Saturday, September 26, 2009

Twitter: The Swiss Army Knife in the Writer's Toolkit

Twitter: The Swiss Army Knife in the Writer's Toolkit
By Christine Taylor

Remember MacGyver, the super-cool genius adventurer from 80's TV?

He could get out of any perilous situation, just by using the objects he had at hand. A stick of gum, a roll of duct tape, those hockey sticks in the corner...give him a few minutes, he'd come up with something.

Each episode gave MacGyver a combination of new and old objects to work with. Yet of all his tools, there was only one that he absolutely couldn't do without: his Swiss Army knife. It became his trademark. If Mac lost his knife, the conflict in the episode went up a notch.

Flash forward to the present.

There you sit, in front of your writing. With today's instant information age, you've got access to many unique resources. But there's one tool that can make them all work together.

Welcome to Twitter, the writer's Swiss Army knife.

Social networking site has become famous for an as-it-happens exchange of conversation, news, and information. How can a writer benefit from that miasma of tweets? Think like MacGyver—look at what's there, and see how you can use it differently.

Community and resources FTW.

*Twitterers are a phenomenal source of support and encouragement. Your friends will keep you going, keep you accountable to your goals.

*The time to promote your book is while you're writing it. Share your joys, sorrows, and progress. Build buzz. People really do care.

*When you need help, ask. Tweet a request for character names; see what you get.

*Writers are on Twitter, freely sharing thoughts and information. Join the chats listed in Mike's newsletter.

*@MikeGeffner ( Click here), @motsjustes ( Click here), @grammargirl ( Click here), @Iwhodareswins ( Click here) and @thecreativepenn ( Click here) are great to follow for helpful writing tips.

*Published writers tweet, too. Check out this article for over 100 of them:
Click here

Space to find your voice.

*Having trouble getting a handle on your main character's personality? Try setting up a Twitter account for them.

*Until I tweeted the daily life of Jeff Barrister ( from my mystery novel, he was a mystery to me. In finding his voice, I found his character.

*Live tweeting for a character while others watch is scary...and thrilling. It makes your creation seem real, and gets you valuable feedback.

*Watching others tweet is valuable, too. I'm neither a teen nor a man, but I can write them convincingly by reading their conversation.

Fiction free-for-all.

*Twitter fiction is gaining popularity, whether in role-playing events hosted by @MassTwitFic (, or spontaneous #twitfic stories by users.Click here

*Try participating with a character. It's a heck of a lot harder to reply to someone else's dialogue and plot twists than to your own.

*TFEs (Twitter Fiction Events: are a great way to introduce your characters to the world. They'll be old friends when readers buy your book.Click here

Brevity. 'Nuff said.

*Twitter's 140-character limit forces writers to edit down to the important words. You'll learn to identify your fillers pretty quickly.

*A recent #twitfic challenge had participants write a story in 20 stand-alone paragraphs of 140 characters or less. That's tight writing.

*Plus, you may have noticed—each of these Twitter tips has been less than 141 characters long. I'm doing it instinctively by now.

Like all social networking sites, Twitter may not be for everyone. If you can't make it work for you, try these ideas out in Facebook updates, e-mails with friends, even between you and a document or journal. Twitter pages and search results have RSS feeds available, so you can have the wisdom of others delivered to your feed reader every day.

But first, give Twitter a try.

There's no substitute for the community experience you'll find among others.

Who knows? You just may find it to be the best thing since duct tape.

Christine Taylor (aka mousewords) is a California writer, artist, and social media consultant who loves mystery and adventure, is convinced that dreams can come true, and considers it her mission in life to help others realize that fact. She and her sister Stacy survived carbon monoxide poisoning, and used the experience to inspire a mystery novel, The Rosewood House, coming in Fall 2009. She Twitters at Click here and blogs at
Click here

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