Twitter + Literature = Twitterature?

twitter literature

Marshall McLuhan once famously said, “the future of the book is the blurb”. With fiction now being produced on micro-blogging platforms, such as Twitter, was McLuhan right? We talk to one writer who has been using social media tools to create fiction and look at the impact these tools have had on his writing and the distribution of his work.

We’ve previously highlighted some projects that use social media to tell stories. We also looked at some unusual ways people are using Twitter. JunkDNA has been writing fiction on Twitter and distributing his work on other social networks and social media platforms.

We corresponded with JunkDNA over Twitter and email and asked him about writing for Twitter and his experiences with promoting his work on social network sites.

JunkDNA began to produce fiction on Twitter partly by chance. He signed up in April 2007 and “knew nothing about the potential of Twitter” at the time.

While he has a book available for a very small fee of $1, his main aim wasn’t to increase sales, but rather reach a new audience with his fiction. He said, “I didn’t start the project for money. I’m just happy people like my work”.

He has certainly reached more people by giving away content on social media sites than he would have if he was selling a self-published book. Without spending any money and despite confessing to being a “terrible promoter”, JunkDNA now has 666 people following his updates on Twitter.

Giving away his content for free has enabled him to build an audience. He said, “I reach out to one guy, he reaches out to his buddies, they reach out to theirs… that’s how it’s worked for me”.

Not only has JunkDNA built up an audience for his fiction, but he has also had some influential people reference his work. Annalee Newitz, from io9.com, suggested students of a creative writing class she was teaching to follow junkdnafiction at Twitter while they experimented with their own Twitter accounts. Pearry Teo is the writer/director of The Gene Generation and he devoted a few of his MySpace posts to mentioning his work and Warren Ellis also linked to one of his updates.

While publishing houses can afford to spend money on market research, the independent writer typically works in isolation for long periods and isn’t privy to how people feel about his or her work.

There is a section in the Paul Auster book, “New York Trilogy” where he the character sees a woman reading his book and just wants to ask her what she thought of it. On Twitter and other social networks, JunkDNA has the opportunity to get real-time feedback on his work. Along with Twitter, he also said he received positive feedback on MySpace.

Using Twitter in particular has also helped improve his writing skills. He said, “Well it certainly has sharpened my writing style, and made it concise”.

There is also the chance for the audience to feel closer to the writer and even collaborate with them. There are now a number of collaborative writing sites that enable people to work together. We Are Smarter Than Me was a community book writing project. Perhaps social media tools will encourage more encourage more collaborative efforts in the future.

It’s rare that we get a glimpse into the process of creating art. We usually see the finished article but don’t get to see how a story, film or piece of music evolves from the initial idea. To a dedicated fan, the creative dead ends might be just as interesting as the end product. As using social media sites to tell a fictional stories becomes more popular, it might be a great way to see the process behind how work is created

While JunkDNA hasn’t become a millionaire from using social network sites, he has pushed boundaries in the literature world. He has built an audience, his work has reached established writers and bloggers and he’s received feedback on his work that he can use to further improve his writing. All this without spending anything on promotion.

Now you’ve read about how social media benefited JunkDNA, what benefits have you found for your own work? Leave your comments below.

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