The Twitter novel, falling under a category coined “Twitterature,” is a modern phenomenon in which authors publish their stories in increments of 140 characters at a time to eventually form a full narrative that online viewers can easily access for free right in the palms of their hands. It is important to note that Twitterature as a whole does not limit itself to novels, but to all kinds of writing including poetry and aphorisms. Some writers choose to work collaboratively while others release their work on an individual basis.
Twitterature takes an innovative stance on both the publishing world and the digital community, with writers releasing original content on a platform that is accessible to all. Twitter fiction has become especially prominent, with award-winning authors—including Pulitzer Prize winners—taking part in this inventive and groundbreaking format. Founded in 2009, the Twitter Fiction Festival promotes Twitter fiction from a multitude of established authors every year. There are several magazines devoted to Twitter fiction, such as Outshine and Nanoism, which give authors even more exposure and readers an opportunity to compartmentalize their content.
Twitter novels can be published over the course of months with one or two tweets a day being released from the author. This allows for the literary technique of using a cliffhanger to precede the text being released. The concept of releasing stories in increments is not new; serialization of literature began as early as the seventeenth century due to the prominence of moveable type. Books were a great expense to produce during this period, so to reduce costs and expand readership, publishers produced larger works in small installments called fascicles—considerably the formative version of the Twitter novel. Charles Dickens is a prominent author who wrote serialized fiction such as his renowned and infamous novel Great Expectations, which was released in parts in the literary magazine All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861. Great Expectations remains a vital literary classic to this day despite its initial periodic publishing format.
Examples of Twitter fiction span far and wide. Released by Sceptre Books, an acclaimed work of fiction entitled The Right Sort was released by author David Mitchell in 2014. The story combines compelling elements of psychologically thrilling content with magical realism. Jennifer Egan’s Black Box was released on the New Yorker‘s Twitter feed in 2012 as a work of science fiction which rose to high critical acclaim.
Titles such as these prove that literature is boundless in its reach. Twitter fiction has brought on a new way for the public to connect with literature on their own terms, at their own pace, and by their own means of discovery.