The Twitter Carousel

Developed solely for mobile phone networks, hence its 140 character limit to this day, Twitter has revolutionised the writer's life.

Whereas exclusion from the publishing community had come to define them, the isolation of the long distance typer has been transformed by a close network of kindred avatars.

No matter the location, or credentials, the writer now has a voice, and it's digital.

The constraint of a tweet forces a writer to be proficient with their creation. There is no room for the digression of convoluted points. Nor can purple prose infiltrate a three line box. Instead, a writer must hone their talent for the concise. This skill enables a writer to gain a deeper understanding of how terse sentences can rule verbose paragraphs.

Yet with 340 million tweets being sent every day in 28 different languages, it resembles an uncontrollable carousel of electronic messages, and the frightening speed at which it spins is akin to a new user's head, as they search for a space to jump on.

Once aboard the microblogging platform of the carousel, one is never alone. A single tweet can generate an entire day of discourse.

An Electronic Hub of Support

Writers are able to share their experiences, good and bad, with their fellow colleagues. Just reading about another daily writing life, can be a constant source of inspiration within a worldwide hug of: 'you are not alone in this'.

A vocation which had previously been seen to be one of seclusion is now an electronic hub of support. One in which a writer can flourish like never before, since Twitter opens the doors to authors, and publishing professionals, who frequently tweet advice, and even encouragement. With tweeted links to writing events, author talks and competitions, these literary agents and publishers devote an extraordinary amount of time ensuring the unpublished persevere.

Whereas before the names of agents and publishers were just black ink on a page, the writer is now able to tap into their personalities, and client preferences, through which they gain an understanding of who they themselves would like to work with once their manuscript is complete. No other service in the world offers this kind of invaluable access to a writer on a daily basis.

Earning Readers Through Tweets

Yet in the midst of this, a writer’s insecurities are tested to the hilt twenty-four-seven.

Twitter is not just a communication tool, it is a daily popularity contest.

The content and tone of the 140 character tweet can see a writer’s timeline soar or decline within a few short hours.

Their tweet can generate new followers, re-tweets, and may even be awarded a yellow star as someone’s favourite. This in turn can increase their web traffic, as curious followers check out the latest blog posts of the writer for other gems. As a result, the reputation of a writer can grow in the eyes of their peers, and all of this before any one has read a single word of their book.

This is the whole point of Twitter:

A writer earns their readers through tweets.

Tweeter's Block

The sheer pressure of this can initiate Tweeter's Block in an insecure writer. They watch the articulate garner attention and believe they themselves have nothing interesting to say. Certainly nothing which will earn them readers.

Those suffering from Tweeter's Block, are easy to spot, not by their silence, but by their mundane.

Their tweets about what they are eating, cooking, watching, or anything about their daily routines, is an attempt just to say anything. There is of course nothing wrong with sharing this information with followers, but to only tweet about the mundane does not compel readers to believe their fiction will be anything but the same.

Writers are creative beings, and should always use tweets to express this.

To overcome / avoid Tweeter's Block, a writer is best advised to tweet:

  • Quotes
  • Links to the latest news in the book industry
  • Funny videos
  • Historical facts
  • Links to writing competitions
  • Encouragement to fellow writers
  • A vacancy at a publishing company
  • Book reviews
  • Advice questions about their work-in-progress
  • Re-tweet favourites from those they follow

The trick, often ignored, is to make the tweet interesting.

Also, try to send four tweets per day, to assure your followers that your own account is active. Much has been written about the peak times to tweet for maximum impact, but a writer's schedule fluctuates so much that any time is a good time. Your active account is also of paramount importance to your followers for a more basic reason: it shows that you are available to read their tweets.

Software Timelines

In spite of all of these positives, the life of a tweeter can have a negative effect on their confidence.

Twitter can also be seen as a tool for instant rejection. A writer can find themselves ignored irrespective of their efforts to network. Their words silent to those they wish to gain influence over, since there no read receipt tweets. So their tweets get lost on the carousel: the unclaimed baggage of the unpublished.

To overcome this, a large percentage of writers on Twitter have resorted to what can only be described as a ‘software timeline.’ They use software applications to auto-follow users, and auto-unfollow those who do not follow back. This way, their ego can never be dented by being unfollowed, because they do not monitor it, their software simply auto-follows someone else instead. Their software apps are triggered by keywords that the user has predetermined as a reason to follow.

