THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

Wattpad and the Art of Dealing with Criticism

I’m playing with the title of one of my previous posts here, because of course, there’s no ‘art’ to dealing with criticism as a writer, whether on or off Wattpad.

In fact, if anything, it often feels like some kind of masochistic kink, where you allow yourself to be handcuffed to your manuscript and whipped soundly on the backside with somebody else’s opinion of how shite they think your writing is. Unfortunately for us writers, there’s no safe word to be able to say ‘enough’ and most of our readers sadly don’t look like Jamie Dornan (and yes, that was a totally blatant excuse for me to add a JD gif into this post.)

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If you’re a published writer, whether trad or self, the accepted norm is that you avoid Amazon reviews and never ever respond, even if some festering troll has decided to one-star you because ‘this is a paranormal romance, and I only like historial romance’ (pray tell then, Sandra, why in the bejeesuz did you download it in the first place?)  In these cases, I’ve seen many an author ask their more devoted readers to mark these reviews as unhelpful to push it down the list, but unfortunately for those of us on Wattpad, the comments board is there for the taking, and SWEET MOSES, do some readers take it.

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If you’re not familiar with how leaving feedback on Wattpad works, readers have the facility to leave comments not only at the end of each chapter, but to also ‘inline comment’ by highlighting a line or a paragraph and commenting on something they liked or disliked, something they found funny or profound, or to just randomly tell you that that their second-cousin-twice-removed has the same name as your main character (I kid you not).

Of course, this is a double-edged sword, as I mentioned in my previous post, because receiving feedback on your chapters – when it’s positive – is AMAZING. There’s nothing quite like uploading a chapter and waiting for those comments to appear. Being a bit of a stupid-o’clock updater, I would often upload a chapter at 2am, go to bed and then wake up five hours later, feeling exhausted and a bit grotty, only to be lifted by the lovely comments readers had left for me overnight. There’s no doubt it definitely jump starts your week with a healthy dose of positivity that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and you spend your commute to work actually smiling at people, as opposed to flipping them the finger and biting the ears off anyone who dares to venture into your personal space.

However, when the comments on the board are not quite so positive, what’s a writer to do? How do we deal with it?

The problem with sending anything out into the world for public consumption, is that you are ALWAYS going to come up against someone who either doesn’t like your art and won’t be afraid to tell you (whether constructively or not) or someone who is just there to piss on your bonfire because they can. It’s inevitable, I’m afraid, and no, it’s not pleasant or pretty, and in many cases, if you haven’t had years to harden your skin into some kind of thick Armadillo shell impenetrable to even the most determined of trolls, it’s going to hurt like a bitch. Writing is a hard enough endeavour as it is. We toil over our art. We fret that it’s not good enough and have a difficult job convincing ourselves that we can tell a story.  Sending it out into the big wide world is a HUGE step (and one we should never dismiss as anything but brave AF), so to have to then face the kind of comments readers can hurl at you on Wattpad can have even the most confident of writers scuttling back into their hermit caves. Ask most writers you know about the reviews and feedback they’ve received and they’ll tell you that out of a hundred positive comments, it’ll be the one negative one they remember the most.

I will never forget the first ever negative comment I received on Wattpad. I’d been riding the waves of a sea of positivity (and luck, apparently) and when that first negative feedback came, it hit me like a sledgehammer. I cried. I’m not even ashamed to admit that either. I cried some more. I went into a dark hole for about three days and made all sorts of declarations to myself about how terrible my writing was and how I was stupid to think anyone would ever like it. I thought about deleting my stories. I wanted to rage at the person who’d left the comment, of course, but also didn’t want to come across as bitter and unable to accept criticism, no matter how that feedback had been relayed. So, instead, I festered on it for a few days, avoided Wattpad, and when I finally returned to the battle arena, I found I’d received some more positive comments and suddenly, I realised I could live to write another day. The feeling of receiving that comment never left me though, but, I like to think, the experience of that criticism actually helped me to work out how to handle future criticism and negative feedback.

