What is Wattpad?

For the last month I’ve been posting a medieval fantasy story of mine on Wattpad, and it seems to be working well for me. A lot of my followers on Facebook ask me what exactly Wattpad is, and though I’ve only been using it for a month, here’s a simple explanation: it is a safe place to post your work, build a fan base, and get feedback. Of course, there are precautions you should consider.

The first question on everyone’s mind is, “If I post it online, can someone steal it?” And the answer is ‘yes’. If anything is online, then someone somewhere will get creative enough to figure out how to steal whatever they want. No amount of protection will prevent it. However, having said that, your work is protected by copyright on Wattpad, and if you find someone stealing your work, you can report it to Wattpad. Also, I’ve learned that you cannot select any text of a story in order to copy and paste it elsewhere (I was trying to point out an editorial error to an author when I discovered this). This means if someone really wanted to steal your story, they’re going to have to type it up word-for-word or get creative some other way. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and unfortunately that goes with theft and plagiarism as well. This may frighten many of you away from ever posting anything online, and that is your decision.

Another question that is asked when I describe Wattpad is, “If I post my story on Wattpad, will I still be able to publish it with a publisher?” The answer to this is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. First of all, if you’re self-publishing, then you have nothing to worry about. You can publish it whenever you want. However, if you’re determined to go the traditional route with publishing, certain publishing houses may absolutely refuse anything you’ve posted online, but then again, other traditional publishers scour Wattpad for successful stories and sometimes offer the authors contracts based on the success of their stories on the site. Yes, this is extremely rare, and you shouldn’t aim for this. Instead, you should view your posting on Wattpad and gaining a following as proof to any publisher that you do have an audience and that your book will sell. A publisher may see this and be more prone to consider your work due to the backing it obviously has. You simply need to consider which publishing house you really want to publish with and determine if they have a requirement that bars any manuscripts that have been posted anywhere online.

Now with those questions out of the way, let’s discuss the pros and cons of Wattpad. Let’s talk about the downside first because I like ending a post on a more positive note.

Cons:

Due to the fact that Wattpad is open and free with no filter to sift through its content, stories posted there may be in any stage of writing. It could be the very first draft or close-to-the-last draft or anywhere in-between. Most people on Wattpad don’t have editors, so some stories are riddled with editorial errors while others are pretty clean. You’d just have to accept this and understand where they are in the stage of the story. You can always point out errors, but I recommend doing so privately just to be considerate. Sometimes at the beginning of a story, there will be a disclaimer, “This is the rough draft! I apologize for any errors you see!” This allows us, the readers, to be a bit more forgiving.

A second downfall of Wattpad is, because stories can be posted at any stage of the writing, a lot of the stories are works in progress. This is cool as the story continues and you interact with the writer because maybe you can influence the story. However, a lot of times the writer may lose interest in the story and stop writing altogether. This is a fate worse than our favorite character’s death—an incomplete story. What is the best way to counter this? Write the story beforehand—complete it—and then post it on Wattpad, chapter-by-chapter. It’s less stressful that way, and you can update it more regularly.

Pros:

To summarize the advantages of Wattpad in two main reasons: author/reader interaction and platform building.

When you publish a book, one of the things you encounter is the general feedback of your book as a whole, “It was a very intriguing story.” or “All the characters were very realistic. The struggle was difficult, and yet it was masterfully handled.” And then you could get a paragraph or two as a review, which is still a summary of your story. While all that is wonderful and much appreciative, Wattpad offers writers the unique opportunity to experience the story with the readers—chapter-by-chapter.

You see, with each chapter, you’ve poured a bit of yourself into it. You’ve struggled with the words, the sentences, maybe even argued with the characters and cried or shouted in glee when you’ve finished the chapter. You’ve snuck in little bits that tie in with the future of the story—foreshadowing, and you really want to know if anyone catches it. With Wattpad, you have the opportunity to get feedback from your readers throughout their journey through the story. They tell you their suspicions about characters, “I don’t think he’s bad, but he does have his own agenda…” Or they tell you how they had perceived a situation, “I thought he was hiding from his brothers because they were villains, but apparently not…” So on and so forth. As they discover more and uncover more about the different angles of the story, they share their excitement, and this is thrilling and makes the entire writing, revision, and editing process worthwhile. To me, it’s the best part of writing.

