It was only a matter of time. In these days of texting rather than conversing, socializing via Facebook and Twitter rather than face-to-face, and being tied to a cell phone 24/7, enter the cell phone novel.
Think serial, as in the days when writers published their novels in installments in weekly and daily magazines. Or for that matter, think soap opera — only shorter. A lot shorter.
Similar to sites such as Twitter, which only allows 140 characters per tweet, the cell phone novelist writes cliff hangers in short installments, leaving today’s busy reader wanting more without having to dedicate the time it takes to read a traditional novel. The cell phone novel, or “wovel,” a term invented by Victoria Blake of Underland Press, is hot in Japan and gaining popularity in the U.S. and other countries. In Japan, many of these wovels are written by high school girls who write for a high school audiences. But Underland Press and other publishing companies, such as Quillpill and Textnovel, are also publishing cell phone novels by both well known writers and newbies alike. Some, like Underland Press, let you read a short excert, and if you like it, you can then buy the book. On others, reading the cell phone novels is free, and readers are allowed to post comments or rate the books. Some, like Textnovel, award prizes and then represent the writer in negotiations with traditional publishing companies.
And publishing companies are sitting up and taking notice. Some are taking traditional novels and serializing them into 140-character increments. Others are posting excerpts from books on their web sites, enticing readers to then buy the book. A few lament the demise of the novel over these newer applications, but these are the same publishing companies that make it nearly impossible for first time and lesser known writers to get their stories published and in the stores.
Will the cell phone novel replace the traditional novel? Probably not. Most people enjoy curling up in a chair or in bed with a good book — one that you can hold in your hands. But the cell phone novel is another way for writers to get their stories out to audiences who would not otherwise know they exist.
And for those writers who are overwhelmed or unable to take on the daunting task of writing a fullfledge novel, the “wovel” is a fun and easy way to tell their stories — and a great exercise in making every word count!