#Twitterfiction

You may have heard that this past week David Mitchell, author of several novels including Cloud Atlas, was live-tweeting a short story called “The Right Sort” on his twitter.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend that you do. He isn’t the first major author to dabble in the new genre of twitterfiction; other well-known authors who have published through Twitter include Jennifer Egan and Teju Cole. But this was my first experience reading a live-tweeted short story, so while reading it, I began to wonder how viable of a platform is Twitter for fiction, especially for emerging writers who don’t have the follower base that bestselling authors do.

For authors like David Mitchell, Twitterfiction is more of a marketing tool than a sincere publishing platform. Nevertheless, we can learn a lot from “The Right Sort.” The form of tweets, which must have 140 characters or less, is not extremely conducive to reading, since only a sentence or two at most can be tweeted at a time. I thought Mitchell did a good job working with the form to achieve the tone and style he wanted for his narrator. The narrator, a teenage boy hopped up on Valium, remarks,

Valium breaks down the world into bite-sized sentences. Like this one. All lined up. Munch-munch.

Thus Mitchell’s narrator has great tweet-sized thoughts most of the time that fit well with the format. (Is Mitchell critiquing the Millenials’ miniscule attention span through his narrator Nathan’s tweetable voice?) Later the short, jarring sentences transform into confusing stream-of-consciousness, when the narrator’s tone changes and he becomes terrified and disoriented. Finally, closer to the end of the story, the story tends towards the surreal. But I think this format in 140 character pieces still works, because the tweets allow for the narrator’s strange impressions and thoughts to feel fragmented even as they run together.

It would have been easier to read the story just typed out, of course, but I can see why twitterfiction is appealing. Using twitter, authors deliver a story serially, creating suspense that keeps the reader interested. I’ve written about serial online writing before in my article about different online writing platforms and in my article about the online journal Five Chapters, and as a member of the social-media consuming Millenial generation, I can see the appeal in munching on a story in “bite-sized sentences,” as opposed to being confronted by a large mass of text. It’s like the difference between shoveling down three-course meal at the end of the day versus chewing little snacks throughout the day. The snacks aren’t necessarily good for you, and you might still be hungry, but at least you’ve kept your jaw busy.

So does that mean we should all start composing our short stories and poetry with 140 characters-per-line enjambment? Perhaps, but I really think it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with twitterfiction. Are you attempting to write the next great American novel and post it on Twitter? If so, the genre of twitterfiction is probably not for you. A Hemingway novel might be tweetable, that’s true, but I can’t see anyone trying to slosh their way through an ocean of long-winded Steinbeck-style tweets. I’m not trying to diss Steinbeck- I love his style, but let’s face it, The Grapes of Wrath is just not appropriate for twitter.

What is the ideal situation for posting twitterfiction then, if you’re an emerging writer? Well, for the people who are interested in Twitter as a flash fiction or poetry platform, there are a few twitter accounts that are self-styled twitter-zines. They curate fiction tweets, and submission is as easy as using the right hashtag or mentioning the zine in a tweet. A couple twitterzines include 140 characters and nanoism.  Both accept submissions via email. Check out the Submission Info below for more details.

Twitter might have some other innovative uses for writers and editors of literary magazines looking to promote fiction. Why not use the short format to present the first sentence of a short story with a link to its publication, using a tweet as a hook to draw in readers? That seems to be what all the major news outlets do these days to try to get people to watch their videos or read their articles, so why wouldn’t it work for fiction?

Of course, these techniques assume you already have a follower base. If you don’t have a large follower base, I suggest working on building one first before trying to market through Twitter. As I type this, I have fewer follows on Twitter than I would like, but actually just through the act of putting tweets out there with hashtags to garner attention for yourself, you can start to gather more followers (Shameless plug: you can follow me on twitter @hapawriting). And you don’t have to feel guilty about attention-seeking because it’s all for the sake of your career as a writer, right?

If you have thoughts on how to use Twitter as a useful writing and publicity tool, please share them in the comments below. I’m interested to hear about your experiences with twitterfiction.

Submission Info:

140 Characters

Direct message TwitterFiction on Twitter, or email your short stories to twitterfiction@gmail.com. Submissions must be 140 characters or less, of course.

Nanoism

Email submissions to editor@nanoism.net, include your name, bio (up to 134 characters), and subject line: “Nanoism Submission”

 

 

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Prompt Lit Mag

This past week, I was struck by writer’s block. It didn’t hit me all at once, instead it was like a caterpillar slowly inching up my skin. I didn’t notice it until one day I just felt completely uninspired and couldn’t get a single word out on paper. That’s when I turned to the Internet to provide me with writing prompts. I’ve written from prompts before, mostly during creative writing workshops in college, so the feeling of picking up my pen with a vague idea of what I am going to write and seeing what falls on the paper is a familiar one. I have dabbled in writing prompts for the past week with moderate success, but, more importantly, the prompts helped me with just getting back into the habit of writing in general. I now no longer feel anguished when picking up my pen or opening a word document, although I can’t guarantee that what spills out of my mind will be any good.

