4 | wattpad beginnings
Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Hopefully, you'll find this interesting and maybe even a little helpful. I have always and will continue to take requests and writing-related questions. I'd also like to preface this all by saying that (1) my experience is my own and I cannot speak for anyone else, and (2) I'm not a professional writer and I can only tell you what I do and how I do it. I would also like to add that nothing written here is meant to be braggy. People message me all the time and ask about my experience on Wattpad. I thought it might be easiest to explain it all here. Again, this is just my own personal story.
Anyone who has ever read my books (hi, guys!🧡👑🔥) will know that I am really active on Wattpad and I do read and typically respond to all comments left on my profile and/or books. If you have questions or ideas for things you'd like to see me talk about in The Writer's Notebook, please let me know in the comments. The way I write is constantly evolving. I'm excited to share what I know with all of you and hopefully learn some new things along the way.
First, I just want to tell you a little about how I ended up here.
As always, happy reading. 🌻I joined Wattpad in November of 2016.
I joined Wattpad in November of 2016.
Initially, when I set up the account, I didn't really do anything with it. I don't remember if I posted a story on Wattpad or if I just read stories. Honestly, I don't remember setting up the account. In November of 2016, I would still have been getting my undergraduate degree in English. I would have been in the middle of my senior year of college and probably wouldn't have time to do anything except stress about writing my thesis paper and my thesis novel, Senseless. If I had to guess, I probably joined to either read a friend's book or scope out the website for future use. Either way, I made the account, used it for a bit, and then completely forgot about it.
Fast forward to August of 2018.
I was at a pretty low place in my writing career. I have never struggled to write novels, but my college courses didn't fully prepare me for revising or querying literary agents. I didn't know how to stop writing drafts and start making steps towards a professional career. I didn't know when to stop writing. I went from writing one book to another without editing or pausing. This led to a lot of books, but none that I was happy with. In many ways, I felt trapped. I was never at a loss for words, but I could never get myself past the drafting stage.
By the summer of 2018, I had written nine and a half unpublished novels in the space of four years. I had been writing on and off for nearly ten years, I had earned a Bachelors degree in English, and I was about to start my first year of graduate school for literature. The job I was working had nothing to do with writing and was not helping me to progress. To top everything off, my father is disabled with a heart condition and my mother is a private school teacher--which left me constantly worried and searching for ways to change our financial situation.
That August day, I felt very hopeless. I didn't know what to do about my writing. In many ways, I thought I needed to give my dream up and focus on something more practical. I didn't think the books were worth very much. I liked them and enjoyed writing them, but they weren't moving past my computer screen.
Yes, I could a write book and write it fast, but no one outside of my family, professors, and college classmates had ever seen them. My novels were hidden away in a forgotten dropbox where I worried they would stay. In the months leading up to August 2018, I decided that I had no worth as a writer (and, in many ways, as a person).
So, I had just quit writing.
My current project The Culled Crown was put on hold. Of the novels I'd written at the time, I felt the most passionate about that story. I loved Monroe and felt like her journey was the sort of thing I'd want to read. Still, with school approaching and my work schedule constantly changing, I lost the desire to finish it. It didn't help that I was recovering from depression, which had left me very disinterested in writing.
All I wanted was my old self back. I wanted to feel like a writer again. I needed to feel that way, I just didn't know how.
On August 31, 2018, I decided *entirely on a whim* to start posting my thesis novel on Wattpad. I remember talking to my dad about money and telling him that maybe I shouldn't go to school. Maybe I should stop writing altogether and get an office job or something. Was I wasting my time? How many years had I poured into writing books that no one actually wanted to read? Maybe I should just give up.
That question had been on my mind pretty consistently.
I remember sitting on my bed, thinking about all the books I'd written. While having readers wasn't something I was actively searching for, I knew that the next step in editing and preparing a book to query would be to get beta readers. All of my college classmates where busy living post-college lives and I didn't know where to turn to find good feedback. I wanted to get a sense of what was working and what wasn't. I wanted to know if I should quit or not.
For the first time in the two years since I'd made the account, I thought about Wattpad.
