It’s past 1am, and I’m only now slowly coming down from the insane high. My short story ‘Aftertweet’, officially selected to be part of the Twitter Fiction Festival showcase, debuted live just a few hours ago.
I spent most of the day in a state of anxiety. It was a distant concern, however, while I was busy in the morning and afternoon, but as the hours dragged on, it became increasingly difficult to distract myself. In the last hour, just before 10am, I actively felt sick.
It’s always this way, just before I share my work. Dreadful stomach-churning performance anxiety. Less like ‘butterflies’ and more like an active war zone. So with just 20mins left before I began to tweet out this story, I ran a weary eye over it yet again.
Now, while I’d always planned to incorporate ‘random’ Retweets as part of the story, (when the protagonist literally falls into the internet and spins out a mix of bizarre/mundane tweets from other people), I hadn’t decided on exactly which those would be.
As such, I’d actively been saving whatever took my fancy on and off for the past two weeks. Naturally, it was only at the last minute I saw I had way too many. And what’s more, the structure of the piece would have to change to accommodate it – so I started editing and rearranging it on the fly.
Thankfully, I think it worked out okay, though I went straight from an intense finish to tweeting the story. Which, in itself, was a very odd experience. With writing, there’s no such thing as instant gratification. I’m used to waiting weeks and months before my work is published, or even to hear back about its fate, and even then, receiving feedback or responses of any kind from the audience is uncommon (unless you’re famous, anyway).
Twitter, of course, is the exact opposite. Its catch-cry is immediacy; it demands that gratification and I could see immediately which Tweets were being favourited or Retweeted as I went. Could see the reactions. It was daunting, and distracting, but also incredibly exciting. The traditional walls between author and audience were gone, and the opportunities this affords us for storytelling cannot be understated.
Both in terms of digital writing, and interactive or participatory storytelling, as well as in terms of reading experience. Our first stories were spoken. Campfire tales. Words flung into the dark over fitful flames in order to capture and enthral the listener, to make sense of the world. This is, in some respects, a means of returning to that space through digital pathways.
I know for me, this experience will not be forgotten, and I’m so very excited to see where we can go from here. With all that said, if you’re interested, you can check out my story on this custom timeline. I hope you enjoy it!