But I’m trying. I really am.
I shouldn’t say I don’t get it. I do. There actually isn’t a whole lot to get. It’s an interactive serialization site. There have been a bunch of these in the past. I was a part of one that was more of an aggregator that listed off-site hosted stories. But something about the timing of Wattpad and what it offered just seemed to click with people. It’s not just a free platform in which to write your stories. It’s an entire community. And it just grew.
My experience so far has been slow-going but it’s going. They really push being interactive, but that’s key to any kind of writing success. You need to build a fan base. You’re not going to do that staring at a wall. You need to interact with people. Show you’re a human being. Converse with other writers. Wattpad just makes it easy and centralizes that interaction into a safer, smaller area that’s more manageable (in theory, Wattpad’s grown pretty huge).
But there’s seems to be a Kool-Aid level admiration for the platform that immediately has me stepping back. Now personally, there are very few things in life that I can promote with a cult-like fervor because I am THAT behind the product. And I’m really bad at faking it when I’m not 100% behind something. That’s probably why I’m not in sales. But Wattpad seems to cultivate these (sometimes rather intense) cheerleaders with the biggest pom-poms ever just rah-rahing the website. From the first WattCon or Wattpad Con they just had to the stars and ambassador programs, it’s almost surreal.
Now Wattpad’s done good for people. Sarah J Maas got her start there. Sourcebooks partnered with the site and has cultivated some books out of it. In my time querying I’ve seen agents who only seek out people who have a Wattpad-like presence already on the internet. A built-in fanbase, if you will. To each their own.
In that same vein I’ve seen some rather off-putting writing information being spread unchecked on that site and it’s really a turn off. Now if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can get bad advice anywhere. Even on the best writing websites. But, for lack of better terms, Wattpad seems to be a lot of the blind leading the blind. There doesn’t seem to be any delineation between popular on the internet and writing acumen. The two often go hand-in-hand on the site. Your story has a million reads therefore you must be an awesome writer and you know what you’re doing so people will listen when you talk. Eh . . .
It’s a problem among peer to peer situations because it just turns into a bad game of telephone. But a lot of this is happening using Wattpad’s name, whether it’s on an event (online or otherwise) or an online writing magazine or whathaveyou. It appears that these things are sanctioned by Wattpad so when I see people recommending image theft in pursuit of making an awesome book cover or someone talking about points of view in writing and they don’t even know what each point of view actually means, it looks like Wattpad is giving the okay for this “advice.” It’s kind of scary. And if you don’t know that it’s bad advice, you’re going to take it and run with it and you’re going to pick up some bad habits.
People would argue if someone it writing a story that other people love and it has a million reads and is really popular, what’s the difference? Why does it matter? I guess it doesn’t. But it can skew people’s expectations. If their goal is to be published by a Big 5 publisher, taking the advice of someone who doesn’t have any other writing credentials than a high hit count on a website could be detrimental to that goal. If their goal is to just get their work on the website and write for fun and if other people like it, hooray, then mission accomplished! It all depends on the goal.
I think Wattpad offers a lot of opportunities for people that they wouldn’t get anywhere else, like endorsements from movies (the latest being Ouiji), working with a TV show (the upcoming Tales from the Crypt reboot), the chance to get published in an anthology sold in Target (the Once Upon Now contest) and it’s all free. Usually things like this cost money so it’s definitely a good avenue for people. But it does feel a little cult-y at times. That could very well just be my standoffish nature and not being that type of rah-rah person to begin with.
I’m still approaching it all from an arm’s length. I’ve dabbled in the forums a little bit, but I don’t really like how they’re set up and I find forums a time suck right now. Just not factored into my day at the moment. But I’m getting more involved in submitting things to other profiles, the block party, writing contests, and getting involved that way. I’m very much not a jump in the water full tilt type of person. I don’t like following people who’s work I don’t like. I don’t like promoting people’s work that I haven’t read or can’t otherwise endorse. That just feels fake to me. So I take my time getting involved. I cull a lot more, weed out a lot more. I’d rather have a core group of people I can interact with and remember who does what and who likes what than have a million people I interact with and know no one. I’ve seen people that do the latter and they come off as not being human. It feels like they’re marketing all the time and their interactions feel disingenuous.
tl;dr: I’m not NOT liking Wattpad. I’m easing into it. It’s taking me a while but I’m getting there. I like reading random stuff from people and just wading through the works. I’m learning what to avoid and what to get involved with. It’s a process. Would I recommend Wattpad as a reading platform? Sure. Why not? It’s fun. There’s a huge wealth of stories on there for every kind of kink (literally and figuratively) you can imagine. And it’s all free. You’ll never know what you’ll find. Would I recommend Wattpad as a writing resource? From a marketing standpoint yes. I think it’s a great way to socialize and interact with people. As a writer I feel like I’m really able to let go and just write and not have to worry about absolute perfection. As a writing resource, no. I wouldn’t recommend it. I’d recommend other sites that I’ve personally used and have grown as a writer because of my using them. There are other, better resources out there for really learning the craft and cultivating it. Doesn’t mean you can’t go back to Wattpad and use what you’ve learned there. I just don’t think, as a starting point, Wattpad is the best place to start.
But, ultimately, to each their own.