The first novel released on Twitter - The French Revolution by Matt Stewart

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    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Revolutionary Questions

    What’s going on here?
    I’m tweeting my entire debut novel, The French Revolution, starting on July 14.

    As far as I can tell, I'm the first person to release a completed full-length literary novel on Twitter.

    Why July 14?
    July 14 is Bastille Day--the day that kicked off the real French Revolution. It's the perfect time to do something crazy.

    What’s The French Revolution about?
    Short version:
    The French Revolution is an epic San Francisco tale, exploring the haywire extremes of the French Revolution within the microcosm of a dysfunctional family.

    Zany, tragic, imaginative, funny—the incisive wit and wordplay of Junot Diaz meets the multi-layered precision plotting of Jonathan Franzen.

    Long version:
    Loosely structured on the greatest identity crisis ever, The French Revolution tells the story of a San Francisco family forging its place in history.

    Esmerelda Van Twinkle, a failed pastry chef turned wretchedly obese copy shop manager, stumbles into motherhood after a semi-intentional liaison with good-natured coupon distributor Jasper Winslow. Born on Bastille Day, their twin children Robespierre and Marat revolt against archaic rules imposed by their autocratic grandmother, surmount radically misguided parenting, and combat wars in the Middle East to achieve great personal gain.

    Just as the family is on the cusp of achieving meteoric success in politics, business, music, and gastronomy, fissures from the past crack open spectacularly, derailing their bid for long-lived power while cementing a reputation for the ages.

    Why are you doing this?
    A few reasons:

    1. I wanted to get my novel out fast and in a way that'll resonate with the hyperconnected 2009 way of life.

    2. I think I write strong literary sentences that give quick, 140-character shots of literary joy.

    3. I want to try a social experiment--see how the world reacts to a long-form tale told in snippets. The one thing I've learned about Twitter is that people will actually read bursts of 140 characters or fewer.

    4. My agent submitted The French Revolution to all the major publishing houses. Many of them loved it, but none were willing to buy what they viewed as a "risky" novel--vivid language, elements of fantasy and farce, raunchy humor. What better place to take risks than Twitter?

    5. I'm kicking off this project on Bastille Day—the day of French independence. It’s the perfect time to try something revolutionary.

    Who are you?
    I’m Matt Stewart, a novelist and writer based in San Francisco. I also have a day job in marketing.

    You can read some of my work on The Huffington Post, Instant City & McSweeney's.

    I'm represented by Lisa Grubka at Foundry Media. She also reps the Bacon Explosion guys, who've done amazing stuff on Twitter.

    Just how many tweets are you firing out there?
    In blasts of 130 characters or so (leaving room for hashtags and links), it will take approximately 3700 tweets to transmit the 480,000 characters in my novel.

    That's a lot! How frequently are you tweeting?
    Good question. I'm going to play with the frequency of my tweets so they come often enough to make The French Revolution somewhat readable without degenerating into spam.

    I'm going to start with fast tweets to start the day then settle into tweets every fifteen minutes, but I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

    How can I get a copy of the whole book?
    Sign up via email or text to be first to find out when the paperback is available (soon!) - you might win a free copy.

    This sounds awesome. How can I help?
    1. Tell all your friends via Twitter, Facebook and email. Please include the hashtag #frrev on Twitter.

    2. Send me feedback and let me know what you like/don't like about the story and writing.

    3. Sign up for the email or text lists to get the latest updates on the paperback release.

    This sounds stupid. Who’s going to read a novel over Twitter?
    To be honest, I don’t think anybody'll weed through all my tweets.

    That said, reading a few lines via Twitter is a cool & easy way for you to give this book a test drive. It’s like checking out a few minutes of a TV show before deciding if you want to order the whole season.

    Aren’t you worried about copyright violations?
    Not really. I’m retaining all the copyrights.

    If you want to copy and paste 3700 tweets into a tangible book and sell it, we can wrastle over that later.

    How did you break up the whole novel into tweets?
    I spent 500 hours meticulously combing through my novel and editing into readable 140-word blasts.

    Just kidding.

    Local rock star (and rock star programmer) JJ Schultz worked his magic and built a tool. Definitely hire him for all your programming needs.

    What's next?

    I'm working on my next novel, Duct Tape, about a homeless man in search of his imaginary son.
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