together Twitter novels, though at the moment their efforts are generally being greeted with the response: “what’s the point in that?”

Then again, there are still plenty of people questioning the point of Twitter itself, so while Twitter novelist superstars are yet to emerge, writing-off the potential of the idea is definitely premature.

After all, people have built celebrity around themselves in the past by way of all sorts of seemingly unfathomable means, including webcams, YouTube, and even blogging, so it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along with an idea for a Twitter novel that has mass appeal.

“The confessions of a lovelorn sex kitten” anyone?

Among some of the 140-character novelists currently exploring Twitter as a literary medium though, thoughts of fame — or notoriety — seem to be far from their minds.

For example Nick Belardes who writes “Small Places”, which he describes as “a very compartmentalized love story”, thinks Twitter is a great environment for developing a novel, but little else:

Don’t write a novel using Twitter, but mold a novel, transform a novel using Twitter. In my opinion, Twitter isn’t a scratch pad. Any good writer should have a plan, and so should either use a completed manuscript, or a portion, as is my case. The line-by-line rebuilding of the manuscript should be challenge enough. There should be lots of note-taking, forethought, and not just random phrases thrown at readers.

Mike Diccicco, author of The Secret Life of Hamel, sees composing a novel using Twitter as a way of improving his writing skills more than anything:

No — this is about the creative challenge of trying to be interesting and engaging and telling a story under a significant constraint. Plus, after years of preaching “compression” to copywriters in my ad agency, it’s time to see if I can practice what I preach.

For many Twitter novelists the challenge lies in building up a following, and maintaining an on-going interest in the story, something however that is all too familiar to many people already pedalling their wares online.

It’s just a matter of finding the right mix of the usual ingredients, a sticky idea, some deft execution, and a little bit of the WOW factor.

Originally published Monday 9 February 2009.


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