Microblogging Novels – Twitter and Facebook

As the UK Times Newspaper introduced this topic (which is where I just learnt of it), some writers write for a particular set period of time per day, others write for a certain amount of pages per day. But in Twiller, Matt Richtel is providing a thriller novel, written and published in the median of micro-blogging network, Twitter.

For those who don’t know Twitter, the social network allows Tweets (the name for the entries) of up to 140 characters. Matt Richtel is releasing his novel in 140 character bits (or as it’s electronic, perhaps bytes).

To fit the median, he is telling the tale of his main character, who is tweeting via his mobile phone. Matt introduces his story with the following, taken from his writeup in TechNews on August 29th -

In my case, I’ve for the last two months been using Twitter to write a real-time thriller. Hence: Twiller. (Cheap word play is what you get when you disintermediate, as they say, your agent and editor).

It’s about a man who wakes up in the mountains of Colorado, suffering from amnesia, with a haunting feeling he is a murderer. In possession of only a cellphone that lets him Twitter, he uses the phone to tell his story of self-discovery, 140 characters at a time. Think “Memento” on a mobile phone, with the occasional emoticon.

Electronically published and serial novels aren’t a new thing nowadays. Some authors have been publishing their novels as blog serials for some time. There are also websites out there for publishing novels in installments.

And using mobile phones for the reading and publishing of novels isn’t particularly new also. On the New York Times online article linked to above, one particular commenter points out that South Africa has recently run through a mobile phone competition involving 900 word chapters, in an event called Novel Idea. And Japan has been doing this for some time, with some mobile phone novels republished in book form, reaching the tops of best-seller lists. The trend in mobile novels is huge in Japanese youth culture.

And as one other person pointed out, historically quite a lot of our literature was published serially – Dickens, and Balzac for instance.

Moving the writing and serialisation of stories into the electronic media just appears a sign of the times and movements into the latest technology has already seen – for some, the modern day author’s role changing in many ways.

Matt Richtel isn’t the only one, however. There is also Small Places, written by Nick Belardes, another novel published on Twitter. Nick describes this in an interview on SocialMediaWorld as -

It’s a very compartmentalized love story tailor-made for twitter.com. People, jobs, lives, thoughts, all tucked away at times in the compartments of lives we lead. “Small Places” takes that idea to an extreme by imagining everyday problems in micro-form, in bug-like terms, in tiny thoughts, bits and pieces. A life is revealed piecemeal, slowly, as if your friend is text messaging you a story about himself and taking a month
or so to do it.

And then, there are the authors who have published novels serially on social networking sites such as Facebook. In June of this year,  Canadian author, Michael Winter announced he would be serializing his latest novel on Facebook in 47 installments. His publishers confirmed this is how you find that -

According to Canada.Com:
“Here are Penguin’s instructions to access the posts: “Users are encouraged to contact Michael via The Wall at Penguin’s Facebook page with a friend request, at which point they will be added to the distribution list.”
Penguin says if users have trouble accessing the page, they can sign into their Facebook account, then cut and paste this link into their browser’s address window:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid2255490973 “

Unfortunately, even as a long-term Facebook user, I can’t locate the Facebook page for this serialisation, and the group doesn’t appear to exist. There are hints on the internet towards other authors having some novels partially or fully serialised on Facebook, but these, again, are difficult to find.

And that’s the thing with using some micro-blogging platforms for novel publication, whether as a marketing device, or simply as an experiment or to just have fun with the format. In my own opinion, some micro-blogging systems make it difficult to find your novel. Facebook, for instance, is only open to current Facebook users (registration is free) but you can’t simply search for a user name to find someone you’ve heard of. Twitter provides a better search facility, but in the case of Twiller, Michael Richtel’s twitter novel, without knowing of him, I would remain unaware of the novel, unless I stumbled upon a tweet about it through one of my current friends on the network (those I already follow).

The format of micro-novels seems an interesting one, never-the-less. Japanese mobile novels have often featured graphic elements, perhaps even sound, and the addition of images and even video to some entries would be quite possible on several micro-blogging systems out there, such as Tumblr. It will be interesting to watch how the future of writing may change a little with some of these ideas.


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This post was written by:

Michelle - who has written 262 posts on Juiced On Writing.

Michelle Thompson is building a career in both non-fiction and fiction writing. She's blogged for several years, and has previously written for arts, hobby and blogging themed magazines and websites. Her current work involves writing for some group blogs, pursuing a Second Life, and freelancing for some Second Life magazines. In fiction, Michelle is currently working on her second and third novels.

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4 Responses to “Microblogging Novels – Twitter and Facebook”

  1. superk Says:

    hey there,

    great article! i thought i was original… i’m also writing a twitter novel with a buddy of mine called #twoman. it’s in french.

    thx for all the great links.


  2. peter Says:

    There has been some talk in the blogosphere about real-time Twitter micro novels, this approach would be interesting in particular genres such as Twitter crime micro-novel … A vampire did it


  3. detoxdietgirl Says:

    Microblogging is so addictive. I like to Twitter everyday with my friends and talk about just anything. I also have some blogs but i update frequently my Twitter more than my WordPress blog.

  4. Jp Says:

    Another twitter novel just starting is
    Whodunit140 . You can follow at @whodunit140 on twitter.
    I think you can guess the genre from the name!