Twitter: The Art of Writing Tweets

Twitter is, of course, the social networking rage.  Seems like everyone from corporations to small businesses to solopreneurs to politicians are tweeting.  And with good reason, I some people find it addictive.

There are posts galore on how to best use Twitter to promote yourself or your business, how to not waste time on Twitter, (yeah, right), how to save the world using Twitter (I'm making that one up, but Barack Obama did use it to help get himself elected).

But what about the tweet as a creative art form?  A mini-essay?  Yes, I know that it is hard to consider writing something creative in 140 characters or less.   However, once you start using Twitter a lot you begin to mold yourself to its limitations–and find creative ways to work within them.  Ah, of such restraints are genres formed.

I've been thinking about this over the past couple days as I've found myself tweeting a lot.  I'm really a moderate tweeter.  As of this writing, I have only 800 tweets (there are people who have thousands) and about that many followers.  But the more I tweet, the more I get addicted to it into it, and the more I get into it the more I learn about the art of being succinct.

Not only that, but while being succinct, one can also express deep thoughts and tell mini-stories.  Here are my how-tos for the art of writing tweets:

1.  Cut all extraneous words
.  So this:  "I went to see my mother tonight and she had what looked like a really bad meal" becomes this: "Saw mother tonight, she had bad meal."  Now I have room to describe the bad meal, or say something of related interest.

2.  Create tweets that stand alone but are part of a larger whole
.  I've been experimenting with this one.  Sometimes when I get back from doing something away from the computer (gasp! It does happen upon occasion)I'll write a series of posts about my activities.  Each post links to the other, but each post stands alone and makes sense if that is all you read.

3.  Use good, active verbs.  Amazing how the rules of good writing cut across all genres.  I'm guilty of not paying enough attention to this one.

4.  Express it differently.
  We don't want to hear that you just walked in the door to the coffee shop.  We want to learn what is going on in that specific coffee shop at the moment you walk in the door.  I'm probably more interested in your reaction to the painting on the wall then how much you need caffeine.  I've heard the latter a million times, the former can come only from you.

5.  Find the telling detail.  This is, of course, intimately related to #4.  What is the one detail of the coffee shop that brings the whole scene alive?  If you can do it in your creative writing, and I feel certain you can, you can do it on Twitter.  As a matter of fact, writing tweets is probably damn good practice for any kind of writing.

Which gives me an excuse to keep using it as much as I want.

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8 Comments on "Twitter: The Art of Writing Tweets"

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Désirée
Guest
01/13/2009 04:18

Hum… I followed you on Twitter for a very short moment. Sorry, but I couldn’t keep following you simply because you had too many entries. It filled up the list completely. Now, I’m not a devoted Twitter, so maybe it’s not a real problem for somebody else.

ian in hamburg
Guest
01/13/2009 11:59

How long do you think you can regular users keep up the Twitter pace though? I have to admit I just don’t understand the appeal of 140-character bursts of text, and when I see someone using Twitter heavily, I always wonder it gives them that other forms of writing don’t. Or is it just a passing fad?

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/13/2009 13:24
Desiree, I have that same problem with the news organizations that tweet a whole bunch of items at once and I end up unfollowing them. I usually tweet several items at once and then lay off for a few hours. Its one way to establish a presence without spending all my time there. Ian, I don’t know how long the Twitter peak will last. We probably are at its peak, though, don’t you think? I admit to going through Twitter phases, tweeting a lot and then lapsing so I can see how its popularity would eventually fade. The thing I… Read more »
Beth
Guest
Beth
01/13/2009 12:55

I “twittered” for a short spell, and enjoyed the little “pop” it gave to my blog, but shortly, I found it became a huge distraction to my writing life just and didn’t work for me. I do like the approaches of Fiona Robyn at http://ahandfulofstones and Dave Bonta at http://www.vianegativa.us. Fiona asks for submissions of twitter-length stand-alone little jewels, which she posts daily on her blogzine; and Dave(poet, photographer,writer) uses the Twitter format to write his daily “The Morning Porch.”

Kate
Guest
01/19/2009 11:31

Thanks Charlotte – I’m ‘tweeting’ sporadically but just haven’t got to grips with finding it meaningful yet.

rainer
Guest
01/19/2009 14:14

Dear charlotte, thanks for these 5 valuable tips. It is always a good experience to watch another person write. Thank you!

Theresa111
Guest
02/11/2009 09:13

I am rather fond of Twitter and find it stimulating to create compact updates, whereby I may generate interest. The competition is fierce and standing out is a rare treat … uh, I mean a rare tweet. 😀

TeasasTips
Guest
02/13/2009 19:52

I’m learning how to write in Twitter. I know I’m getting better because I’m getting more replies than I did before. Thanks for the cool article!

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