I came across this article the other CNN.com: Cell phone stories writing new chapter in print publishing.

The article starts with:

Yume-Hotaru’s first novel was a best-seller in Japanese bookstores, and he wrote it entirely with his thumbs.

The 22-year-old who would rather be identified by his pen name than his real one (Yume-Hotaru means “Dreaming Firefly” in Japanese) started composing the novel on his cell phone in 2007.

I first felt a sudden burst of envy that comes from hearing about people around my age who have a lot more money than me.  Then I remembered how much better I am than everyone else, turning my self-pity into arrogance.

The article really interested me.  I got a phone that can text a few months ago, and I’ve enjoyed easily updating Twitter with it.  I had heard about cell phone novels before, and thought it would be interesting to try writing one, but I didn’t really want to use Twitter for that.

The article excited me a bit.  This is a huge thing in Japan, but where are the English sites that might allow users to write and share text novels?  I could start a company!!

But of course someone already beat me to it.  Textnovel is the place to go for us English-speakers.

So I joined and started writing a new novel called Sorcerer.  It’s the story of a young sorcerer who keeps his powers a secret but learns that a small group of people are bent on finding him and taking away his magic.  I’ve got the overall plot planned out, though it’s certainly not very detailed, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.  I’m also going to try putting the novel I already started for NaNoWriMo up there, The Book of Harbringer.

Novel-writing is a beast; I’ve never been able to finish writing out such long stories.  They’re just so long that I lose interest and want to move on to something else.  I’m hoping with something like textnovel I’ll be able to not consider the big picture so much, but just focus on the next sentence, little by little.  It’s not hard to keep my cell phone with me, so if I can write and add at least one sentence a day to these novels, at least I’ll be making progress.

The other element that entices me is that textnovel has a little contest going: write the best text novel (or at least the first 20 chapters of one) by July 31st 2009 and you’ll get $1,000 plus some publicity.  I sure wouldn’t mind winning.

All that said, I’m writing pretty traditional fantasy.  The CNN article mentions that the most popular cell phone novel genre is more soap-operaish; the more popular stories have to do with relationships and love and whatever.  I’m not doing that.  I don’t think I could do that even if I wanted to.  (Though maybe I’ll start a new secret account and try… might be fun!!)

While cell phone novels have boomed in Japan, they haven’t really done much here in the USA, so we’ll have to see if it goes anywhere.  The bandwagon is just now starting, so now is the time to get on as a writer… but of course it might not go very far (especially with the fantasy genre).  Who knows?  Oops, I mean: who know?


LanthonyS · March 30, 2009 at 7:39 PM

This reminds me of my “next great novel idea”, which would be told in MSN conversations; I’d limit myself to twelve or so characters, with cameos by unexplained people, and the reader understands everything only by what’s revealed in the conversations.

I don’t really have a plot for it yet, but obviously it’d have to be something that can happen in modern-day real life to regular people (cliché love story? soap opera-ish, please?).

It’d be sooo cool… if it worked. Obviously every conversation would involve the main character + one or two others. Everyone’s text would be colour-and-font coded so as to be easily recognizable… man, this could so be gold.

*The Lukebeast grins sardonically to itself.*

S P Hannifin · March 30, 2009 at 9:27 PM

I’ve seen a few books like that at the library already, told completely in instant messages, or maybe text messages… I’m not sure… can’t remember what it was called, I think it was still about love and relationships, definitely being marketed toward young females. But I bet one could tell a very interesting mystery story with just instant message conversations.

There was a book I read in elementary school by Avi called “Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?” which was told completely through dialog, and there are probably older stories which do the same, so I suppose instant message novels are sort of an extension of that. You can certainly have clear stories emerge from conversations, no matter what form they take. I vaguely remember reading a story that was just a few people’s letters back and forth.

One thing the CNN article also mentioned was that in some of the stories didn’t necessarily have an overall plot, which is why it reminded me of soap operas… the entire medium of storytelling is different for soap operas because they’re not so self-contained; part of the fun of watching them (or reading them serialized) is wondering what will happen next. You have to wait for it, you can’t just turn the page. So there doesn’t have to be any overall plot or theme or climax. Instead, it’s more a collection of smaller stories that all intertwine. The plot is really just a bunch of subplots, all beginning and ending at different times. And, of course, soap operas do tend to involve love and relationships and… stuff, but they could really be about anything.

Anyway, that’s not really what I’m trying for with my text novel… though perhaps that would be something to try…

Another thing this medium of story telling allows is interaction with readers, so authors can allow the readers’ desires to help shape the story as it’s being written. Actually, I guess that’s not really new; the Internet and cell phone novel writing just make it more convenient.

LanthonyS · March 30, 2009 at 9:45 PM

Ah, ich verstehe alle.
Hmmm, such news deflated me. Ah well.

S P Hannifin · March 30, 2009 at 10:09 PM

Yikes… didn’t mean to deflate you!! There’s a lot you could do with the idea that I bet hasn’t been done yet.

W. William Wobbler · March 31, 2009 at 12:31 AM

there’s also http://www.quillpill.com/ which is more like twitter

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