The Twitter Novel -- 140 Characters at a Time

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For most of us, sites such as Twitter and Facebook (FB) are social-networking and business tools. Some authors are using them to publish their novels.

The Guardian newspaper in the U.K., for example, challenged 21 writers, including romance novelist Jackie Collins and Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding, to come up with a story of up to 140 characters, or one sentence.

And some novelists are employing Twitter in different ways. American writer Christopher Carter Sanderson is penning a novel in 1,000 Tweets, a project that began Oct. 2. The final installment of 1,000, a Novel in Tweets , will tweet on New Year's Day.

"I wanted to be part of taking an established form and growing it into a new way of communicating," Sanderson told TheStreet. "I like the challenge and felt that literature is growing and changing."

Sanderson has over 9,000 followers for @1000thenovel, which he describes as a coming-of-age novel set in a fictional preppy New Jersey high school. Set in 1980, the novel's central character is a teenager called Moe Taswell.

"He becomes a senior and a lot of momentous things happen," said Sanderson. "The very concentrated, very short bursts of information on Twitter seem to imitate the teenage state of mind."

1,000, a Novel in Tweets is the second in a series of five works of literary fiction.

The first novel, a prequel titled 79-79-79, is set in 1979 and was published on Facebook as 79 ultra-short pieces or writing, a genre known as "flash fiction." The third book will be a traditional novel of 300 to 400 pages, and the fourth will be a collection of Fibonacci sonnets, a form of poetry based on the Fibonacci sequence in mathematics.

The fifth and final book in the series will be 1,000 pages long, according to Sanderson, who says it will encompass about 30 years of history.

Serialized fiction, of course is nothing new. Many of Charles Dickens' works were published in installments, while Henry James and Harriet Beecher Stowe also wrote in serial form.

"People are seeing Twitter as separate from all of the great literature of the world, and I think that's crazy," said Sanderson.

The writer, a guest blogger at The Huffington Post whose non-fiction book Gorilla Theater was published by Routledge, compares his Twitter novel to starting up a business.

"It's very similar to a startup in that it takes a lot of intense effort and you don't see the monetization right away," he said.

Sanderson also sees Twitter as opening new business opportunities to writers. "It's a way to use a new form to connect to traditional publishing," he told TheStreet. His goal, he adds, is to see 1,000, a Novel in Tweets published as a physical novel and an e-book.