Six years down the line and I’m still subject to the uglier side of Wattpad, ranging from readers who’ll hate on a character and diss them at every opportunity, to the odd troll here and there, who’ll pop up in the delightful way they do to tell you that your story is a huge pile of horse shite. On Wattpad, its par for the course, and it’s important to realise that 1) it’s inevitable and you need to prepare for that and, accept it, 2) there ARE ways to deal with it, that don’t involve forming pitchfork-wielding lynch mobs of your faithful readers and 3) it does NOT have to crush your writer-soul.

So, how do we deal with the comments that don’t tell us how wonderful we are? How do we deal with the ones that make us want to crawl into a dark hole and never come out again?

  1. FIND THE POSITIVE IN THE NEGATIVE – now, this might seem like a hippy motto, so forgive me if I suddenly sound like I’ve found my zen and am about to start chanting, but surprisingly, finding some positives out of negative criticism CAN work. The key here is to not be too precious about your work and to be able to step away from it and look at it from a different perspective. If one person tells you that your main character is annoying AF and they want to slap her silly, sure, maybe it’s that person’s personal gripe, but if twenty readers tell you the same, maybe they have a point? Too often I’ve received a comment that I didn’t like, and have been tempted to respond in haste, only to step away for a day or two and realise that maybe – just maybe – that reader might have picked up on something I need to work on. Sometimes it is possible to utilise the comments you receive to help improve your writing, whether that be character development, plot holes or genuine mistakes that you’d never spot even if you read your MS a hundred times. I mean, okay, not every reader is going to put this across to you in a way that seems constructive or even pleasant, but it IS possible to turn a negative into a positive.
  2. DON’T BE SO QUICK TO HURL A READER INTO THE BOG OF ETERNAL STENCH – this for me, is a toughie. I’m a redhead. I have a short fuse. I can be quick to react. However, hurling a tirade back at a reader who has left negative feedback isn’t always the best way to respond, and despite what you might think, it isn’t always going to make you feel better. By all means, channel your inner Maximus and swear that you will have your revenge in this life or the next, but be wary about wading into the comments to tell the reader exactly what you think of them and their opinions. One, as I mentioned above, it can reflect badly on you and make it appear as if you can’t handle criticism (some people won’t care whether they’ve worded it in a constructive way or not, they’ll just see you as a bitter writer who can’t cope with any form of critique), and it can also inflame your loyal readers who’ll be quick to defend you. No one wants a war of words on their comments board. These things can escalate quickly and turn into something nastier than the bog of eternal stench. Maybe there’s a better way to respond? Never respond in haste. Step away first and think about the best way to deal with a comment that you don’t like. You might have to grit your teeth while being diplomatic, but choose your battles wisely.
  3. AGREE TO DISAGREE – again, I know, it’s a bit hippy-bullshit, but this, I had found is KEY to having a more harmonious time on Wattpad. I learned very early on that it’s important to remember that not every Wattpadder is like you. We aren’t all from the same country, we don’t all speak the same language, we’re from different cultures and religions, we’re not all from the same age group and we haven’t all had the same upbringing. We have different opinions and different outlooks on life. You can’t possibly expect every reader to think like you do and you can’t expect them to interpret a story in the same way you intended it. They’re not in your head. They cannot see the same images you see or understand a character’s motivation in the way you devised it. There’s a chance they’ll see things differently to you, or have a differing opinion about a certain character, but sometimes it’s better to embrace their opinions and say ‘okay, I don’t agree but you know what? It’s okay you don’t feel the same way.’ You can’t bulldoze a reader into thinking the same as you do, nor can you bulldoze them into liking your work. As long as they’re not being abusive or offensive in expressing their opinions, accept your differing points of view, agree to disagree and move on. Life’s too short, right?
  4. DELETE! – okay, here’s something some people might disagree with me on. I was advised once that I should never delete comments, but there are some situations where deleting comments on Wattpad is a necessity. If you happen to be party to the attention of a troll who is just there to be abusive, I would say 100% delete their comments (and mute and report them). No good can ever come from keeping them up there. They want your attention. They want you to express your hurt and anger. Instead, I say, just delete their comment like they don’t exist. Being rendered invisible is the last thing they want and the absolute best thing you can do. I do also delete some comments where  a thread of negativity has ensued eg. one reader comments in a really negative way, only to prompt the next reader to check the inline comment and reiterate, and so on and so on. Now, I know some people are going to disagree with me on this, but I think it’s important to judge each situation differently and if, a thread of comments is making me feel terrible (eg. dark hole territory, wanting to delete stories, give up completely and throw myself into the abyss), then for my own mental health and well-being, I WILL delete the original comment. It’s important to protect yourself and your writer soul, and sometimes, when one negative comment balloons into something that damages you, it’s better to rid yourself of it. Of course, I would only advise this in particular circumstances and only you can judge when that might be, but don’t feel like you can’t delete, or let anyone tell you that you can’t. What’s acceptable for one person, doesn’t have to be acceptable to you. One size does NOT fit all, people.

