I am a writer.
I love saying those words. While many a person is a writer, it feels like something that is mine. I’m not the only writer from my school, or my work. It’s not a unique thing, but in so many ways, it is. No one writes a story quite like another person, we’re all different in our writing, and that’s why I love saying it.
I am a writer, but not like another writer, who is not like another writer, and so on.
Writing can often be a very lonely experience. While I love being alone, I do not enjoy being lonely. It’s why writers join groups and workshops and communities where they can showcase and talk about the things that they love. But ultimately, you still go home and sit at your desk and write alone.
No one really sees my writing but me. University I was forced into groups to get feedback and give feedback, but nowadays, I only let a select few people see my work and only if I’m super happy with it – which isn’t often.
I came across Wattpad at the end of last year, where I wanted to be a part of a social media site that praised unpublished writers. Wattpad is essentially that, it’s a platform for literally anyone to write whatever the Hell they want. Some people take it seriously, some people have a laugh, it’s entirely up to you what you want to do with it. I joined because realistically, I needed feedback. I was so afraid to hear what my peers said about my writing because writing is so personal, but strangers? Hey, you go for it. But what I didn’t realise is how different writing for Wattpad is compared to what I usually do, and here’s why.
Wattpad is a first draft showcase. I updated my story once a week (gone up to twice because of popular demand) and each chapter is written only a few days before uploading. I check for grammar and spelling, including making sure it’s consistent by reading previous chapters, then hit upload. There will be many things wrong with it, there will be things that I’m not happy with and want to change, but after 300 people have viewed it over night and I’ve already received 30 comments, I’m not about to take it down and tinker with it. This story will be a skeleton of what it can potentially be; the characters and plot aren’t crafted perfectly yet, and the message isn’t fully developed either. It’s a first draft, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
I read stories from other user’s aswell, and in author notes and introductions and descriptions, they all claim that this is ‘version 1’ or an ‘old draft’ of a story they want to develop further. When Anna Todd, author of the ‘After’ series, uploaded her story to Wattpad and got 600 MILLION views and earned a publishing deal, she did not copy and paste her Harry Styles fanfiction from Wattpad to a manuscript to the publisher. She went back and edited and rewrote the Hell out of it. And while people loved the first draft from Wattpad, she knew that with everything tightened and sharpened, this story would go on to be a bestseller, and it has!
I am scrutinized for every single sentence I write. And don’t worry, this is in a good way. Recently, I’ve got regular readers and commenters. While I do get a lot of comments that just say “omg I ship them so hard.” which is great and cute but not exactly constructive feedback, I also get comments that ask and prod things that they don’t feel are right. This can be inconsistency, a sudden change in the narrative, a weird character trait that wasn’t there before, or even weird language that looks out of place. I have a lot of American readers. I am English. My story has English characters in the U.S, and so American readers tend to point out when the American characters sound “too English.”. I wouldn’t have received this kind of feedback from peers (who are all English), and so it’s kind of really valuable to me.
I get praise. OK, this might just be me, but I do really enjoy praise. Even if it’s a bit patronizing. I love it when people thank me for things and tell me I’ve done a great job, because I do work hard, I do put effort into things, especially when it comes to writing. Because the people on Wattpad are strangers, it’s very easy to get shit flung your way. It’s a very honest platform, and so when I get comments (and even private messages!) saying how much they love my story, I know it’s honest, I know it’s genuine. It isn’t clouded by the fact that they’re my auntie or my brother and they feel like they have to be nice. They tell me because they want me to know that I make them happy every Monday and Friday (an actual comment I received). This also tells me that the story is definitely something I can pitch to agents and there’ll definitely be some interest. Popularity doesn’t mean something is good, but it’s a clear indicator that it’s something that people want to read.
I grow a thick skin. This is along the same vein as being scrutinized. While I don’t get horrible and rude comments on my story, I know my story isn’t for everyone. And sometimes, they will say that the chapter is a bit off. However, when I say grow a thick skin, I mean it in the sense that I’m slowly starting to care less about who reads it. When my work colleagues asked for my account name so they could read it, I got very nervous. I’d talked about writing on Wattpad but I’d never told them to go read it. But now, they all read it and talk about it with each other, and I feel like I’ve grown a little bit. I obviously care about their opinion, but it just means that when my dad asks for my account name, I’m not so worried that he might not like it. Because he might not, but it’s not the end of the world, is it?
I never stop writing. And this is the most important one. Writer’s block is awful, I’ve had it for days, weeks, and months before. But, thanks to Wattpad, I am writing every single week. It gives me inspiration for new stories, for other stories I need to work on, and even for blog posts (getting meta here). I always find it it easier to write to deadlines, and now I have a deadline twice a week. I have readers who get excited when I update and tell me so, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
If you’re stuggling with finding feedback for your work, or are even a little insecure about your work, I think Wattpad can be a very interesting place to find it. A lot of people do just go on there to read smut or about a girl falling in love with Harry Styles, but if you want to showcase your smut or your Harry Styles fanfic, then you’ve got your audience! If you want to present your poetry, your skeleton draft (like me) or even you fully-developed manuscript, then it’s also perfect. There’s an audience for every kind of story on Wattpad, and they’re waiting for yours.
For anyone interested, here is my story. I don’t like self-promo’ing too much so that’s all you’re getting!