Concise expression is characteristic of astute, perceptive and pithy dialogue. After all, isn’t “brevity the soul of wit?” When the great bard first inked those immortal words, his keen grasp of the value of the economy of language holds as true today as it did back in Elizabethan England. Perhaps even more so now with the advent of social media. This is particularly true of one microblogging platform that’s been part of our zeitgeist for the last 9+ years, and opened the doors to a new construct called 'Twitter Fiction.'
But, It’s Only 140 Characters?
In Part One of this “Twitter Fiction” series posted back in August 2014, I highlighted why new as well experienced self-publishers might want to consider Twitter to hone their craft.
But you may ask: isn’t a tweet just too brief for writers to make their point, let alone build a literary narrative or deliver factual research? Critics would say 140-characters is just not enough to tell a story.
Yet over the years, Twitter fiction has proven be an acceptable form of self-publishing — so much so, that Twitter Festivals are now held worldwide. ‘Six-Word Festival on Twitter’ and the ‘Twitter Fiction Festival’ are just two of the more popular examples. Their growing popularity has attracted celebrity judges, such as Maria Shriver, Molly Ringwald, Jason Biggs and Star Trek’s ‘Sulu’ and social media superstar, George Takei.
Irish activist Gerry Adams who only joined Twitter a few years back uses the microblogging network as subject matter. His soon-to-be-released “My Little Book of Tweets,” is intended to comprise his best political and personal rants . . . erh, tweets.
Adams’ political party’s bookshop website describes the Sinn Féin leader’s tweet musings as “bizarre, weird and as part of a clever strategy.”
The promotional blurb explains: “His tweets range across the political and the personal, the serious and the humorous, often featuring rubber ducks and teddy bears! This little book shows the lighter side of his personality and allows the reader some insight into his private life. The inevitable selfies are included showing that many years experience of politics have taught him not to take himself too seriously!”
Author Robert Swartwood, who edited an anthology of "hint fiction," or stories weighing in at 25 words or fewer, is a strong proponent of tweet-length prose. He recently told the Huffington Post, "A story should do four basic things: obviously it should tell a story; it should be entertaining; it should be thought-provoking; and, if done well enough, it should invoke an emotional response. And if a writer can do that with a story that's 140 characters or less, even better!"
Pushing Past 140 Characters
Last fall, several blog posts reported that co-founder Jack Dorsey and his IT staff were in the process of developing a new product for users to share tweets longer than the 140-character limit.
This proposed move was apparently motivated by the current practice of attaching images that included messaging. Users have been tweeting out blocks of longer text with products like OneShot, but those tweets were basically photos of lengthier content, not the actual text itself.
While the beauty of Twitter (in contrast to Facebook and some of the other social networks) was its brevity, the company is seeking new ways to stay relevant and address the needs of writers interested in posting long-form content on the platform
Dorsey, now returning to his post as CEO had been critical of the company’s other product changes and expressed his desire for Twitter to tap into wider audiences. Tweaking the character count is a way to hit that nail on its proverbial head.
Flash-forward to January 2016, and Twitter is reportedly planning to open the floodgates for tweets up to 10,000 characters – which equates to a 71-time increase. Such a change would provide authors approximately 2000 words to work with, which is definitely a lot closer to a short ‘short story.’
Two thousand words could also act as a enticing teaser, or highlight the first page of an eBook, when offering hyperlinks to a selling page on Kindle, iBooks, Smashwords or other commercial websites.
If you’ve been following the news, Twitter’s stock price has been struggling for some time, trading at an all-time low [note: at the time of this blog, its shares were trading at $14, almost half the price it opened at in 2013.] Dorsey’s return to the company (reminiscent of Steve Job’s return to Apple back in the day) is a strategic and tactical move to pump new blood into the firm. The 10K tweet might be the trick!
As a first step towards this end, last month the company removed the 140-character limit on direct messaging, commonly referred as DMs – extending them to 10,000 characters.
In this recent released tweet, Dorsey underscores the “constraint” of the 140-character limit, and the “power” of lengthening tweets:
The proposed 10,000-character tweet has been referred to internally within the Twitter ranks, as project “Beyond 140” an,d will likely be launched in March 2016 according to reports. And while at first blush, eliminating part of Twitter’s core essence might seem like throwing the baby away with the bath water, for authors and content creators, IMHO it is a step in the right direction.
Increasing the tweet size limit gives writers a golden opportunity to test the waters with their readership audiences that can provide immediate feedback in real-time, particularly if one has a sizable following. It’s also a robust delivery channel where indie writers can send out feelers, promotions, giveaways and discounts to current and new readers to prompt future sales. Ten thousand words? I say bring it on.
Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks.com as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear bi-weekly on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month.
We love to keep our indie authors happy. Join BookWorks network of established and emerging self-published authors and gain exclusive insight to publishing and promoting your book. Sign up HERE.