Forget the Rules of Writing

January 20, 2008 | 4

Aspiring writers might want to consider moving to Japan and focusing on thumbing text messages instead of developing intricate story lines or characters. At least, that is what this front page story from the Sunday New York Times seems to be saying.

In 2007, five of the top 10 best-selling novels in Japan were written by teenagers, or early 20-somethings, on cell phones. These novels were published in installments on various specialized Web sites. Although the phenomenon emerged in 2000, according to the NYT, it really took off two or three years ago; one of the Web sites hit the one million “cellphone novels” mark last month. Publishers soon recognized the trend and began republishing popular, finished novels, churning out one best seller after another.

“The sentences are too simple, the stories are too predictable,” one of the authors is quoted as saying. Yet, apparently demand for these “tear-jerkers” is on the rise, and, already, there is talk of creating and naming a genre for it. (Yes, the “cellphone novel.”) With direct flights from New York to Tokyo at just under $1,000 and new cell phone plans in Japan providing unlimited data transfers, i.e., text messages and Web-posting capability, this might be the best deal available to witty writers who don’t care much for style, and, well, errr, the story.

Update: Ben translates an excerpt of one of these best-selling cell phone novels and puts the phenomenon in context.

breathes, eats, drinks, sleeps, reads, writes and works in New York. He also reports Live from Gybria. To maintain his sanity, Emre looks for stories in daily life and books. Should that fail, he orders Chinese food and watches the mind-numbing box.


  1. Oh jeez, that's just great. Another reason I should have concentrated on improving my belly dancing technique instead of my writing.

  2. Wow. It takes me 20 minutes to type and send a text message. I might finish my novel when my daughter is a great-grandmother.

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