Thursday 27 September 2012

Why Twitter is good for Writing and Writers

I have been on twitter a while, but I’ve only recently discovered all the joyous ways it can help not just writers to meet and talk about writing, but also help in the art of writing. Bear with me.

Let’s break it down.

The very act of writing a tweet involves, um, writing. The fact they are short and snappy involves a particular skill, I admit, which may seem at odds with novel writing for example. However let's be positive, I think some of these skills can be applied to your broader writing (I think any writing we do, is a good thing). For example:
  • Twitter teaches you to be concise: How often have you to reword a tweet to get it within that pesky limit? Taken out unnecessary words or rewritten your whole sentence? This is a great exercise to apply to writing. Take 100 words of your draft and cut 5 words out. Now another 5. 10. (Look at an author like Jacqueline Wilson, and try and cut 5 words from a page. It’s hard.)
Get those scissors out.
And yes those are my scissors.
And kitchen counter.

  • Twitter is your voice: Look back at your tweets. How much do they reflect who  you are? What idea do you get of people you’ve maybe never met, just from their tweets? I bet quite a strong one. This is the kind of voice your MC needs. Try writing out a few tweets for them, whatever time period they live in. Are they an ‘OMG THIS JUST HAPPENED’ tweeter? A snarky tweeter? Get this sort of voice in your novel. (I think a ‘tweet as your MC’ tweet/blog hop sometime might be fun. Though confusing, maybe!).

  • Twitter is about grabbing attention. By this I mean, how often do you reword a tweet to make more people pay attention to it? Make it funnier, or more informative, or simply ‘snappier’? By this I don’t mean that every joke in a WIP has to be super hilarious or every sad moment super sad, it has to be appropriate to the character and moment. I just mean there are sentences we can all polish to stand out more. It is easy to do when you only have 140 characters and harder when you have a lot.

As well as the art of writing there are obviously all the social aspects of twitter, helping you to meet other writers, to get support if you need encouragement to finish that piece of writing. You can also hear about competitions or see links to interesting and useful blog posts about the art of writing.

These are all ways of connecting you note, and for me that’s what it is about. Twitter feels like ‘broadcasting’ and a lot of people do use it, very successfully, as a way of self-promotion and broadcasting about what they’re up to. Which is great.

But the best parts for me are the @ connections you can make and the conversations which happen. I know people who say, I don’t tweet, who cares what I have to say, and my response is, it’s not about that. Or it isn’t for me. It’s about starting a conversation. The writing community is hugely supportive, as I've found on this blog, and twitter is an extension of that.

Another great thing are the hashtags which help you meet new people and discuss writing tips and the like.

Some of my faves are:

#amwriting – does what it says on the, er, tin
#1k1hr – race to get to 1k in an hour (love this one)
#askagent – sessions run where agents take and answer your question
#writemotivation – monthly group run by KT Hanna (every other month I think). You set goals, and encourage others to meet them and get encouragement.
#writeclub – a new one! Started by @MeganWhitmer I believe for writers to find other people currently writing (started on a Friday night when a few people were all writing. And NOT to be confused with DL Hammons writeclub which did throw me at first.)
#YAWritersAAT – Sunday night chat where you can ask teens a question for research, started by Leigh Ann Kopans I think and transcripts go up on yamisfits. (Must catch up on the transcripts, as am asleep for the chats being UK, which I think it 9 EST).

Here are two great posts listing all kinds of hashtags  - here and here – though am tempted to write a master list sometime (If anybody would want to help with that project, let me know!)

Does anyone agree with my list above of how it can help your actual writing? Will you try any of these? Would a master list of hashtags or some MC tweets be fun?

Are you on twitter? If you are and I don’t already follow you, please leave your @ name in the comments or follow me and I’ll follow back.

My twitter button is on the right, please connect with me there, and if you like this post, let me know what you think – or tweet me about it!


  1. I feel like Twitter was invented just for me. I swear, I think in 140 character bursts, lol. I also think it should be mandatory in journalism classes because, you're right, it teaches you how to consolidate your thoughts better than anything I've ever seen. And it's wonderful as a social mechanism too. Most of my writer friends I met through Twitter. I think it'll be useful to do word wars during NaNo too.

  2. Great insight. Twitter is an excellent tool for not only aspiring authors, but vets as well.

  3. love your analogy! makes perfect sense!
    will try it in the writing, but i still wont tweet...

  4. Found this an interesting post, I don't use twitter at the moment but maybe I will one day. I just worry I won't have time for everything!

  5. I seem to go in spurts with twitter - sometimes I update it multiple times a day, other times weeks go by. I really should use it more often (and make better use of the hashtags).

    I'll go follow you right now! I'm @thealanden

  6. I have a Twitter account so I can "follow" others, but I have to admit that I don't update it very often. I should though...your points do help me see some of the benefits.

  7. Interesting points, but I'm not tempted to join the TwitFace.

  8. I agree with the idea behind the suggestion, but not the suggestion itself. Self-editing and cutting out the verbosity are indeed noble goals. Bad punctuation, jargonish abbreviations, half-baked sentences and thoughts are not.

    Twitter is a medium for thoughts on the fly. That's the exact opposite of what any serious writing should be.

    A much better outlet for self-editing and word-cutting is the very place where you posted your idea: your blog. Many of us with blogs aim for what we think is an ideal length to simultaneously express ourselves and keep readers hooked.

    Personally, I more often run into the problem of a post being too short rather than too long. When I hit upon an idea that I think would make a great post, it comes out half or even a fourth of the length I want. Doesn't mean it was a bad idea (at least most of the time). More often than not, I haven't fully developed it and thought it through or covered the angles that ought to be.

    So brevity can be a writer's enemy, too.

    I'm also glad to see that you've added a picture. It's a little dark and a little small and a little puzzling on its own, but it's a great idea. I think an axe cutting into a page of typewritten prose might have been more dramatic. (I know your concerns about copyright, but I've recently discovered some fairly decent sites for free art.)

    I haven't counted, but I think I exceeded 140 characters.

  9. I still do not understand Twitter but I have connected with a lot of really cool people on it and I know a lot of others who swear by it! Great post. You've got some insightful stuff here.

  10. Tobi- the conciseness is what strikes me, I'm always rewording tweets to fit in. Will be great for word wars!

    Randi - thank you!

    Tara - hee, I think trying it in the writing would be good ;)

    Suzanne - they are all time suckers, that is the downside, I completely agree there!

    Thea - glad we have found each other on twitter

    Cynthia - ah I don't update as often as I should, but it's what each of us make of it isn't it, to be handled however you like!

    Julia - ha ha fair enough!

    Hyphenman - my suggestion is that cutting out spare/unnecessary words is a good thing to tighten up your reading. I completely agree you don't want to transfer bad punctuation but I am not suggesting that at all ;)

    Lisa - I am getting to grips with it too, that's partly why I wrote the post I think!

    Thank you all for commenting!


Please comment, I'd love to know what you think! :)