I don’t like Twitter. One of the reasons, though not the only one, is that it’s too short. As a writer, I know that some things really can’t be communicated in 140 words or less. I’ve just spent a week where communication has broken down again and again. Someone dashed of a vague email from their cell phone or Blackberry. The short length made it hard to be clear about what they wanted, and I got it wrong.
When I’m editing an essay or opinion piece, I try to make sure the final version includes some memorable lines that I imagine getting posted, shared, tweeted and retweeted. I’ll even slice a smart but lengthy passage for that purpose. “Trust me,” I advise the author, “you’ll get more readers this way.”
But how much is Twitter eroding our writing abilities?
I’m bad at details. I can write something, leave out all the details, and then double it in size — just adding the details. (Yeah, I really can leave out that much.) So I look at these 140 characters and wonder what was left out and if it was important. In the case of a news story, I wonder if it was taken out of context in a way that alters its meaning. That happens a lot.
We did a query letter session at Cat Vacuuming Society. If you’re a writer, you probably already know that you have to come up with one line that defines your story. It’s darn hard! I think it only works well on some kind of books, like high concept. Some stories are very hard to describe in one sentence. I still remember when a synopsis was 25 pages. The shortness of summarizing your story in one sentence almost feels dismissive, like the agents are saying “I’m too busy to pay any attention to your query letter.” I know that agents have priorities — the clients — but this seems to lead to more desperation and more gimmicks. Are we one day going to see agents asking for a query letter to be a tweet?
While you’re hanging around the internet, wander on by my short story “The Sea Listens” at Enchanted Spark Photo Flare Contest. This was inspired by the two photos for the prompt, the phrase “Voices in the fog,” and the setting, which is in Northern California.