Six Ways Twitter Can Make You A Better Writer

Many people consider Twitter solely for networking purposes, for meeting people with common interests and conversing. And while that’s a big part of it, Twitter can also be a very useful tool for improving your writing.

When I first started building my Twitter follow list, I started with a lot of writers. And soon I discovered, mostly through feeds of people like Jay Lake and Paul Jessup, the #wip hashtag. Easy enough, WIP stands for “work in progress”. Basically, writers sample little 140 character or less sections from their work, sharing it with their friends and followers. Not every writer does this (either some don’t like the attention it brings, while others might feel it’s a little too flashy or something) I’ve found it very helpful for a number of reasons.

  • Most importantly, excerpting your #wip brings people into your creative process. It allows your friends, fellow writers, and general followers a glimpse into your current project. The line you tweet may or may not be that good; it may or may not end up in your final draft. But does it matter? If you’re a new or emerging writer and you have a tidbit to share, it’s a great way to get buzz. If you’re a more established writer it helps to generate excitement about your new project and certainly gives fans of your work a reason to follow your feed (besides, you know, tweeting about what you eat).
  • #wip sampling also leaves a written record of what you’re working on when. I find this very useful, and something enlightening, to go back and watch my progress. I can actually figure out how long it took to write various short stories and novels by searching the #wip tag in my posts. To get even more specific, I can add another hashtag, mostly for myself, that indicates what project I’m on (sort of just for myself).
  • #wip sampling really forces you to look at the words. It takes them out of context of the story, which is a fantastic way to edit. In fact, there’s probably only one or two instances where I’ve ever tweeted a #wip that I didn’t end up editing. Sometimes the rhythm of the language is off, sometimes it just dosen’t punch enough; other times, it just needs a tiny tweak to make it better. In the end, it puts a good distance between that sentence or sentences and the whole work. No, I don’t suggest tweeting every sentence just to edit, but if you can every once in a while it can certainly give you some insight.
  • I do this exercise typically when I’ve hit my 1K for the day. I’ll look over the whole work and try and find the best section to tweet. If there’s nothing–absolutely nothing–for me to share, chances are that I’ve done something wrong. If I’ve written 1,000 words and nothing is worth sharing with my writer and reader friends, then something is surely missing. There’s got to be some place with tension, with humor, with excitement! If there isn’t, I’ll go back and do some house-cleaning, even if it’s a first draft.
  • If you’re shy about your work, and don’t like to share, tweeting little bits and pieces is a good way to warm you up. Because, honestly, if you’re going to start publishing, well, everyone is going to have access to everything. While some #wip tweets get responses, many don’t. Mostly because they’re just snippets, of course. But it’s a perfect opportunity to get your feet wet.
  • Lastly, I love going through my friends’ #wip tags. It makes me feel like part of a writing community. String them together and you’ve got some truly fascinating tidbits of creativity going on. Widen your scope through all of Twitter, and there’s a collective, beautiful cacophony of image and craft. To me, that’s just absolutely inspiring. Knowing that other writers are doing the same thing as I am (hopefully not exactly the same, but you get my drift) definitely encourages me to get through the daily writing grind and make my work better.

How about you? Have you discovered any way that social media has helped your writing process?

  • http://www.uninvoked.com uninvoked

    You’ve actually inspired me to try using twitter. O.O I want to share!

  • http://www.killthemuse.com tara

    I’ve never considered this, but I’ve been on twitter for awhile. But I love the idea that a wip should be shared. As writers we tend to be cautious about what we share, or at least I do. And I feel like sharing makes us more accountable to ourselves almost.

  • http://shelli-proffitt-howells.blogspot.com Shelli

    What a great idea! I’m fairly new to Twitter, and I love this. I already follow #amwriting to get inspiration to get to work, and this will give me a peek into others’ creative process.

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  • http://www.blackandabroad.com Carolyn

    Hello there,
    been thinking about doing this for a few weeks but I decided it was useless. Thanks for posting this because I’m certainly going to try it!

  • Bailey

    Thanks for this. I use twitter and have found the word games and petry tags useful for jumpstarting the noggin, but the #wip tag is a great idea. It also gives you a chance to refine a sentence when you’re limited to those characters. I just rewrote a line that looks much better now without the baggage!