From what I could tell, most people didn't get a lot of reads on the site and that was just fine with me. I didn't want a lot of readers, I just wanted a few solid ones. I was beta testing the book, that's all. And I already had the account set up. Why not?
I felt like posting that book was the right thing to do. At that moment, when I felt so hopeless and like nothing was ever going to change, the only thing I could think to do was post the book. While I didn't think Senseless was the best thing I'd ever written, I liked the story well enough. I wanted to try to see if the story was worth revising and trying to query. I wasn't sure there was a young adult market for the novel since it was historical fiction and was written in a more traditional Victorian style. I told myself that I would post it, let it sit for a few months, maybe a year, and then decide if I wanted to keep it on the site or not.
I thought I might get a few dozen reads at most. At the end of the trial months, I would take the book down and either edit it to get it to try to published or I would scrap it. I posted the first few chapters on August 31 and continued to post chapters over the next seventeen days until the book was marked "completed" on Wattpad. Then I didn't do anything. I let the book sit.
On September 20th, four days after I'd marked the book as complete, I got a message from Wattpad telling me that my novel was going to be featured. I got that message at around ten o'clock at night. I didn't know what that meant. Was being featured a good thing? I had no idea. So, I did what most people do when they don't understand something...I Googled. Then I completely freaked out.
When you get the "you're going to be featured" message, it is both really exciting and really terrifying. It's kind of like throwing a birthday party, inviting everyone in your high school, and waiting to see if anyone will actually show up. What if only the bullies come? What if no one comes? So I went to bed that night, not really knowing what to expect.
I told myself to be prepared for the worst. People might not like the book at all. Maybe no one would read it. I'll be the first to admit, Senseless is a bit different and requires some patience to read. The whole thing is based on the style of Dracula, so it is told through "collected" documents. While I really enjoyed writing that story and hoped people would enjoy reading it, I knew that books written that way weren't very common in young adult fiction. I told myself not to get my hopes up. If no one read it, that'd be okay.
It would have to be okay.
But then I woke up that next morning and people had read the novel. Yall, people had read it.
Not only were they reading the novel, but they were also enjoying it. I had never received comments on my book before. I responded to everyone. Good comments, bad comments, all comments. I responded.
People were reading my novel--I was thrilled. FREAKING out, but thrilled.
That next day I had to drive my grandmother out of town. It was a two-hour drive and I spent most of it grinning to myself. I was using my GPS, which meant my phone was mounted on my dash. Every few minutes I'd get a notification on my the top of my screen from Wattpad.
"@________ has commented on Senseless"
"@________ has voted on Senseless."
I couldn't even begin to explain to anyone what was happening. I barely understood it myself.
I didn't expect to get featured and I didn't really know what to do. Other people were commenting on conversation boards and sending messages to Wattpad users asking for reads. I never did any of that. I posted my book and it was featured almost right away. All of this happened to me by complete chance. Even now, months later, I spend most of my time trying to figure out how the heck this all happened. It doesn't seem real.
Right after Senseless was featured, readers began asking if I had written anything else. The answer was "yes," but I didn't know if I should post any of my other stories. I didn't really understand how Wattpad might affect my chances of getting a literary agent and finding a traditional publisher.
I spoke to my dad, the man who has read every one of my novels and believes in me far more than I will ever believe in myself. He suggested I take another look at The Culled Crown. He wanted me to try to finish that book and see if it was worth putting it on Wattpad.
My dad reads as I write. This is how we've done things for years. I write about five to ten chapters and then email them to him. He reads them, calls me, tells me what he thinks. So, he'd been reading The Culled Crown as I was working on and he'd been waiting for the ending. For those of you who have read that book, I left him hanging on Chapter 48. The book had no end so he had no idea what was going to happen and I'd left it at the worst spot.
I'd left poor Monroe in the worst spot.
When I started writing The Culled Crown, I was teaching middle school. So I was showing up to work an hour early to write the book. During ten-minute class breaks, I was writing the book. During quiet reading or class journal time, I was writing the book.