One thing I’ve found from my time on Wattpad, and I mentioned it earlier in the post, is that the lesson of learning to deal with the negatives, as well as the positives, is actually a very valuable one and also one that I am strangely grateful for. No one in life is here to blow smoke up your arse and constantly tell you how amazing you are. No one owes you positive feedback. Learning to accept that, at some point, someone out there is not going to like your work and is going to tell you, is vital to being a writer, not only on Wattpad, but off-site too. If you want to build a career in writing (or any career for that matter, because this applies in all aspects of life), you have to learn to cope with the negatives, and yes, you even have to cope with Sandra-Authorslayer-from-Birmingham telling you that she’s only giving you one measly star because you didn’t write an historical romance and I only like historical romance, ‘kaaaaay? If you can learn to cope with it on Wattpad, before you make that jump out into the wider book community, then trust me, you’re doing something right and well on your way to hardening your skin like an Armadillo.

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REMEMBER: Negative feedback does NOT have to crush your soul, and more importantly, you should never allow it to.

And, if all else fails, you can always sell your writer-soul to the Devil in a cemetery on All Hallow’s Eve, in return for the old horned one to curse your haters with genital boils or a plague of locusts…

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THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

The Wattpad Dimensional Hole and How to Climb Out

If any of you are Hedoschism readers on Wattpad, you’ll already know that my main man Ethan Drake has an ability to open up dimensional holes and shove his unsuspecting victims into a void worse than being thrown into an oubliette in Jareth’s Labyrinth.

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If you happen to be a writer on Wattpad, you’ll also know that sometimes posting stories on there can be a bit like throwing them into a void of no return. With over 65 million users, over 400 million stories on the site, and new content being uploaded every minute, it’s no wonder that the idea of just posting on there can be daunting, let alone trying to tackle the fact that you’ve got to somehow make yourself and your story visible in a sea of 400 million.

Users are looking for all sorts of different reads and sometimes, when browsing the hot lists in each genre and checking out some of the more popular stories, it’s often a mystery as to what those stories possess that have earned them the numbers of reads/comments/votes that they have. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s a fucking conundrum that can NEVER be explained and is often the reason why Wattpad gets such a bad rap from those in the industry and from ardent book readers who see it as little more than ‘that place where kids write terrible fan-fiction’ (and I’m just repeating here, not confirming, as I know there’s actually some bloody good fan-fiction on there AND some amazing teenage writers who are a damn sight more talented than I am).

The problem here is that when there appears to be no magic formula on why a story has become popular on Wattpad (because bad plot/character development/structure/grammar appears not to be a deciding factor in many cases) it’s difficult to know just how to get the reaction you want. Of course, you could just opt for the easy route and chuck in a few ‘Slave to the BTS Vampire Kings’ or ‘Jungkook is my Step-Brother and My Lover’ (rewind a few years and you could replace with One Direction and Harry Styles) and yes, the chances are, if you appeal to a fanbase, then you could find what you’re looking for. However, there are plenty of writers posting original fiction who are struggling to find their place and, apart from requests for writing advice (to which I rarely feel qualified to give) I would say the number one question many new writers ask me, is how do you get noticed on Wattpad? How do you gain reads? How did I do it?