While I was searching for writing prompts, I happened to recall a literary magazine I discovered a while back that is focused entirely around prompts. It’s called the Prompt Literary Magazine (or the Prompt for short). It’s an online journal, and I think it offers something really unique, especially to all of us emerging writers and to writers who are currently students. The Prompt publishes poetry, prose, art and non-traditional submissions with one caveat- they must be inspired by a writing prompt. They provide an avenue for pieces that sound “workshopped” to be shared. In each issue they offer an “editor’s challenge,” a prompt that readers can complete and then submit to the magazine, but they also publish works based on any prompt, just as long as you explain the prompt with your piece. They seem especially open to publishing new and emerging writers since many of the people who use prompts are still in the process of learning how to write and are not seasoned experts.

I read through two of the Prompt’s past issues and overall found writing that was clever, thoughtful, and fun. There are all sorts of poems and short stories within the Prompt’s pages, and the best part about the journal is that you can read what some other writers did with different prompts and then try them yourself. My favorite poems in the latest issue (Volume 2 Issue 1) include a poem by Margaret Vidale, “On the Table,” which was written in response to the Jackson Pollock painting “The Tea Cup” (Page 9) and a poem titled after its prompt, “Strike a Spark,” by Lyssa Tall Anolik (Page 15). I was refreshed by the imagery of these two poems, and it seems to me that poems inspired by prompts are often more exciting because of their randomness. They pull in language from unexpected places, such as in the poem “Putting up Preserves” by Crystal Karlberg (Page 33), which is composed of words taken from a single Scrabble game.

I also enjoyed the prose, although I think prompts often work better for poetry since it is harder to come up with spontaneity in the structure of prose. I absolutely loved the short story “The Making of a Poet” by Elizabeth Kate Switaj (Page 42), which explores what would happen if the meaning of “poetry bomb” were literal. She dives right in to an incredibly fascinating universe where poetry is used to maim people, and I just wanted to stay there and watch even after the short story was over.

Overall, I highly recommend checking out the Prompt’s website in order to read their journal and discover the prompts they have for writers on their website. They are currently accepting submissions for their next journal, so if you come up with anything good from the prompts you use, or if you have something sitting around from a workshop that was inspired by a prompt, definitely send it in.

For More Information

The Prompt Literary Magazine
Website: www.promptlitmag.org

Transcendence Magazine

I was impressed by the inaugural issue of Transcendence Magazine, an online journal started by a senior in high school. Its presentation is professional and its content is high caliber. The magazine contained some really insightful and beautiful pieces, and I also think it has a lot of potential to grow, especially if it narrows its literary gaze. Right now, I think it extends itself too broadly, including pieces that are real gems and other pieces that are mediocre. It also has not yet cultivated a defining taste-  in my opinion, there didn’t seem to be much of  a pattern for how the pieces in the issue fit together.

The first issue, which came out this past spring and contains fiction, poetry, art, and interviews with artists, would be quite hefty if printed on paper, since it is 82 pages long. However, it’s in an online format that is relatively easy to read. Still, I think the magazine would benefit from being slimmer because then it would be more digestible. Unfortunately, it’s hard enough these days to entice people to read literature, and an 82-paged magazine that’s not yet well-known might be too much trouble for many who are just dipping their toes into the literary pool. The quality of the pieces in the issue varied. I must give a disclaimer, of course, that I was judging the works based on my own personal taste, so another person may have liked the stories and poems that I found to be just okay. The poetry was hard for me to judge since, as I’ve said before, I’m not much of a poetry reader and thus poems must be really accessible and thought-provoking for me to like them. Some of the fiction pieces were really good; others had interesting premises but just didn’t quite capture my attention for one reason or another. Below are a few pieces that I enjoyed. I recommend checking out the issue as a whole to get a sense of the kind of writing the magazine is interested in. Fiction-“Jade” by Ethan Brightbill (on p. 42): a short story about a homeless girl on the streets of modern-day Yuexiu, a developing city in China. I liked this one mostly because I found the setting to be very detailed and believable and the narrator had a strong, compelling voice. Poetry- “Tattooed” by Armit Pamesseur( p. 13): I don’t always “get” poems, and sometimes I don’t think you need to really get exactly what they’re driving at to appreciate them as aesthetic works. I liked the rhythm and imagery of this poem and the ambiguity of the meaning of the woman’s tattoos, and how the poem seems to take on a spiritual tone despite its rejection of religion that condemns the woman’s actions. “Instead of Discussing Marriage” by Glen Armstrong (p. 36): This is one of those poems that almost anyone can enjoy, whether they love reading poetry or not. The speaker lists all the things he should have done instead of discussing marriage with his girlfriend. It’s playful and funny but also thoughtful, and I really like it. Another aspect of the magazine that piqued my interest are the interviews it has with artists from around the globe. I was surprised by the global reach of the magazine. There were interviews with artists from America, China, and Russia, and two were with young, emerging artists in their field. I really liked the interview with Fei Wu, a Shanghai writer (p. 38) because it explored issues of censorship in the literary world in China, which I know a little about from taking Asian American lit classes. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of an artist who is living in the midst of China’s literary scene, since I mostly have met and read ex-patriates. Overall, I look forward to seeing what Transcendence Magazine will come up with in its next issue. I plan on possibly submitting some works and seeing what comes back. Their criteria for submission is an emphasis on stories, both in poetry and prose. They want captivating language too, but they are mostly looking for narrative voice and plot, and they are not as interested in experimental works. Their submissions are currently closed, but they will start accepting submissions again in the fall.

For More Information:
Transcendence Magazine
Website: transcendencemag.wix.com/transcendencemag