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 :
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 …