I’ll be honest. Usually when people ask me this, I send them in the direction of a couple of other trusted writers on the site who have penned some fantastic guides for new users. Katherine A. Ganzel has a great book called simply How to Get Reads, Votes and Comments – A Guide and Lauren Palphreyman has posted a book called 11 Ways to Wattpad Like A Pro. Everyone needs a little helping hand when they join Wattpad and trying to work out how to get off the starting line can be hugely confusing.

The short answer to these questions is: interaction is key.

I’ll never forget one user asking me to check out his work and throwing a passage from his WIP into my DM’s, and when challenged as to his method of going about getting people to read his story and what he does to interact in a more positive way with other users, he very confidently told me he ‘didn’t read’ and therefore didn’t see why he had to read other people’s work, because – I kid you not – he didn’t need to read to be a good writer. I mean, HELLO WHAT?

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Let me tell you something I do know with absolute certainty: refusing to read other writers’ work and believing you’re somehow above that kind of interaction is just plain wrong. I’ll die on this hill. Aside from sounding like a total arse, you’re also denying yourself the chance to be part of an amazing community AND gaining yourself readers along the way. When I started out on Wattpad, I was completely new to the writing community. I’d posted on here a little bit and made a few contacts via Twitter, but that was it. On joining Wattpad, I simply hoped that a few people would read my stories, but what I discovered was there was a whole world of amazing fiction that I just wanted to READ. Forget writing for one second. Put that aside, along with the terrible fiction that no doubt does exist on the site, and think about all the brilliant stories that ARE on there. The first thing I did was add a shit-tonne of books to my reading lists and began reading the ones I loved the look of the most.

Now here’s the thing – some of those writers read my books. Some didn’t. Some of the people who were also reading those writers’ books, began to read mine. Some didn’t. I discovered some of those readers were also writers and I added and read their books. And so on, and so on. It’s a never-ending circle of discovery – you find new writers you love and you gain a few readers along the way.

That kind of interaction – without agenda, just a desire to be part of a growing community of people who just fucking LOVE books was the first thing I discovered about Wattpad and it was also how I accidentally gained my first readers, some of whom are still with me today. It really is all about how much you want to get involved with the community and how much you want to put in to supporting other writers and connecting with readers who love all the same stuff that you do.

But… now here’s the other thing, and it was something I alluded to in my previous post Wattpad and The Art of Letting Go : you can read all the guides that you want, you can listen to advice and follow all the steps to the letter, but it’s no guarantee of success and certainly no guarantee of gaining the number of reads that you want. I say this with conviction, because with over 23k followers and over 6 million reads across my stories, I STILL find it hard to gain new reads. I’ve done most of the things the guides tell you to do. I’ve had successful stories. I’m part of the Wattpad Star program and this year won a Watty award. But YES, I still find it bloody difficult to gain reads.

Take Hedoschism as a prime example. It has 2 Awards under it’s belt, was the Wattpad HQ Read of the Week and was added to the Featured List, but it’s still taken me over a year to accumulate 165k reads. Now, compare that to Playing Dead which gained a million reads in the same amount of time. If you have any idea of how much time I’ve spent agonising over the slow uptake of Hedoschism and wondering why it hasn’t inspired as much reader interest as Playing Dead, I think you’d be surprised. But the truth is, I’ve really bloody agonised over it, so much so that I’ve thought about giving up at least a few times on a weekly basis and have severely doubted whether I should even stay on Wattpad as a result. Even after the Watty 2018 win, which saw very little uptake in readers, I have wondered what the heck I am doing pretending that I’m even remotely capable of writing a story that will hold a reader’s attention. (At this point, I’m completely aware some people will tell me that 165k is still a good amount of reads and there are many people who are on far less, and let me say, I understand that, but rather than focus on the figures, I’m simply making a case for the fact that just because you achieve a certain amount of reads doesn’t guarantee you the same again, and to try and prove that even those of us writers who you might think are complacent about reads or don’t care about stats, still agonise over them and doubt our own abilities just as much as anyone else.)