Throughout this, while you’re interacting with your readers, you are actually building a platform for your work—a fan base. These are people who will buy your book once you’ve published it because not only do they know your work, but they also know you, and that is unique.

Other than posting your story faithfully, there are other things you can do to broaden your scope, and that is reading others’ work, and commenting and voting on the chapters. Start dialogue with other authors. Get to know one another and come to support each other. You see, the ranking system is odd. While someone could get 100 views in a day and over 20 votes for their story, their ranking could sink into the 100s. However, the moment you begin viewing other stories and interacting with them, the ranking has a tendency to jump above 100. The higher your ranking is, the more exposure your story gets on Wattpad, so that means more people can see it, read it, enjoy it, and continue the cycle of goodwill. Is this a foolproof way of getting a higher ranking? No. The ranking system is very confusing, but due to the experiments I’ve done trying to figure out the system, this is the best way I’ve determined to at least keep the ranking above a hundred.

Will you automatically become a bestseller once you publish your book if you’re popular on Wattpad? Maybe—maybe not. I can’t guarantee that, but you do have better chances if you did participate with Wattpad than if you didn’t. Just keep in mind the risk you take when posting anything online.

So try it out, and feel free to follow me. You can find me here: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Kellannetta I tend to follow those who follow me. Whenever I want to read something on Wattpad, I usually go to my Followers first to see what they have, read, comment, and vote. Hope to see you on Wattpad!

The Etiquette of Self-Promotion

It is commonly said in order to promote and market your work, “Presence is key.” Does this mean you have to bombard people with posts saying, “Buy my book!”? Or does it mean you can constantly tell people, “Read my stuff! Look at me! Check this out!”? No. That is not what it means when it is said ‘presence is key’. So what exactly does it mean?

First off, the saying is very true. In order to promote, market, and sell your work, your presence must be out there—notice, I said your presence, not the presence of your books or work or anything like that but rather you. You must become a face and a name familiar to people because if people know you, they’ll be more likely to consider whatever you’re selling, and they may start spreading the word. So, how do you do this?

Don’t make it about you. If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or any social media site, don’t make all your posts about you. Instead, reach out to others, encourage them, answer their questions if you can, and promote their work. Then, when the time is right, market your own work, but don’t spam your followers with posts saying anything along the lines of, “This is worth reading! Worth purchasing!” Your work should speak for itself. Your readers should speak for you. If you have to boast about it, that gives the exact opposite message you want to portray—it tells me your work isn’t exceptional.

Is there a place for you to specifically promote your work without being a nag? Yes, but you need to create that space. For instance, having a Facebook Page or Facebook Group specifically for your work is a good place to post anything regarding what your work. Your followers there expect that, so it’s fine. However, don’t private message anyone or go to someone else’s page and tell them they need to buy your book. That is distasteful etiquette, and as I said, it has the opposite effect than what you want. The only time this is acceptable is when someone inquires of something along the same lines as to whatever you have to offer. That’s a good time to suggest whatever your work. Notice, I said suggest—not tell or order the person to purchase whatever you’re offering because when someone commands us to do something, we’re more inclined to do the opposite just because we like to be rebellious like that.

So, how should you approach marketing yourself? Don’t be afraid of social media or of criticism. Be watchful of what you say, and be considerate of others—remember, they’re human beings as well. Determine your strengths and be willing to share your resources with others without expecting anything in return. Yes, in an ideal world, if you promote someone’s work, they will in turn promote yours, and some people are really good like that, but others…they just forget or don’t think about it, and that’s okay. That is simply who they are, and you shouldn’t take offense to it, and you’re not obligated to share their work either unless you truly think it is worth sharing. At the same time identify your weaknesses and be on the lookout for those people who might be able to help you strengthen those areas. Someone else might have the same weakness and ask the question you didn’t want to ever ask, so you can follow the conversation and learn as well.

Also, when you are giving others feedback on their work, don’t settle for, “That was good!” While the writer appreciates the fact that you think their story is worthy of some praise, this kind of feedback is shallow and hollow. Instead, look into whatever you’re reading and try to pick out one unique thing that stands out for you and bring that out. That will show the author that you really did pay attention. However, if you see errors or anything that needs correcting, be courteous and contact them privately informing them of the problem. Why do it privately? Well, one day it may be your work out there being critiqued, and would you rather someone publicly correct you or privately? If you’ve shown respect to others, they are more prone to show you the same respect.

