This guest post is written by webfiction reader Jan Oda (@janoda), who writes one of the best Twitter streams covering online fiction. Many of the things I’ve linked to in the past have come from her , and if you’re not already following her account … well, you should. She finds the coolest things in the strangest places, and should be part of any webfiction writer’s reading list.
I’ve been using Twitter for a bit now, and while I’m by no means an expert, Eli has asked me to write an article on the usefulness of the network for web fiction writers, and so here I am.
A rough idea of what I use Twitter for: in the past couple of days I’ve discovered a great poem, found out about a Webfiction Podcast, voted for my favorite contestant in a literary reality show and almost became MCM’s marketing agent for The Vector.
On a more personal note I learned that one of the authors of the Peacock King just found her first grey hair at the age of 28, that Lord Likely is getting married (no matter how much I protest) and I’ve organized a sleepover party, pillow-fight included, with The Dispatch crew. And these things are only the tip of the iceberg.
For me Twitter has been a revelation. I have made contacts with web-fiction authors I would never have found otherwise, I have discovered great short-stories, poems and other digital art, and I got to take part in #3D1D, which really deserves it’s own article on the technologies MCM used.
These are my personal benefits, but I believe Twitter could be a real asset to all web-fiction authors, and I’ll try to explain how and why in this post. There really is no limit to the possibilities of the use of the medium, but I’ll try to cover the basics at least. If you don’t know what Twitter is and how it works, I’d suggest reading the TwiTip Starters Guide and Inkygirl’s Writer’s Guide to Twitter.
How it Works
Twitter defines itself as a microblogging system in which people can post short updates (there is a max. of 140 characters per update), and other people can subscribe to their feeds. 140 characters sounds very limiting, but you can say more than you think you can, and there is a subtle art in being brief and to the point. As far as I can see it there are 3 kinds of authors on Twitter.
- The Personal Account
- The RSS Author
- The Balanced One
Until recently Eli himself was a good example of the first type. He didn’t use Twitter frequently, but when he did he tweeted personal thoughts. There weren’t any references to Novelr, and not many references to anything web-fiction related in general. He also didn’t really connect with people (because he didn’t know how to reply to them), so his Twitter feed resembled a stream of consciousness. Other variants of this are authors using Twitter as a chatbox with their personal friends, taking the “What Are You Doing Question?” to an extreme and posting everything they eat and do. There is nothing wrong with that, but in my opinion this isn’t using Twitter to its full potential.
The RSS Author is on the other extreme of the spectrum; there is nothing personal in these accounts. RSS Authors simply attach their RSS feeds to their Twitter account, and let it run on auto-pilot from there on. No interaction whatsoever. A variant of this, and probably more annoying, are the marketeering authors, who only use Twitter to promote themselves and their books. Both types aren’t using Twitter to connect, which is a big loss, because, since their streams aren’t very interesting, they probably won’t gain many followers.
The Balanced One is the ideal Twitter-using author. He varies personal updates with updates on his writing, publishing and other professional updates, promotes (through the art of retweeting) interesting content of fellow authors and contacts and interacts with his followers. The really cool authors take this interaction to a new level and come up with stuff like #3D1D. Off course there isn’t such a thing as a perfect twitterer, but aiming for a mix between personal, professional and peers should get you close.
Twitter has implemented a couple of nice features to make connecting with interesting people and content easier. The most important one is probably the hashtag. Each term that starts with a # is converted into a hashtag. These hashtags are searchable, which means you can easily find all tweets mentioning the topic. A lot of web-fiction authors are adding #weblit to their tweets concerning their web-fiction, or web-fiction in general. Some of them also use a hashtag for their stories, so people can easily find updates. MCM even named his project after the hashtag he used for it, #3D1D.
Some people organize chats around these hashtags, using a twitterclient like tweetchat, or the Twitter search function (search.twitter.com) on a set day of the week. The most interesting ones for web-fiction authors are #writechat, #dnchat and #wnchat, but there are a lot of others as well.
Another great side effect of the hashtags are the hashtags projects. A prime example of this is #fridayflash, where every Friday authors publish a Flash Fiction Piece, and tweet about it using the #fridayflash hashtag. J.M. Strother posts a weekly roundup on his blog of all stories published each week, and an Anthology is in the making.
On your profile you can easily save searches, so you can check your favorite topics with one easy click. My personal saved searches include ‘Online Novel’, ‘Online Fiction’, Web-Fiction and others, and by checking them daily I found authors publishing online that weren’t on the WFG, Muse’s Success or other Web-Fiction Directories.
Some authors have been creating characters accounts, and are tweeting in character. I find this a great way of connecting with fans and readers, and that it greatly adds to the web-fiction experience. Reading the adventures of Lord Likely is twice as fun since I’ve been following his twitter account and I’m sure other readers feel the same.
A final great feature are Twitter Lists. These lists are used to organize the people you follow into categories, so people can easily find people with similar interests. I have made one for web-fiction authors, which currently lists 124 tweeting authors of web-fiction. Once you’ve subscribed to a list, it only takes one click to subscribe, and the tweets of all those listed are within reach from your Twitter sidebar. Nancy Brauer of Strange Little Band has also made a Twitter list of fictional characters tweeting.
I have by no means mentioned everything there is to do on and with Twitter, so please do comment with your favorite accounts, hashtags or anecdotes.