Writing a novel? Just tweet it

August 9, 2009

When Matt Stewart’s agent submitted his debut novel to publishing houses, he didn’t quite get the response he wanted.

“Many of them loved it, but none were willing to buy what they viewed as a ‘risky’ novel — vivid language, elements of fantasy and farce, raunchy humor,” the San Francisco resident wrote on his website.

But Stewart didn’t lose heart. On July 14, he started posting “The French Revolution” on Twitter.

The novel, about a San Francisco family forging its place in history, is one of the few full-length works of fiction to be released one tweet at a time.

Micro-blogging service Twitter and its now famous 140-character tweet limit is being put to uses more profound than just describing what you had for breakfast.

Like tweeting a novel.

Stewart says it will take him approximately 3,700 tweets to transmit all of the 480,000 characters in his novel.

“I can get instant feedback from readers, and we can discuss the intricacies of the characters and plot twists as they develop,” he says.

Stewart is not the only one writing Twiction (or Twitter fiction). There’s Jim McCormick who tweeted a novel written by his late wife, Nick Belardes’ ‘Small Places‘ and even a Twitter novel in French.

And tech writer Rakesh Raman’s humanoid protagonist Robojit is leading a mission to the Sand Planet – at the rate of 10 tweets a day.

There are also some who tell the entire story in a single tweet.

Geoff Meeker, for instance, writes Twisters, or short stories written in 140 characters or less. So do William Brazill and Arjun Basu.

If you need help, there are even web pages offering tips on writing a novel on Twitter.

And if you are suffering from writer’s block, you could always turn to literary classics for inspiration.

Videogame designer Ian Bogost and friend Ian McCarthy came up with idea of recreating a chapter from James Joyce’s 1922 novel “Ulysses” on Twitter.

And Chindu Sreedharan, who teaches journalism at Bournemouth University, is retelling the Hindu epic Mahabharata on Twitter.

Of course, Twiction is not perfect.

This month, a reader of the Mahabharata Twitter narrative alerted the author after reading a tweet that seemed out of place.

“I accidentally posted something meant for another Twitter account — and since it had some reference to ‘beach’ and ‘bikini-clad’, I had some answering to do,” Sreedharan said.

But the big question is — will Twiction remain some sort of social media experiment? Will it ever have literary merit?


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The big question is where are all these writers going to get money from? Though it seems like a great idea, without any revenue source it will fizz out.

Posted by Hanit | Report as abusive

If this really gets people to start reading (for pleasure)or even think about taking up reading, it would be quite a pleasant surprise.
The idea of 140 character story is quite intriguing.

Posted by vipul | Report as abusive

[…] India: A billion aspirations » Blog Archive » Writing a novel … […]

Posted by Horseplay: A Novel | Report as abusive

Reading just 140 characters of an entire story and sustaining your interest till the next 140 characters is posted (when?) doesn’t seem very interesting. So the medium gets a total thumbs-down from me.

Posted by soulsearcher | Report as abusive

Well, Twitter itself is ‘novel’ and most people are still figuring it out. Adding another layer of novelty through Twiction, Twister et al only adds to its intrigue. For sustainable literary interest, however, 140-character bites just won’t suffice. But if a famous author (I hate to mention Rowling) chooses to twitter about Potter, I’m sure the market will be a-jitter with buzz!

Posted by sanjay gupta | Report as abusive

[…] Tweet a novel? http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2009/08/0 9/writing-a-novel-just-tweet-it/ […]

Posted by Some Good Writing Articles and Blog Entries « On Writing My First Novel | Report as abusive

What an interesting idea. Writing a story is tough enough. Writing it in 140 character bursts must be challenging – and fun:)

Posted by Prem Rao | Report as abusive

twitter and others are no doubt nice, but I always wanted to bring in a concept to microblogging !

I hereby post a Review-Request for www.emote.in ,

A microblogging service; which is a platform to –
1. Make yourself heard, comment on news, stories and current affair.
2. Share your experiences, memories and events with your friends and family.
3. Connect with different people with similar emotional attributes as yours.
(eg: if attrocities on animals make you sad, connect with others who share the same feeling)
4. Jot-down your experiences. You usually have so many things to say – a constant stream of thoughts, comments and observations running through your head continuously.
5. Last but not the least, has everything (and much more) that twiiter has.

6. A wonderful timeline coming shortly (in few weeks)

Posted by Gaurav | Report as abusive