  • http://www.twitter.com/lazygarfield Laya Maheshwari

    Hi,

    I really like your idea. Although I will only write feature articles and not novels, I will still utry to use this. Also, i will now search for #wip in Twitter and try to help other writers.

    And, I really don’t wanna sound like an A-hole, but since you are a writer yourself, I had to point out a mistake you made.

    “If there’s nothing–absolutely nothing–for you to share, chances are that I’ve done something wrong”

    Here, you start the sentence with ” you ” and even though the latter part implies the same person being wrong, you change to ” I ” Changing of voices/first-person and second-person like that is wrong, isn’t it?

    Think of it as a correction to your #wip :)

    • http://nataniabarron.wordpress.com Natania

      Hah! oops. I fixed that. Slip of the old fingers. :)

  • Gail

    Thank you for your encouraging words and I will give your idea a go!

    Gail

  • http://chjb.wordpress.com chjb

    This was really interesting. I never thought of twitter in terms of anything except a social networking site. Thanks for your perspective. I particularly liked the bit about how if you’re shy it can be way to show just a tiny bit. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://greatwritingexperiment.wordpress.com/ sonia

    I never knew about that hashtag before! I am going to try and use it, particularly for short stories.

  • Lauren

    I’m pretty new to Twitter myself, getting the hang of it finally. :D I hadn’t thought of using it that way before. Interesting thought.

  • http://www.magnificentageing.com Penelope Young

    Really good idea. I’m currently working on a non-fiction book and will try it if I can work out how to instigate a hashtag?
    I use twitter sometimes to see if I can tell a story about whatever I am doing in 140 characters. I find it’s a good discipline in being succinct.

    • http://podtape.mypodcast.com/ jamesKebu

      Some coincidence that I should stumble upon this now, the evening before an interview for a blog column. This helps ease the knots in my tummy!

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  • http://www.brendakezar.com Brenda Kezar

    Twitter has helped me in two big ways!

    First, I used it to post my daily word count during NaNoWriMo. It helped make me feel accountable for getting something done. Did I really want to go on Twitter and post, “Sorry. No word count today. A CSI marathon was on”? Heck no. I’d rather not make my procrastination problem public. So I wrote. Pretty much every day (and ended NaNo over 90K).

    Second, there’s the WEALTH of information available through Twitter. People tweet calls for submissions, writing tips, inspiration quotes, etc. I’ve gotten great tips for writing query letters, a synopsis template, a great writing prompt site when you’re blocked, etc. all from Twitter. I’ll take all the tips from the pros that I can get!

    When it was first suggested that I sign up for Twitter, I was reluctant. I thought, what good can it do me? Well, now I know. A LOT of good!

  • http://ausalba.blogspot.com/ Duncan

    Penelope pretty much sums up what I was going to say: I like it for that fact that you are encouraged to be economical and concise in your use of language. Is there a better way to say something … change the syntax, drop superfluous words?

    BTW: should last bullet point begin ‘last’ instead of ‘lastly’?

  • http://caethesfaron.com Caethes Faron

    I never thought to use Twitter this way! I do share my WIP on the internet to get feedback, but never Twitter. I’ll have to start doing this.

    For me the real value in Twitter is learning from the community. Seeing what other authors are doing and learning from their experiences is invaluable.

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  • http://www.writer-in-progress.com Beth

    Excellent post, Natania. I’m a twitter-holic and it’s really helped boost my writing productivity as well as helped me meet other writers. Hope you don’t mind me sharing a link to this post with my readers at http://www.writer-in-progress.com this week. I appreciate your insight!

    Beth

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  • http://www.miarich.com/ mariarich

    #tuesdayserial check it out. twitter is more a portal to get to them, they are located on blogs, but blogs are social networks too. I love reading everyone’s serial stories and you can find them through twitter. Love the #wip thing! gona have to try that!!

  • http://armandrosamilia.wordpress.com Armand Rosamilia

    That’s actually a great idea… I’ll start using it and see what happens, and now will look for other #wip out there…

    Armand Rosamilia

  • http://twitter.com/liordegani Lior Degani (@liordegani)

    Honestly @NataniaBarron think this post really can boost my writing skills – will check #wip out

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