image This week Twilight Times Books is locking up the first galleys for The Solomon Scandals, the D.C. newspaper novel on which I’ve worked, on and off, for three decades. It’ll be out in P, not just E, complete with an almost surely memorable cover from Carl W. Scarlborough, who normally designs for Godine, known for its aesthetics.

Matt Richtel’s approach is just the opposite. The New York Timesman and comic writer has drawn 400 subscribers to his Twitter posts of a novel done in real time. Details:

Recently, a handful of creators (present company included) have scrapped pen and paper for mobile phone and keypad, and started texting their novels — in real time, just a few characters at a time. Our medium is Twitter, a service that lets you broadcast bursts of 140 characters at a time to be read by people who subscribe to get your updates.

In my case, I’ve for the last two months been using Twitter to write a real-time thriller. Hence: Twiller. (Cheap word play is what you get when you disintermediate, as they say, your agent and editor).

It’s about a man who wakes up in the mountains of Colorado, suffering from amnesia, with a haunting feeling he is a murderer. In possession of only a cell phone that lets him Twitter, he uses the phone to tell his story of self-discovery, 140 characters at a time. Think “Memento” on a mobile phone, with the occasional emoticon.

So here’s the big issue. Will humanity and literature be better off with traditional novels or with Twillers and other novels done on Twitter? I say a mix of the two is fine, just so we don’t overdo the Twitter fiction. Who knows? Twillers might even lead readers to the authors’ traditional works. Promo tool? Notice the Borders photo in the Richtel image? That said, just how reflective can Twillers and the rest be? Are we impoverishing ourselves by Twittering novels? Or just making literature more vibrant and broadening its audiences?

Related: Hooked: A Thriller about Love and Other Addictions, Richtel’s more traditional novel. Also see Valleywag post (source of image), which Richtel says is off target.

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