In 2011, I stopped writing fiction. I'd researched, outlined, and plotted my way into hating my writing process. My thin skin and the rejection letters didn't help, either.
But in 2014, I discovered Wattpad. Described by some as the YouTube for ebooks, Wattpad is an app that allows writers to share their work and readers to read, follow, and comment. It encourages serialized posting of chapters, and many writers write from their phones. For me, a writer who'd spent three months researching and outlining her last attempted book and then couldn't get through the first chapter, this felt like freedom.
Four years later and with a finished book under my belt, I can honestly say that Wattpad gave me back my love of writing.
How? Wattpad allowed me to:
Break stultifying writing habits
In the first fevered days of trying out the Wattpad app, I wrote the following in my bio:
"I've always been my worst critic, and my fiction writing became paralyzed by my editing. Discovering Wattpad was a godsend because I just write and publish; beyond checking for typos and spelling errors, I work really hard to not let my judgey self get in the way of my Muse."
For years, I bound myself in chain after chain of writing "how-tos." Wattpad, with its phone-to-app publishing, its generous fans, and its encouragement to publish chapter-by-chapter rather than in whole book form, supported experimentation. Throw it at the wall and see what stuck. Don't like it? Erase it.
I felt like I could breathe again. More importantly, I felt like I could write again.
Connect with readers
The hardest part about putting a book under my bed that had been rejected by traditional publishing was the realization that my characters were never going to live and breathe in the minds of readers. I felt like I'd let my characters down. I felt like I'd killed them.
Wattpad connected my characters to readers, and the readers gave my characters life.
I was strategic about finding fans. I made my first book, Desperately Seeking, fanfiction by turning my hero into Oliver Queen from the hit TV show Arrow. It wasn't a hardship handing over my story idea -- what if a young widow placed a personal ad for "occasional companionship" -- to the gorgeous Stephen Amell.
And it allowed me to tag the story and access fans who otherwise might have overlooked me. Desperately Seeking now has 169,000 reads and I'm connected to 900 fans, a number which makes my little brain shiver.
The whole point, as I previously mentioned, was to HAVE PEOPLE READ MY WRITING.
Read fans' reactions
Not only can people read my book, that can comment on it, line by line. They can comment on their thoughts of the chapter. They can add it to reading lists with heartwarming titles like, "Could Read It Over and Over Again."
Reading people's immediate visceral responses is awesome and terrifying. I am blessed that my interactions have been 100 percent positive. I realize that not everyone is and will be this lucky. As an experienced social media manager, I am quick and ready with the delete, mute, and block buttons.
But I have been blessed, and it's amazing to see what resonates with people, what make them cry or yearn, what scenes fall flat, and what surprises you about what surprises them. People tell you when they've learned something about themselves through your book, and that immediacy is something that other reading platforms can't (yet) mimic.
My just-completed book on Wattpad, The Billionaire's Prince, began with the idea: "What if the billionaire CEO was a woman?" I thought it up while I was visiting my parents in California, laptop free, and was so intrigued by the concept that I posted a cover and a blurb to Wattpad -- from my phone -- with no sense yet of what would exist beyond the cover.
"Three days a month. That's all the billionaire wants from him. Or rather, three nights. Three nights a month for a year, and at the end, she will divorce him with a settlement large enough to save the small European principality that means everything to him. All the wealthy CEO wants? Three long, hot nights a month in her bed. And his heir."
All those details -- three nights a month, the settlement, the European principality -- I literally thought up in the five minutes it took me to write the blurb. I tacked on "and his heir" as an after thought.
The concept received so many votes and comments right off the bat that I knew it was an idea that had promise. Wattpad, with its 65 million monthly visitors who spend 15 BILLION minutes per month reading, is a wonderful place to try out a title, a chapter, an idea, and see if it has legs.
Find a writing community
The fears I had of showing my work to a critique group, a writing friend, or a judging panel were quickly overcome by the "show it to the world" nature of the Internet. I originally wrote under a pseudonym, but don't anymore. Wattpad forced me to be brave and get over my stage fright.
And in revealing myself, I've found a community of supportive, kickass writers who cheerlead me through chapters, create fanart for me, advocate for me to their readers, and invite me to new opportunities.
Wattpad superstar Fallon DeMornay has mentioned me multiple times in interviews as one of her favorite writers on Wattpad, an honor that knocks me out every time it happens. I will re-pay her one day by showering her in diamonds, cocktails, and attractive men who know how to salsa.
In 2015, I was invited to take part in a Wattpad Valentine's Day anthology by USA Today bestselling author Michelle Jo Quinn. It forced me to write the first short story I'd written in years, and The Phone Call became one of my favorite babies.
Keep ass in chair
My bio mentioned that I've always been my worst critic and that critic can lead me to take loooooooooong breaks, breaks when working for clients or planning family events or cleaning the fridge can all seem more appealing and compelling than finishing my book.
But Wattpad readers have this pesky habit of letting you know when they love you and your work. "Update please," "Update soon," "Update now please soon," are all comments that make Wattpad authors climb the wall. Now, instead of just a dusty keyboard, I have actual human beings telling me that I'm being a slacker and I need to get back to work.
There is NOTHING more motivating to keep my butt in the chair and my hands typing away than the pressure of readers excited and anxious for my words. It's awful. It's terrific. It's awfully terrific, and I'm so grateful that Wattpad has given me the opportunity to connect with readers who give a crap about my writing.
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