One story, 140 characters
I’ve never understood the point of things like twitlonger, for me being able to write elongated messages on twitter totally defeats the object. It takes away one of the key things I love about twitter and I definitely love twitter (we did fall out once, but thankfully we made up in the end) and that’s the limited number of characters allowed per tweet.
I wholeheartedly believe the old adage that rewriting is the most important part of the writing process, when every word has to fight for its place on the page the work always improves. And twitter takes that a stage further because every character is fighting for their place, every space, every piece of punctuation, every last letter. It brings discipline and focus to even the most inane comment. And when you’ve finally managed to squeeze that witty riposte, mini movie review or piece of shameless self promotion down to the requisite length it comes with a real sense of achievement. (Ok maybe that’s just me.) But I genuinely do get a real buzz from rewriting, I think part of that came from years of writing radio commercials. Stopping the stopwatch and seeing that your latest version is still under time was one of the best things about the job for me. (Then again I am a little strange).
I’ve mentioned before that I was contributing to Dave Kirkwood’s year long graphic story 3 hundred and 65, in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust, a very worthwhile cause and a fascinating project. Basically each writer contributes to moving the story forward via one solitary 140 character tweet and then Dave interprets it and draws the next scene. Yesterday it was my turn in the writer’s chair and rewriting was most definitely the order of the day. The first step was to go back and read all the entries so far in one sitting, soaking up the story and getting my head around what should come next. My inspiration came not only from the previous contributors’ words but also from Dave’s artwork and his knack of keeping the story cohesive by adding hints of previous elements within many of the images. Keeping a crowd sourced story together is always tough, as my experience creating Human journal found in rubble on the Geek Syndicate Write Club forum had already taught me.
For me the challenge wasn’t just to move the story forward, although I definitely felt the need to be true to what had come before while still adding something to the narrative. The real challenge was keeping it short and sweet. My entry does exactly what I wanted it to, providing a bridge between two of the established story elements. But it’s very different from the first draft I had, getting it down from 190 characters or so took about 15 attempts. And like much rewriting it involved being prepared to kill my babies,such a horrible turn of phrase, and losing the lines I liked the most. My entry opens with a rhyme and that was one key constant in all the versions I did, because that arrived in my head fully formed when I finished reading the entries.
“Count to 13 but never be seen. Hide in the shadows, the pink and green”. It worked, just like when they were kids. Zoe stood before him.
The word “the” before pink and green was removed a few times, but in the end I wanted to keep it in so much that I made other changes to accommodate it. That was for a combination of rhythmic reasons as well as to maintain consistency with earlier entries. There was originally a line about “Mother’s voice reverberating in my mind” which kept getting shorter and shorter, reconstructed and pulled apart until it ended up being cut altogether. It took longer than I expected, used creative muscles that I haven’t used in a while and took me on a familiar journey through repeated frustration to eventual euphoria. You can see my entry on the site here and I’d implore you to go back and read the whole thing to see how it fits into the story. And if you’re in the UK I’d urge you to get involved, either by donating to the cause or by signing up to write an entry. Because, as you might have gathered, it’s very good rewriting practice indeed.