Rest assured, this is in no way a cry for sympathy. I don’t want that, because I know deep down that thinking in this way is complete and utter bullshit. I know it. And that’s not me blowing my own trumpet, or telling you I think I’m the dog’s danglies, because I don’t believe that either. What I am saying here is that to measure your worth as a writer by the number of reads you’re getting on Wattpad is, quite frankly, a one-way trip to Anxiety Central. Why, you might ask?

I’ll repeat what I said earlier: 65 MILLION USERS. 400 MILLION STORIES.

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Do you have any idea of the likelihood of becoming one of those lucky ones who has millions of reads and millions of followers? Or even hundreds of thousands?

Think logically about it. 65 million users across 400 million stories. Do the maths. Honestly, do it. It might make you feel a bit better.

If you’re not getting that level of reads, it does NOT mean that you’re not a good writer. It does NOT mean that the content you’re publishing is not bloody brilliant. It just means that the maths is counting against you. I know so many amazing writers who don’t get the reads I think they deserve. I know writers who didn’t get those level of reads on Wattpad, but who’ve gone on to have publishing deals, or who have self-published with great success. I’ve known writers who’ve moved to different monetising platforms and gained the traction they never had on Wattpad (disclaimer: I’m not endorsing those sites, but what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another and you gotta do what you gotta do, right?). The point is that the number of reads do not equal your self-worth as a writer nor do they validate your talent.

You want to know the key to writing on Wattpad? Start looking at realistic, personal goals and using the site to achieve those. Maybe your book doesn’t have many readers. Maybe you’re nurturing a small group of dedicated, loyal followers who’ll give you quality feedback. Maybe they’ll be the ones that help you become a better writer, offering advise and support. Maybe they’ll even become your friends – your community. This doesn’t have to be a community of thousands or even hundreds. It could be 5. It could be 20. It doesn’t matter. What matters is building your own community, while also improving your skills, and learning to be a better writer. Maybe you’re looking to try a new genre and want to test the waters? Maybe you have never posted your work online before and want to see if just one person will read it and love it? Start small. Nurture what comes out of that. HONE YOUR CRAFT (I can’t say that enough). Take care of your readers and they will take care of you. Keep those goals with you throughout your time on Wattpad. Remember what it was you set out to achieve and don’t lose sight of that.

Don’t be the writer I became. Don’t chase reads and then beat yourself up when you don’t get what you think you deserve. Don’t crave attention as validation of your art.

You are worth more than the number of your reads. 

 

 

THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

Wattpad and The Art of Letting Go

This year marked my 6th year writing on Wattpad, and, it has to be said, it’s been quite a year.

Two of my works were added to the Featured List and saw a burst of reader reaction, one was made the Wattpad HQ Read of the Week and… finally, I somehow managed to win a Watty Award for my urban fantasy standalone, Hedoschism – a win, which was likened by one lovely and very funny reader, to Leonardo Di Caprio finally winning an Oscar 😉

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It’s been a fabulous 6 years, with Playing Dead (the first instalment of The Whitechapel Chronicles) reaching the coveted #1 in the vampire hot list, my short story The Fan getting Featured and hitting #1 in the short story and horror hot lists (back in the day when you could dual-categorise your works) and 3 Wattpad Star program commissioned short pieces for both the A&E TV network and Universal. While these are a drop in the ocean compared to what some Wattpad writers have achieved, to me, these were things I never dreamed I’d accomplish, particularly back in the day where the only place I ever published any of my work was on this very blog (affectionately known as the Tumbleweed Days.)

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However, while all these things are amazing, the best thing Wattpad has ever given me are my readers.