At the same time, I was battling depression. An illness that would end with me having surgery. And I was dealing with a relationship that I was miserable in. I was trying to give my students everything I had left. Stressing about my future. Feeling like things were pretty hopeless.
And getting back into writing Monroe's story felt a little like stepping back into a dark space--a place that I hadn't entirely left behind. The book felt like depression and heartbreak. It all felt like a cage. And anyone who has read The Culled Crown knows how much Monroe (and her writer) hates cages.
But I loved The Culled Crown. I liked where the story was heading and thought it was worth working on. My dad was right, I needed to finish it. If for no other reason, then that I owed it to myself. I needed to finish that book and figuratively (or perhaps literally) close that chapter of my life, for good or bad.
I decided that I would post The Culled Crown on Wattpad and use an upload schedule to try to motivate myself to write the end of it. I hoped that communicating with readers would make me feel more like a writer, more like myself. I needed something to pull me out of the dark hole I was in. I hoped that, through rereading the book again and posting the chapters gradually, I might find my passion for it.
And I wanted to finish The Culled Crown, I felt that it was one of the best things I'd written and deserved to be finished. Plus, I couldn't leave my main character where I had. She needed serious help.
And my dad wanted to know what happened. If you like that series at all, you owe my dad and his constant pushing a massive thank you card. Without him, there probably wouldn't be an ending to book one.
So, on September 24, 2018, I began reading and uploading The Culled Crown. I added a few chapters a day, just reading and posting the sections as I had time. The novel hit its first 100 reads by the 27th. I was feeling pretty good about that. This book hadn't been featured by Wattpad so I felt like 100 reads was a solid start.
After that first 100 reads, the reads, votes, and comments started to pour in. People were enjoying this novel. Once I knew people were interested in it, I set up an upload schedule and started posting one to two chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
While I was posting The Culled Crown, I did no type of promotion aside from posting a screenshot of my read count on my Instagram story. For a while, I took the screenshot at every 1,000 reads, posting it mostly for my own records. I was absolutely stunned by the support it was receiving and I wanted to remember it all. After the first 100K or so, I stopped doing daily screenshots. I have never done any of the typical "how to get reads on Wattpad" tactics. I don't ask people for reads. I have never done follow for follow or read for read. I never applied for featuring or tagged Wattpad in my story.
Literally everything has happened by complete accident. I am beyond blessed and beyond grateful. I don't want anyone to think I'm bragging. I promise, I'm not. I just kind of wanted to lay it all out on the table for you. I also wanted to have this in writing for my own sake. It's hard to remember everything. And this experience, the amazing readers and friends I've found here, is something I never want to forget.
I often get questions on how to get reads and how to get attention on Wattpad. I plan to do a full post answering some of those questions. While I don't know that asking for reads really helps gain them, I do think there are tips and tricks that can help a book be more visible on Wattpad's constantly changing shelf.
Overall, my journey on Wattpad has been really unexpected and incredibly fun. I have to say that it is easily the best thing that happened to me in 2018, if not in my entire writing career thus far. I hope that every aspiring writer can have the cool experience that I have had.
On February 5, 2020, I was invited to become a Wattpad Star. This was (again) something I had to Google. Yet another unexpected blessing.
So far, it's been a cool thing. I'm not sure what it really means for me or my books, but I do know that the star on my profile means less to me than the relationships I've made during the months before I had it. It's really sweet and it shows the amount of work I've poured into my books for years and years, but it doesn't account for the reads and the support the books had already gained. I wholeheartedly believe that The Culled Crown's success is because such amazing people have read it and shared it. It's probably annoying at this point, but I'm never going to stop saying thank you.
Anyway--If you take anything away from this post, I hope it's that you and your writing have value. Don't give up on your heart's project. Write and write often. Every sentence you write makes you better. Don't ever give up on yourself. You never know what is right around the corner. You, my friend, never know what tomorrow has in store for you. BUT, if you give up now, if you don't push yourself and take chances, you'll never find out.
Maybe also take it as a reminder to be nice to your teachers. They're people too, and you never know what they're dealing with behind the scenes. They might even be the writer of your next favorite book. 😉