For hopeful young writers, making a start on your first piece of work can be a struggle. Perhaps you’re suffering from a bout of the dreaded writer’s block, tangled up in a plot dilemma, or are bursting with too many ideas and don’t know which one to pick. Or maybe your masterpiece is already complete and now you simply need someone to read it. The good news is, there are some great online platforms where amateur writers can write and share their work. My favourite is Wattpad, the perfect startup place for any aspiring novelists, poets and short-story writers out there. Here are some top tips for using the site – you’ll be a pro in no time!
Check out other writers
There are many genres on Wattpad; some, like romance, are extremely popular, while others, like historical fiction, are less common – so it’s always useful to read other works first as reference. Having an idea of what’s popular among readers and what’s not gives you a place from which to start plotting. I started with more conventional plots, like love stories, to gain some attention before stemming off to other genres.
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Wattpad is free to sign up to, and once you have an account, simply open a new ‘Work’ and you’re ready to begin writing. Don’t worry about your writing abilities — practice makes perfect. It also helps to prepare a few chapters ahead of time to make sure your idea isn’t a spontaneous one. If your plot isn’t developed enough, you risk having to use plot convenience in the future, which is when a change in plot is needed to give a reasonable explanation for a point in the story. Make sure you update regularly so you won’t upset your audience by stopping a book midway.
Proof-read and accept feedback
Before you publicise your work, check it for potential grammar or spelling errors. Read it yourself, or have friends, family or even your English teacher read it for you, so you won’t be embarrassed by ‘grammar police’ bombarding your comments sections.
I always publish the first chapter to give readers a taster. This helps me know if the plot or genre is appealing. That way, I can weed out weaker ideas before I get too carried away with them.
Don’t be afraid to swim against the current. After all, it gets boring for readers if every story is a ‘bad boy, good girl’ romance. Getting into a niche gives you a higher chance of gaining faithful readers, who will also promote your other works if they like your stories a lot. Of course, you can always start safe with conventional plots if you’re unsure, then begin experimenting after you have gained some experience.
Now that you have a work in progress, you can promote it on your Wattpad ‘Wall’. Some people also link their stories to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to get a larger audience. Don’t worry about not getting a lot of supporters initially; it is hard to compete against already well-known books, but you’ll accumulate a bigger audience eventually.
Love your supporters
Read the work of other users, and vote and follow them. The Wattpad community is very friendly, so people tend to follow you in return as thanks. You can also send users private messages for advice on writing styles or plot ideas; this especially applies to short story writers, because you’ll get to know what the readers want to see.
Try out Watty Awards
The Watty Awards is an annual competition and a great way to push your book to the top of the tier. Simply tag your work with the relevant hashtag and other readers will get to vote on your work to see if it is worthy of the award or not! Being the winner of the Watty Awards gives you a good chance of getting noticed by actual publishing companies and having your books published in real life.
What Wattpaders have to say
Wattpad name: xHMVLx
I enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and that member encourage each other. I first learned of this community through a classmate, and began writing short stories online before turning to novels, because the plots are harder to develop and take more time to adapt. Although I started by writing romance stories, I realised that this genre is too competitive and plots overlap (i.e. the bad boy category), so I turned to writing about fantasy, sci-fi or more adult themes like parenthood. Now I’ve settled comfortably into the mythology niche and use my knowledge of classical texts to enrich my stories.
Wattpad name: Thegirlwiththeidea
I joined Wattpad because it seemed very popular and looked like a great place to start writing. I have enjoyed creative writing and coming up with potential plotlines since I was a child, so the website seemed like a great way to see what people thought of my writing. I write action fiction, and through reading different books, like fantasy and teen fiction, and listening to feedback, I have attempted to improve my writing style. Over time, I’ve been able to improve on my work, making sure that I don’t publish anything until I am completely happy with it. To prospective writers out there: don’t give up – even if you have a creative mind-blank, just leave the idea to settle for a while before coming back to it.