I joke-boast quite a lot on social media about how my readers are better than everyone else’s, but in truth, I do happen to think it takes someone quite special to be a reader of mine.

I’m not an easy writer to follow.

If you read my work on Wattpad, you would have needed a bucket load of patience to put up with my sporadic updates over the years, whether you joined me for The Whitechapel Chronicles – which was a 3 year labour of love, masochism and sobbing – or for my latest work, Hedoschism – which was meant to be my ‘easy-peasy’ standalone, that I was going to crack out in a few months, but ended up taking just over a year to complete.  The thing is, I GET IT. I do. Whether you’re buying a book from the store or downloading onto your Kindle, the chances are you’re not going to take a year to read it, so why wait a whole year for a book to be completed on Wattpad? I’m not even sure I do this, so why expect it from my readers?

The short of it is, I don’t, and I totally understand why I’ve lost readers along the way. I lost some during Whitechapel and I lost more during Hedoschism. I knew it was going to happen. I don’t have the kind of lifestyle that allows me to write as regularly as I’d like and sometimes it can be 3-4 weeks before I manage to upload another chapter, so readers are bound to get fed up waiting. Of course, there are many readers who do stick it out and they make sure they are there every time I update and I’m in total awe of their patience and endurance. They’re freaking superheroes to me. Also, it’s been lovely to see readers waiting for the book to be completed before diving in and then binge-reading until they’ve finished it – I’ll never get bored of seeing that rush of votes and comments and the warm, fuzzy feeing it generates to know you’ve captivated someone so much that they’ve given up a couple of their days to read all the way to the end.

And that, is really the crux of it all for me.

After six years, I still get a kick out of reader comments and a kick out of the interaction you can have with your readers on Wattpad. You upload a chapter and you get instantaneous feedback. After spending hours and hours slogging away at your writing, to be able to upload and get that appreciation and love, is immensely gratifying. It makes you feel like all the hard work was worth it. You might not be getting paid for it, as you would do if you had just made a sale on Amazon or in the bookstore, but for most Wattpad writers, it’s not about the money anyway. You’re on Wattpad to be part of a community, to hone your craft, and ultimately, to be able to engage with your readers in a way you can’t as a published writer. For a Wattpad writer, there’s nothing quite like watching the comments and votes and reads stack up against each chapter you upload. (Of course, this is a double-edged sword for those who aren’t getting the reaction they desire and can lead to a lot of disillusionment about their work as they seek validation through reader reaction, but I’ll leave that convo for another blog post.)  

Reader reaction is addictive and it’s what saw me posting Hedoschism when I was only a very short way through writing it, despite the fact, I SWORE after finishing the Whitechapel Chronicles that I wouldn’t post anything new until I was about 25-30 chapters in. Writing the third and last book of Whitechapel became a slog. The pressure of knowing I needed to update to keep my readers engaged meant that I struggled to write, and when I did, the quality took a nose dive or I would binge-write 5000 words in one day and then spend the next 2 weeks exhausted and sick of the sight of my own manuscript. In truth, writing online serialised fiction is not the healthiest way to write when you need to stick to a decent schedule. I found it harder and harder to dive back into my work each time I updated and it was much easier to lose interest and fall out of love with my story. Procrastination becomes a preferred past-time and I became a bit of an expert at it.

When I started Hedoschism, I promised myself I wouldn’t put myself through that kind of writing experience again. I was going to wait. I was going to work offline and then upload only when I had a significant chunk completed, but then, the inevitable happened.

I went through a Wattpad-reader withdrawal.

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Comments and reaction on Whitechapel had started to dry up as readers completed the series and I was left with… well, not much happening, if I’m being honest. Suddenly, I craved the attention again. I wanted to know that I hadn’t disappeared into the void and become a Ghost of Wattpad Past. And, much like social media junkies, I feared becoming irrelevant. Invisible. I worried I’d be forgotten and that when I did finally decide to upload a new work, no one would even care anymore. So, what did I do? Well, I made the fatal mistake of uploading a few chapters and plunging myself right back into the mire of feeling the pressure to update, knowing I couldn’t keep up with any kind of schedule and generally feeling miserable again about my writing.

