Friday Focus: Five Tips for Writing Twitter Fiction.

This Friday Focus will look at Twitter, that lovely short medium which requires succinct styling to get a point across smoothly.

Last week I took part in the #TwitterFiction Festival, which was a blast. During three one-hour tweeting sessions, I sent out a total of 600 tweets telling the story of one of my characters from the Empire. I already wrote a preliminary list of things I learned during the process of writing my story last week, and today I’m going to get more in-depth and highly practical to help you learn the ins and out of writing fiction on Twitter.

This isn’t designed to be a comprehensive how-to, it’s more of a list of things I think are really handy to think about when writing fiction for Twitter. So… here we go!

Things you should do when writing fiction for Twitter:

 1. Use a Hashtag to link your tweets: Hashtags allow people to follow a theme across time easily, so settle on a Hashtag. Like #ItsTheBestMysteryEver or #WhoReallyDidIt. But bare in mind: the longer your Hashtag, the less space you’ll have for content. Use those characters wisely!

2. Match your writing to the medium: Tweets are limited to 160 characters. If you add an image and a hashtag to your tweets, the space left for writing drops to 120 characters. Think carefully about your prose, and find ways to shorten sentences without being abrupt – I found this to be the greatest challenge as I edited down my tweets; I found myself reusing phrases and lacking in flair, which was frustrating to say the least.

3. Limit the number of accounts and characters you use: I chose to write my fiction through several characters who conversed together in a series of flashbacks – this proved to be quite time consuming. I’d recommend having a maximum of a couple of characters, and even better, just tweeting as one character. This is what I had to do for each new character I used for dialogue:

– Create an account for each character, including having a new email for each one & a unique Twitter Handle.

– Verify each account.

– Create a character profile & avatar for each account.

This was quite time consuming. So keep it simple.

4. Consider Twitter’s limits on account activity: Twitter limits the number of tweets you can send in a day, including an hourly breakdown. This can be problematic if you’re planning to tweet a whole story in an hour. You can only tweet 100 times an hour before you get locked out for a while. You might think that’s a big limit, but I easily sent 240 tweets in an hour across multiple accounts – it stacks up fast. More details on limits can be found here.

5. Super practical stuff for live tweeting: These are key practical things that will make your life easier when you tweet your story.

– Use a laptop. I was on holiday without access to a laptop, and had to live tweet off an iPad with a USB keyboard. It was far from ideal. Go easy on yourself, use a laptop.

– Copy & paste as you go. If you’ve pre-written your tweets, have them ready to copy and paste between a document and Twitter. Drafts go out of order, so don’t try and save them all then press “send”. Keep a master copy of your story by your side in case you get lost at all.

– Proofread your tweets. I know, I know… but I have to say it. I almost sent a tweet killing off the wrong character. No jokes.

– Be prepared to make changes on the fly. As I neared the end of my story, I realised I needed to flesh out some motivations to provide a decent resolution for my readers. This meant writing some tweets on the spot, but it was totally worth it.

There we go! I hope that’s a helpful list. If you’re thinking about writing fiction for Twitter, I’d encourage you to give it a go – it’ll stretch your limits for sure.

And that can only be a good thing.

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