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July 30, 2009

Author posts novel, one tweet at a time

Posted: 12:14 PM ET

Matt Stewart wants to revolutionize literature, even if it means surrendering some authorial control to the social-media masses. The San Francisco-based author is tweeting away his entire novel, "The French Revolution," on Twitter, claiming to be the first person to do so on the micro-blogging site.

"I see this as a way to give people quick shots of literary joy throughout their day," he said during a recent interview on CNN.com Live.

Stewart, who describes his writing style as a cross between Junot Diaz and Jonathan Franzen, believes some people may be simply too busy to sit through an entire book.  But they do have time to absorb 140 characters, he said.

Still, Stewart does not think Twitter's short-attention-span format is ideal for reading a novel.

"I don’t honestly expect people to read the whole book on Twitter. It’s just not that convenient to follow a long form story," he told CNN.

If you’re picturing Stewart glued to TweetDeck all day, that isn't the case.  A friend of his built a tool that breaks down the novel into 140-character bits and automates the tweets.  Stewart said it should take about a month to post the entire book.  Right now, he has about 1,000 followers on his Twitter page.

Free copies of his novel are posted on his Web site, and he’s also selling a $2 version for Amazon's Kindle e-reader. Stewart encourages authors to explore new ways to connect with their fans, and even surrender some control in the process.

"We’re not using any of the cool technology we have to make books more interesting," he said. "I think that books and the industry will benefit by trying new things to attract new readers."

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Matt Blasi   July 30th, 2009 2:39 pm ET

While this is kind of an interesting thought, if I started getting it on my twitter account I would honestly stop following that person. Way to much, I could see if he wanted to pull some nice quotes to quick jabs out of the book to promote it though.


Mike in NJ   July 30th, 2009 4:25 pm ET

Ugh. Call me old fashioned, but a novel is supposed to take you away to another experience, not interrupt your daily activities and chop (hopefully) complex thoughts and ideas into 140 character chunks.

Poetry, maybe. Though again, it's the completeness of the experience, not the individual chunks, isn't it?

Let's move AWAY from the instant-gratification society. Not run blindly toward it, faster and faster.


Has Literature Gone to the Birds? « Talking the Walk   July 30th, 2009 4:41 pm ET

[...] I was reading cnn.com this afternoon and ran across a blog post on their SciTechBlog "Author posts novel, one tweet at a time."  Once my eyes stopped rolling in my head, I clicked the link to read the article.  What [...]


Matt Stewart   July 30th, 2009 6:34 pm ET

Matt Stewart here – I'm the author of @thefrenchrev.

Mike – I wanted to address your point, because it looks like you read the headline without reading the story (some irony there!). I absolutely agree, both on my website http://www.thefrenchrev.com and in the blog post, that Twitter is no place to read a novel. It IS however a valuable way to get people's exceedingly short attention spans with shots of literary joy and entice them to read more.

Just wanted to clear that up. Enjoy the book and please let me know what you think.

Matt – good point. Honestly, that'd probably be more effective than tweeting out the whole thing. I'll try it later on.


John   July 31st, 2009 10:55 am ET

Yay for Matt! If nothing else, it's a fun thing to do. I decided to do my own Twitter novel at a sentence a day – https://twitter.com/captsprivates – as a side project to my professional work. It's fun! And like a big idiot, it never dawned on me that other people might be doing it!


Michelle   July 31st, 2009 12:17 pm ET

Twitter has opened many opportunities for people to get creative and this is one example. Whether you are an author, advertiser or cook there are several ways to connect to fans through Twitter.
Michelle Chun-Hoon
CKR Interactive Intern
CKRinteractive.com


jide   July 31st, 2009 2:58 pm ET

personally as a fan of the arts i think twitting a book just ruins the essence of it all. the feel of paper between ones hands is an experience i would never trade in for an e-book any day.But hey! that just me.


Jeff H   July 31st, 2009 4:49 pm ET

Loving the book so far! downloaded to Kindle....


Stellar1   July 31st, 2009 7:12 pm ET

Hey Matt
Last year, I had a very similar idea about wanting to share my novel online, but got sidetracked in the process. I think you are definitely going in the right direction. The world is full of great writers who are exploring different ways to reach there readers. May you be blessed and prosperous in your venture and definitely follow your heart.


Joanne   August 1st, 2009 11:16 pm ET

Matt,

I have many Novels. I finished another one up about a month ago, and I would be very upset if anyone in twitterville stole my idea. I do however love the fact that you are doing this, and maybe one day I will write a book just for my twittering followers, or perhaps make a new twitter id up; just for that occasion.

I have never been published, and I think publishers play office basketball or use my Novels as paperweights; but non-the-less good job! Sometmes we just have to get our stories told.....


Jim McCormick   August 2nd, 2009 1:07 pm ET

Sorry, but not first novel on twitter. I believe the first to be started (in Jan of 2008 was 140novel. They stopped after about 37 entries. Smallplaces started in April of 2008. It as well as many others at this point, are still in progress. I started posting my late wife Alice's novel "Cowboy" in May of 2008 and finished posting it in October of 2008. It can be see at http://www.twitter.com/talkingcat or in the forward reading view at http://www.pick2prod.com I believe that since it was the first novel to be completed on twitter. It holds the title as first novel on twitter.


tearsthewingsoffangels   August 3rd, 2009 3:54 pm ET

Small potatoes. Write the full novel in one tweet, that's the challenge.


Jerry Battiste   August 4th, 2009 1:48 pm ET

There is a serialized detective story on Twitter with multiple characters. He'll even interact with you if you write to him. You can find him at http://www.twitter.com/mswiftpi


Dustin Scott   August 4th, 2009 3:56 pm ET

Hey! He isn't the first to do this at all!

His twitter posts don't start until July while the following story (spanning three different accounts, one per important character) begins in March:

http://twitter.com/Aikao

http://twitter.com/R_Formido

http://twitter.com/Doc_Elgin

Well, I guess they're not a novel by a long shot, but they're written in pretty much real-time as if the action is happening as it's posted. So far, these three characters (twitter accounts) interact with one another, and progress through the story with different perspectives.

I began this project with the intention of using Twitter as a medium for creative fiction. I'm not sure when it will end, but I am currently scraping together a website that will eventually have a blog where I plan to post the story as a more traditional narrative. It is a struggle using Twitter as a medium, due to the 140 character limits of course, but also because as someone previously mentioned here, spamming the heck out of people usually makes them want to stop following you.

Now, CNN, where's my article? ;-P


susanne   September 17th, 2009 3:21 pm ET

While I applaud the innovation of the idea, Matt, your comments about being frustrated that after only a mere few months of trying to sell your book has led you to frustration. As a novelist who finally got her first contract (now have four so far this year on four novels) after 22 years of hard effort, six literary agents, and numberous stacks of rejection letters, I would agree with your assesment that patience is not your strong point. I wish you well and hope your novel does get picked up, but as most of us seasoned authors with numerous books know, it takes years to get a book published, unless you are very lucky. Persistence is 99% of this industry, according to my agents. Most successful author friends of mine say it took about ten years of hard work to get published (including Jeffrey Deaver). To expect such great result in a mere few months is indicative of not understanding the world of publishing.


A Little Bird Told Me You Love Literary Theory: Is Twitter a new platform for learning about–and creating–literature? « Rachel Does Science   October 21st, 2012 10:56 am ET

[...] Much as Charles Dickens once released his classics in serial form, some writers have taken to breaking down their novels into 140-character tweets. Perhaps less gimicky are those who use Twitter to publish high-concept poetry, who use the website [...]


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