In other words, be human. Whatever you have that you’re promoting, seek opportunities to surprise your followers and do random acts of kindness for them. Offer unique opportunities that would get your readers excited about interacting with you.

Is this all you need to do to successfully sell your work? No. Each social media site has its tricks here and there and little secrets that’ll help you. However, knowing who you are and being comfortable and confident that your work can speak for itself is a major realization, and this carries over to all social media sites.

In the end, be real, promote your work from time-to-time, but be yourself.

Set the Scene Without Slowing the Story

I was going to move on to another topic this week, but I touched upon something in last week’s post, and I think it’s important to focus on it briefly. Last week we discussed mainly narrative description and use of body language and whether those two slow down a story, but there is another kind of description. This is the description which sets the scene or introduces a character. I’m not going to go into introduction of a character because I’ve already posted about that, which you can find here: Character Introduction.

I’ve also already discussed description in great detail in previous blog posts. You can find them in the following:

Painting Pictures With Words

Movement in Description 

However, in this post I want to focus on the question, “Does scene-setting description slow down the story?” It has the potential to do this especially if it isn’t done right or if the placement of the description is wrong. Otherwise, it adds to the story rather than taking from it. There are some things to keep in mind as you’re coming to a scene where you need to set the setting.

You don’t need to show EVERY detail of the room—only the important details. Does it matter if the walls are red, blue, or beige? If it’s not fundamentally vital to the scene or the story, then no. However, DO add little details that show more of the character, but do so in a passing way. Let’s say you have a very sentimental character that’s gone missing, and a detective steps into her room to find out more about her. It could go something like this:

Nodding to the weepy-eyed mother, Detective Blackwell stepped into the victim’s room. His gaze immediately went to all the school achievements hanging on the far wall—Best Student of the Year, Most Likely To Succeed, her high school and university graduation diplomas, and certifications in yoga, tai chi, and karate.

This Elise girl was one smart and resourceful person, and this only added more to the mystery of her disappearance, but Blackwell glanced to the other side of her room. Hanging on the wall above her desk, he noted pictures of Elise with friends while some of the pictures were of a German Shepherd.

That’s Elise’s dog Legend. He disappeared over a year ago. It was really heartbreaking for Elise,” her mother informed Blackwell when he stared at one picture of the dog and girl for too long.

And so the scene can continue. Are her walls pink? Does it really matter? Does she have teddy bears from her childhood on her bed? I don’t care. What I wanted to show was that she was accomplished but also knew how to take care of herself while at the same time she liked to have her accomplishments on display in the privacy of her room.

Now, if you’re trying to introduce a much larger scene such sa a city, a kingdom, or a world, you will need to employ other elements to show the scene without slowing it down. The key to this is, the means by which you describe the setting should be in motion. This will give the illusion of movement rather than static description. One way you can do this is by using things that move easily and without too much hinderance such as light, shadows, water, or animals. A very good example of this is actually the bird in the Assassin’s Creed trailers. They always introduce the setting by means of a hawk or an eagle or some other kind of bird. This is awesome because the flight of the bird allows you to get an overview of the situation below. Check out the first minute or so of this trailer to see what I mean:

Can you use people instead of animals to show the description? Yes, but when you’re just trying to introduce the setting in which the story takes place, I suggest not naming the character immediately because who the character is at this point isn’t important. What is important is what they see and how they interact with their environment. At the end of it, then yes, introduce the character. Again, Assassin’s Creed Unity has a good visual example of this:

Now, seeing it done in film is one thing, but translating that into writing is tricky. How do you do it? Set your mind to it, imagine the scene unfold in your mind, and just do it. Now, I will warn you, it can be a bit tedious and overbearing because you can get lost in all the beautiful description and the story won’t start until Page 20, and you don’t want that. Always know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and stay focused. Try to keep it short—no more than a few paragraphs, and don’t get distracted with unnecessary detail. Here’s an example inspired a bit from the Assassin’s Creed trailer:

The hawk flew over the wide-spread plains, over the dirt road which snaked through the fields toward the city. People traveled the road at this noon hour, running for the city with guns, knives, and pitchforks in hand. They ran with an angry shout and pure determination, but the hawk flew on.

