Twitter Fiction. Really!

By Simon Kewin

The Twitter microblogging/social networking site is an invaluable resource for writers. It can, for example, provide a stream of links to useful web pages or it can enable writers to keep in touch with editors, publishers or other writers. 

You may not know, however, that Twitter can also be used to publish fiction directly. This may seem unlikely, given the 140 character limit on the size of a “tweet” (a Twitter post), but many people do use the system for precisely this. 

Writing very short fiction is not a new development. Ernest Hemingway, for example, once wrote the following six-word story : 

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

This would fit into a tweet four times over. Hemingway reportedly considered it the finest prose he had ever written. 

But writing such short fiction is by no means easy. Each word has to be placed with the utmost care. Achieving a satisfying story arc, or any sort of believable character description, is challenging. Often, the trick is to leave much of the story out; to imply it so that readers fill in the details for themselves. There is no time for scene-setting or preamble; you need to catch the key moment of the story. Not all stories written for Twitter will be successful, but trying to create one can teach you a lot about concise writing and careful word selection.

If you’re interested in producing stories short enough to be published via Twitter, there are even magazines that specialize in doing so : markets you can submit your work to as you would for any other magazine. The following are recommended : 

Thaumatrope – for genre fiction (SF, fantasy, horror)
Nanoism – for more literary fiction
PicFic – for stories based on a weekly pictorial prompt 

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you publishing your own fiction tweets yourself if you wish to, perhaps including an appropriate “hashtag” so that other users can more easily find your work. Precisely how to do that is a subject for another article …

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8 Responses to “Twitter Fiction. Really!”

  • Twitter Fan

    I’ve seen some clever and insightful tweets, but honestly – never knew there was such a thing as ‘Twitter fiction’.

    Thanks for the links to those sites, will definitely check them out.

  • Chase March

    That six word story is simply amazing!

    I think Twitter fiction actually does have its place. I’m glad to see you highlight it here. I’ve written a few myself and just submitted one to Nanoism. Thanks for pointing me in that direction!

  • Glenn Clark

    I subscribed but have never been able to download grammar book-what gives?

  • Mary Hodges

    Interesting. I looked at the websites mentioned and notice they don’t pay. In fact one of them asks for donations. Send your 100 word fillers to a magazine and you can be rewarded in cash or kind. Compare the rates for say Readers’ Digest.
    Call me Scrooge.

  • Maeve

    @Glenn,
    There’s a link at the very bottom of every DWT email that says:

    Your eBook: Click here to download the Basic English Grammar ebook.

    Let me know if that doesn’t work for you.

  • Mike

    Very micro super flash fiction is fun to read and write once in a while especially when it ends up being more than just a one line summary of what should be a longer story.

  • Simon Kewin

    Mary,

    Both Thaumatrope and Nanoism do pay – although obviously the amounts are small for such condensed stories.

  • CharlieClose

    Thanks for this post.

    I’ve been writing Tweet-sized fiction for a little over a year now. I enjoy it very much and has helped me focus my writing on what’s specific, evocative, and meaningful.

    Nanofiction can be serious literature. To prove it, I’ve written a series of articles that analyze various nano stories. The intent is to show readers how to read them and writers techniques for writing them. The first article is here.

    “The Art of the Very Short Story: Introduction” http://charlieclose.com/blog/?p=303

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