These writers can easily be identified as those with almost exactly the same number under followers and following: nearly always this figure is well into the thousands. They have never read your tweets, nor do they ever intend to. They are only interested in you as a digit. You are as insignificant as a bot. To support this, flick through who they are following, and you will be surprised to discover that yes: they are following the bots too. If you do choose to follow them back, you will invariably receive an auto-direct message telling you to check out their other social-networking sites, and of course their book. Some even personalise the message with your name, but send the same message to thousands of users telling them to re-tweet anything they tweet about their book. Never be fooled into thinking because it is personalised they know who you are, they don’t. The software application does all this for them.

The irony is that even if you do agree to follow them, they themselves have no idea. Instead your account is logged by the software application and monitored by a computer code, not by the user. The user themselves will invade your timeline trying to sell you a product, making these software timeliners the cold callers of Twitter. If you then choose to unfollow them later on, the code will trigger their app to auto-unfollow you within minutes.

Your voice is a permanent mute to their megaphone of self-promotion.

One wonders if these writers came from that other well known social networking site, where it is always about the like culture. Unbeknown to them, the majority on Twitter do not like them for this at all.

A Playground of Plagiarism

The immediacy of Twitter also allows a writer to see the first examples of digital theft. The tweets of the proficient are often cut and pasted by a minority of users who upon seeing the tweet’s popularity tweet it as their own to increase their stature and gain more followers. Most will be sly about it: they will steal the tweet then unfollow the user straight away, so they can claim they never saw it their timeline. Others will wait a few hours, and then tweet it word for word as their own.

This ‘take it and tweet it’ approach seems to be an unspoken aspect of Twitter: people simply put up with it. It can certainly test the resolve of the writer, who always deems their words precious. After all, their words are all they have. When they see them in the tweet of another it can injury their ego far more than any rejection ever can.

Nothing hurts a writer more than to have their words stolen. You can steal their possessions, or their partner, and over time they would recover. But steal their words and they will never forgive you.

Unfortunately, on Twitter it will happen: a Twitter carousel in a playground of plagiarism. Perhaps this will toughen the skin of some writers and prepare them for the wider world of publishing; a world in which their prose might inadvertently find its way into the book of another. Although most writers are sensitive beings, and this can wear them down completely and force them towards:

The Flip Side of Twitter

Stepping off the carousel and away from its magnetic pull, one gazes back with a light-headed detachment. Twitter is disorientating to any observer, and it makes a writer wonder how their own voice could ever possibly be heard within such a cacophony of tweets. The truth of the matter is that it won't. Their voice will easily be forgotton, because whatever they were going to tweet, it will be tweeted by somebody else, since everything gets tweeted. Accepting this, the writer will retreat into the dark halls of Twitter and observe from afar, as the avatars continue to scream ‘notice me’ ‘make me popular’ and ‘read my book,’ until their voices blur into an unreadable stream.

This observation can last weeks, sometimes even months, without the writer ever feeling a longing to reconnect. Eventually it can lead them to take one last look at the frenetic carousel and turn their back on it for good.

Twitter conditions a writer to not only write in short sentences, but speak in them as well. Consequently, tweets make us no better than the birds, since they reduce the beauty of language to aphorisms.

Either through training or DNA, a writer is a writer, and their sole purpose is to capture their voice in prose, not tweets.

Once a writer realises this, they understand how their precious words are wasted in 140 character snippets.

Anyone can write a tweet. Not everyone can write a book.

These thoughts consume a writer as they walk away from the carousel and its electronic hum fades.

The silence is a welcome relief. A writer's thoughts are allowed to breathe. Without the constraints of Twitter, three lines can become a paragraph, a paragraph can become a page, those pages become the book the writer had always wanted to write. When the dust settles, nobody will remember a writer's tweets. But if they focus their mind on prose, their book can endure. Their real writing will be remembered.

Yet despite the need for this common sense to prevail, once a writer has experienced the buzz of this connection, its loss ebbs away at them.

When a writer becomes part of the Twitter community, the Twitter community becomes part of them. It is how they communicate with the world. It is how they connect to others when their writing life suffocates them in loneliness.

So having not looked at the carousel for months, they will casually glance in its direction. During these moments time seems to slow. The blur of avatars come back into focus. The eyes of a writer find themselves drawn towards a tweet. Its giant hand reaches out and beckons them to climb back onboard.

In a daze, the writer is pulled by the carousel's magnetism. They playfully compose a message, surprised at how easy it is to become a willing participant of a 21st century addiction. As they gaze at their 140 characters, their mouse hovers over the tweet button, and they smile.

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