Space has always been the bane of my writing. With novels, it’s a struggle to fill a chapter with enough pages. Everywhere else, it’s a challenge to keep things concise. While I’m still trying to nail down the former, the latter has been helped by using Twitter’s 140 character limit to help guide me to write better with fewer words.
The Twitter Format forces you to the point
Twitter’s 140 character limit usually makes for sloppy writing intended to quickly convey a thought. That 140 character limit however, can actually be great for tightening up your writing. Fitting a thought into 140 words is easy. Fitting a descriptive, coherent scene into that same limit however, can be maddening. That’s a good thing.
Because 140 characters is so restrictive, you really have to choose every word carefully. You have to strategically arrange what you say and how you say it to deliver maximum effect in the alloted space. Get the hang of it, and your bite-sized entries can pack some real literary weight.
Curbing Bad Habits
A while back, I found myself wanting to get back into writing. Every time I would sit down to write however, I would find it difficult to advance the story I wanted to tell. Rather than build plot, I would spin off into long, descriptive tangents that would illustrate the scene beautifully, but do little else. This is a bad habit of mine I needed to curb in order to learn to write better.
In an effort to trim the fat, I tried writing my new story a single 140 character entry at a time, once per day. Sounds easy doesn’t it? It wasn’t. When I first started, each entry was taking upwards of two hours or more. I would get my thought down in 30 seconds, then spend the next hours trying to rearrange and trim it to fit without sounding odd.
When I looked back after a couple of weeks however, the results were surprising. I had taken what had originally extended over five pages, and condensed it down to less than one. better yet, this single page didn’t sound like something that had been written in a Twitter format. It was vivid, impactful, and it got to the point.
Appreciate the words you use and write better because of it
When we speak and write, the focus is usually on the ideas we want to express rather than the words we use to express them. By learning to truly appreciate the weight and value a single character can have, the words we say with them gain a bit more substance as well.
The Twitter approach is not viable for every form of writing. It can however be great practice and a valuable experience in itself.