Coming to the mighty gates of the fortress, the bird glided over the wall and over the fighting thereon. Man strove with man on the walls, at the gates, and in the streets. Shouts and gun powder filled the air,

The hawk swept down into a corridor between two buildings. Below, peasants armed with farming tools charged straight for the organized line of royal guards. The guards stood their ground with their guns aimed at the approaching mob.

Then they fired.

The hawk swooped up, away from the gunshots, away from the fighting and bloodshed. It soared up the lofty clock tower then perched itself on the outstretched arm of a hooded man who observed the fighting below but turned his eyes to the pouch attached to the hawk’s leg. Opening the pouch, he removed a rolled up piece of paper. As he turned his back on the fighting to read the message in his room behind the face of the clock, he lowered the bird onto its perch and gave it some leftover raw flesh to eat.

As you can see, using this method is a way to inform the reader of a few things:

  1. It’s set in more medieval time but with gunpowder
  2. There is unrest in the country
  3. Somebody is watching and has outside communication

So, is this the way you should always do intros to every location in your story? No. Variety is always best for your story. Switch it up, or it will become predictable, and people will skip over the paragraphs. This is merely one way to show without slowing the story, and it’s a good little trick to have up your sleeve. It takes practice to master though—as do all things in life.

If you think your description is slowing down your story, it probably is, but you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. At that point in the story, is it okay to slow down the pace? Or does it disrupt the story? Do you, as the author, naturally skip over those descriptions? If you skip them, it’s likely your readers will too.

Writing description is tricky, but it’s a skill worth mastering. Once you discover how you write description, that is something you will never lose.

Description Slows Down the Story…or Does It?

The common argument is, “Dialogue is quick while description can slow down a story.” Is this true in regards to description? Yes and no. It depends on the type of description. If the description is body language, this can actually give the story a good, steady pace without interrupting the flow. If the description is narrative, there is potential of slowing the story. Let’s break each of these down, but keep in mind that at this time we are not discussing description that sets the scene or describes a character.

Body language is important to add immediate depth to a character, but some writers hesitate employing it. Yes, too much body language has the ability to slow down a scene, but if you use the proper expressions, it can actually add to the action. Take a look at the following examples:

Dialogue tag without body language:

Are you sure they’re not following us?” Jason asked.

Why do you have to question everything I say?” William said. “Of course I’m sure. Now this way!”

Dialogue tag with body language:

Are you sure they’re not following us?” Jason asked as they ran through the darkened corridors.

Why do you have to question everything I say?” William said glaring at his friend. “Of course I’m sure. Now this way!”

Body language without dialogue tags:

Are you sure they’re not following us?” Jason darted a quick look over his shoulder once more time as he raced through the darkened corridors with William.

Why do you have to question everything I say?” William glared at him but then jutted his chin ahead as he kept running. “Of course I’m sure.” He took a sharp right and gestured for Jason to follow. “Now this way!”

Now, all three of these methods are valid ways to write. The first one is the bare minimum. You see what’s said and who’s saying it, but that’s it. It’s pretty fast-paced. The second one has a bit more. You also see what’s said, who said it, and a bit of what they’re doing. In the third one, you see what’s said, and you know who said it based on whose body language is attached to the dialogue. In addition, you get more action because there’s more shown between “Of course I’m sure,” and “Now this way.” Yes, there’s more to read, but did it slow down the action or add to the scene?

You see, the way body language can slow the pace is if you try to show every tiny expression of a character and draw out emotion. For instance, the sentence with Jason could have read like this:

“Are you sure they’re not following us?” Jason panted as he darted a quick look over his shoulder while he ran with William. His lungs hurt from running, but his heart pounded in his ears telling not to stop, not to give up. He had to keep going even though he had no idea where William was leading him. Did William really know where they were going? Or was he leading him into a trap? Jason shook his head as these doubts came to mind. William was his friend. He wouldn’t betray him like that.

