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

Monday, 9 February, 2009

Would you read a novel that was served in 140 character installments? 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 still plenty of people questioning the point of Twitter itself, so while any 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 journalist 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 to familiar too 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.

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  • For someone with short attention span, it will be a big thing to me. Though, not sure about a story on a lovelorn pet…

    pei at 11:43 am on Monday, 9 February, 2009
  • Remember it’s all in the execution, the exploits of a promiscuous cat *just* may make for riveting reading. :)

    John Lampard at 12:21 pm on Monday, 9 February, 2009
  • Having posted a novel on twitter as talkingcat at I found that keeping up with the story in reverse order is very hard. I needed to post a forward reading version also. The story “Cowboy” was written by my wife who had passed away in 2007. She would have loved the idea of this type of project.

    Jim McCormick at 3:36 am on Sunday, 1 March, 2009
  • The reverse sequence of story telling is definitely an issue for Twitter novelists, and it’s something I’ve seen mentioned a couple of times.

    I’m thinking a Twitter novel would have to be more of on-going story (possibly a little like a soap-opera) where a reader could jump in at any point and get up to speed reasonably quickly.

    It could almost be a fictional version of an actual Twitter stream and possibly have no actual ending, like a TV soap-opera.

    John Lampard at 12:11 am on Monday, 2 March, 2009