Article: How Twitter saved my writing life

5 Years ago, something terrible happened. But first a touch of back-story:

A lot of people ask me why I decided to write. I don’t think there was any actual decision on taking the plunge to write. I just sat down and wrote ever since I was a kid. I have always loved books (my caregiver loved Reader’s Digest condensed books — 4 shortened novels in one volume) and I wanted my family to read my stories. That didn’t happen.

There were no thoughts of becoming rich and famous when I was a kid, I just wrote when I had an idea. The idea of a publisher picking me up in a Limo for a contract signing entered my dreams when I was 16. That didn’t happen either.

My first long short story came about when I was 13 and on holiday in Whangamata and it was raining cats and dogs (the poor little pets hit the ground with resounding thumps — occasionally a whimper escaped before impact) and I was bored. No TV (Granddad did not believe in the idiot box). With nothing to do while staring at the wall in my room, I had an idea of an alien race entering Earth and taking over. It was set in another dimension. It took two weeks to write and was over sixty pages long.

I never made a conscious decision to write; I just did it and didn’t stop.

When I was nine a teacher would send me and my friend to the playground during Social Studies to write a short story. It had to be two pages long. We had trouble understanding Social Studies. Each week, we wrote a short story, usually vampires (Hammer Horror fan here, from childhood) and the teacher decided to read my story out in front of the class. I had made a spelling error writing bloood (blued) instead of blood and everyone laughed (me included), but then the teacher said: ‘Richard writes ten times better than all you put together.’ Head swell moment that lasts even to this day.

I left the vampires alone for a long time and concentrated on religious horror: demons, creatures from Hell, werewolves, and all the good stuff. In 2004 I completed a novel that had been locked in my head since I was 11 years old called The Game. After that, books and short stories flowed from me, most getting published.

(The terrible thing.) In 2012, I found a publisher for my Cthulhu novel, Resurrection Child (one of my more violent thriller — horror tales) and I suddenly hit a dry spell in writing long fiction. Short stories were a struggle as well. I thought this writing gig was all over and I was going to end up as a reader only. It was a nightmare coming true.

I still got ideas but had no motivation to write. I would sit down at the computer and then click Google Chrome and be lost in FB and Twitter and other writer’s blogs for hours. Then something would come on TV and I’d be thinking: Next time I’ll get this idea done.

Two years passed with not much writing. I found surfing the net more fun and luckily stumbled onto a message board calling for submissions for werewolf stories. There were 24 hours left until submissions closed. I started writing a war werewolf tale. Then the message board said submissions were closed. I replied asking for an extension as living in a foreign country (Japan — still here) the time zones were mixed up. He gave me 8 hours to send in something. Three hours later I was done and sent it in. A week later, it was accepted. After that, on the same message board, I found a zombie anthology, and wrote a zombie tale, having only ever written two previously I was not very interested in zombie tales (side note: totally into them now with my Kindle). Three zombie tales were accepted for different anthologies.

But all this was short form fiction, I couldn’t seem to get long form fiction to stay long form — everything just ended. I thought I was doomed to tapping out short stories every now and then. I was not content with that but what could I do?

Twitter saved me.

Shocking huh?

You may wonder how Twitter could save my writing life. Well, since you asked so nicely I’ll tell you: I thought it would be great to write a twitter zombie tale at 140 characters a time. I could do that on the train, during breaks at work, between teaching classes and on the way home. I could then grab the tweets and paste them in a word file.

Within a few weeks I was up to 11,000 words and the zombie short story grew longer day by day, and I started adding to the file and forgetting to tweet. I completed this tale in two weeks, and three weeks after that had it re-written and edited.

This long story (novelette) kick started me back into the long form. Novels here I come kicking and screaming and cracking skulls and slashing and typing.

The moral of this post: Dry spells happen and there’s not much you can do about that but battle on and not give up. Writers write and we do so for ourselves and then we re-write for the reader, giving them a much needed break from the real world.

And let’s be honest, it gives us a break as well.