All right, all that description slowed down the pace. Why? Imagine it unfold like a movie, and these two guys are running down the hall full of fright, and then Jason looks over his shoulder. Suddenly everything is in super-slow motion as all these thoughts and doubts creep into his mind. That’s how it feels to me because in my mind I know in this situation it won’t take William that long to reply to Jason. This happens because narrative description was added to the scene. This is when the character’s thoughts are shown to the reader, and this has the potential to slow down the scene because it takes time to process thoughts.

Should the writing in that paragraph I showed above be avoided? No, not always. It entirely depends on the moment in the story. If it’s a slower scene with a lot of time to contemplate without concern of conversation, then have the character get lost in thought by using narrative description. However, if a character does in the middle of a conversation, the reader may forget what was said before all the thoughts bombarded them, so when the conversation continues, the reader have to backtrack again to refresh their memory. Something like this:

So how do you know Silas?” Chandler raised his brows as he lowered himself into the seat across from Demetrius.

The mention of his old friend caused Demetrius to frown a little. Their history was a long one. Both of them had been orphans and ended up in the same foster family home with several other children. Lots of the children enjoyed teasing and taunting Silas because he wasn’t a big kid but rather scrawny. One day Demetrius made it his personal mission to be Silas’ body guard. The two became fast friends and remained friends even after both of them were adopted into separate families. They ended up going to the same college, but their interests were vastly different. Demetrius enjoyed sports and girls while Silas thrived on intellectual talk and politics.

When the war came, the two friends found themselves on opposite sides—Demetrius siding with the Free Worlds while Silas took the side of the Galactic Government. For the longest time, Demetrius wanted nothing more than to track down his own friend and hammer some sense into him, but somehow throughout the entire war, the two of them never crossed paths. Now that was about to change. “I grew up with him.” Demetrius nodded to Chandler.

Now, I don’t know about you, but reading all that description of his past friendship with Silas, I get lost in the past and memories that I forget there was a conversation occurring at this point in the story or what was said to prompt this flashback from Demetrius. I have to pause for half a second to remember the question before moving on. Sometimes I can’t remember, so I have to go back a few paragraphs to find the last piece of dialogue then skip all the description and tie it in with the response to see the flow of the conversation.

Is there a better way to do this? There are two ways you could smooth out the transition. First, you can have the first character yank the second character out of his thoughts and repeat the question. It would look something like this:

When the war came, the two friends found themselves on opposite sides—Demetrius siding with the Free Worlds while Silas took the side of the Galactic Government. For the longest time, Demetrius wanted nothing more than to track down his own friend and hammer some sense into him, but somehow throughout the entire war, the two of them never crossed paths. Now that was about to change.

Demetrius?” Chandler snapped his fingers in front of Demetrius’ face, jerking him out of his thoughts. Seeing he had his attention once more, Chandler frowned. “I ask you how you knew Silas, and you go all zoned-out. You all right, man?”

Yeah.” Demetrius nodded. “I’m fine. Sorry, was thinking.”

So how do you know Silas?”

Demetrius shrugged as he reached for his beer. “I grew up with him.”

It’s okay to have your characters get lost in thought and brought back abruptly. That’s realistic and makes them more human, but be careful how often you use this method. It can get tiresome after a few times.

However, another way could be having the character recall the question at the end and then answer it:

When the war came, the two friends found themselves on opposite sides—Demetrius siding with the Free Worlds while Silas took the side of the Galactic Government. For the longest time, Demetrius wanted nothing more than to track down his own friend and hammer some sense into him, but somehow throughout the entire war, the two of them never crossed paths. Now that was about to change.

But why was he thinking about Silas now? Demetrius furrowed his brows then looked up at Chandler and recalled how Chandler had asked him how he knew Silas. Nodding, Demetrius reached for his beer on the table. “I grew up with him.”

The key to remember with any description is: Is the placement logical in the sense of timing? Then you need to make sure the transition is smooth. If you, the author, need a reminder as to where the conversation or scene was going before the description detour, your readers might need a similar reminder, and you’d want to weave one in without being too obvious.

So yes, narrative description can slow down a scene, but you can use this to your advantage. At the same time body language can add to the action, but too much body language that includes every little micro-expression might slow down the story. It’s a fine balance and something to keep in the forefront of your mind as you write. However, don’t obsess over it. Trust the story and your own writing ability. Remember, you can always go back and revise.