Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lessons on writing from Twitterland

As Christmas approaches, I've been trying to come up with some appropriate blog topics that could top yesterday's epic kissing day blogfest. But I've already done the list of my favorite Christmas passages, and I don't really have any of my own Christmas passages to share, so I wasn't really sure what to do. As I contemplated my dilemma, I did what I always do when I'm procrastinating, bored, or otherwise looking to be entertained.

I logged into Twitter.

Since re-joining the notorious social networking site, I've learned a lot about writing. Instead of keeping these little sparkling gems of information to myself, I'd like to share these lessons with you today.

1. Brevity isn't as easy as it looks. To better understand this lesson, let's consider a recent tweet of mine:
My husband wants attention tonight. Silly husband. Doesn't he know that I'm married to my #wip now? I may be back for #amwritingparty later!
Seems acceptable, right? But what you don't know is that it took me a few minutes to perfect that tweet. It actually started out as something like this:
Ugggh. Apparently, my husband actually wants attention tonight. Silly husband. Doesn't he know my #wip is my life now? I might be back for #amwritingparty later!
I think in my head I even wanted to include that he wanted me to watch a movie with him, but when I saw that I was at 161 characters - 21 more than Twitter's limit - I knew I needed to brush off the old delete key. So I started making small cuts here and there. I think the "Uggh" was the first thing to go, followed by the "apparently." Then I started editing a little more until I achieved the perfect 140-character tweet! If I thought it was something people would want to retweet, I would have needed to cut more to leave room for the @HeatherTrese (I always curse myself for choosing a long/practical user name...why oh why did I need to waste 13 whole characters! Plus they'll have to add three more for the RT.)

Maybe I agonize over my tweets a little too much, and often I get less than 140 on the first try. But the times I don't are like a little mini exercise in editing, and it's always fun. In the end, I think Twitter has helped me learn when I need to cut things out, and has made me better at analyzing sentences to get them down to their core (because I refuse, even on Twitter, to use Internet shortcuts like U, 2, brb, etc. Although I do say OMG in real life, which is awful/hilarious.)

2. Even a two-minute critique can be helpful. If you're not on Twitter, you may not be familiar with #wipfire, which seems to heat up a lot at night (haha, no pun intended). Basically, any writer who wants to participate will tweet out a line or two from their work-in-progress, and tag it with the #wipfire hashtag (because, as Frankie said, #hashtagsareawesome). Then the other writers at the #amwritingparty will sometimes offer feedback. Well I shot out a little gem from my WIP the other night, and instantly got feedback that let me know I was going in the right direction. Amazing! Only one line and they could interrupt the mood of the scene. So cool. And since it was something that I was literally writing as I was firing it off, it made me feel pretty great about my first draft (which is probably a mistake...but don't worry, there are plenty of other things that make me feel sufficiently awful about it). Either I'm doing something right, or those #amwritingparty people are hacking into my computer and secretly reading my manuscript...eek!

3. The writing community is seriously awesome. Aside from the #amwritingparty peeps, I'm getting to know quite a few writers on Twitter. I read their blogs, and I think they read mine (hi, Twitter followers!). It's nice to know we're all out there supporting each other. I even got over a difficult hump when I was writing for #amwritingparty/#wipfire the other night, and ended the evening 1,500 words richer. I just felt like I needed something new for #wipfire, so I wrote it. Just knowing that others out there are doing the same thing is so helpful and empowering.

But it's not just the unpublished authors who are amazing on Twitter. Megan McCafferty gave a bunch of books away to some of her followers because they were trying so diligently to make #lassodicking a trending topic. Scott Westerfeld responds to fans (even when they're telling him not to do exactly the thing that he's already done). And countless other authors that I follow are out there, giving advice and guidance to other writers, fans, and just generally providing the kind of short bits of entertainment that only Twitter can provide. Plus, there are agents on Twitter who pass out links to news on the publishing industry like it's freaking CANDY.

So, will being on Twitter make you a better writer? If you abuse its power, definitely not. But if you keep your grammar in check and reach out to other writers, (like me! Come on, you knew a link to my profile was coming at some point), chances are you can learn a LOT from the Twitter community.


  1. Such a great post on the merits of the writing community on Twitter. #amwritingparty and #WIPfire have taken it to a new level of camaraderie and support, for which I'm grateful to every person who participates.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Some great tips here! I'm just now starting to understand Twitter, but I've had a few great conversations lately (including the one with Sherrinda and Katie that led to kissing day), and I'm liking it.

  3. #yourblogisawesome also I get a thrill everytime I see someone mention #WIPfire or do it...I never thought it would get this big! Im so happy its inspiring and helping you write!!!

  4. I do the same thing with editing in my tweets! :-)

  5. J., I completely agree. Everyone is so helpful, and I feel like I learn something or meet someone new every night.

    Natalie, I've really enjoyed Twitter so far! There is a great support system out there, and it definitely keeps me writing.

    Frankie, I forgot/didn't even know when I first started doing it that you were the one who started #wipfire! I love it! It keeps me writing because I feel like I want to have something new to put out there.

  6. Great post! :) I've just started on Twitter really, so I need all the help I can get. I've added #amwritingparty and #wipfire to my little list of writing related twitter tags so I might check that out later.


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