I love Wattpad. I do. I appreciate everything I’ve achieved there. I appreciate every opportunity HQ have given me. I appreciate every single reader who takes time out of their day to support me, whether they’re vocal or silent. But, the sad facts are, that I have to learn the art of letting go of the buzz of instantaneous reader reaction. I have to let go of my addiction to it. If I am to do anything with my writing, I have to devote time to it. I have to nurture it a bit more. If I am to continue on Wattpad, I have to upload stories in a way my readers deserve and that means regular updates and a more dedicated schedule. I want to be in a position where I can say, ‘here you go, here’s a chapter and there’ll be another tomorrow and then another the next day.’

And, so, I’ve decided – with a bit of a heavy heart – that I’m going to take a step back and write my next full-length piece completely offline. I have a queue of ideas I am desperate to start working on, including one that’s been on the back-burner for months now, plus a couple of genre-swap stories that I fancy trying my hand at. I’m not withdrawing from Wattpad – I could never go completely cold-turkey – as I’m still going to post a few bonus chapters and maybe some short stories here and there, but there won’t be another novel until it’s done and dusted offline and ready to post in its entirety.

I’m hoping – praying – that this will kick start an increase in productivity and will help me fall back in love with the writing process again. I know it’s not going to be easy. Like I said, my readers ARE the best (and this is the hill that I’ll die on) and Wattpad is an addiction I’ve had for 6 years, but I’m determined to be a better writer and provide better content.

If you’re one of my readers, I love you – thank you for an incredible 6 years so far!

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THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

Writing sprints, running shoes and a having nice lie down.

We writers love to talk about word counts, don’t we?

Whether we’re bonding together during sprints with rally cries of ‘500’, ‘1000’ or ‘yeah, ten, just ten’, or going it alone with self-congratulatory statements worthy of a one-page ad in The Times about our 10k marathons, we LOVE talking about how much we’ve managed to churn out.

And why not? Writing is hard, man.

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Ten words or ten thousand words makes no difference when each one feels like you’re giving birth to a tiny baby idea, that’s probably going to throw up on you about five times before you’re done and chuck a spoonful of mashed banana at your face.

Writing an online serial is particularly hard, as Wattpad writers like me know only too well. You write something. Upload a chapter. People like it (if you’re lucky). People want you to upload more chapters. That’s kind of how it all works.

Now, if you’re smart, you’ll have pushed out that baby before you start uploading. And I don’t mean just the head, I’m talking about the whole thing, right down to the cute little feet (yeah, yeah, I know I’ m stretching this a bit far now). But if you’re not smart, or perhaps just a glutton for punishment, you’ll write a chapter, upload it, write a chapter, upload, feel a bit smug that you’re winning at this Wattpad shit, get hit in the smug face by life and then… nothing.

Hours stretch into days, days into weeks and meanwhile, back in the world of Wattpad, your readers have jumped ship and hailed a passing reliable writer with a lifeboat that’s going full speed and ain’t stopping until it’s done.

No prizes for guessing which kind of writer I am.

I always have good intentions to be the smart writer. I really do. In fact, at the beginning of every new WIP, I swear that I’m going to be that kind of writer and it all starts off great, but it’s not long until life smacks me a good one and I’m left waving at all my readers as they speed away to a life full of regular updates from those more reliable writers with the snazzy boats.

I’ve sort of come to a natural acceptance that this is the norm for me, and won’t ever change as I’m busy juggling a job, a daily London commute, a house, family etc and that’s perfectly okay. That’s just life for most of us, right?

But, I am starting to wonder whether I can make things easier on myself.

My daily writing routine is virtually non-existent. I don’t always get the chance to write every day so there’s no routine, no schedule, no event in my diary to sit down and devote my time entirely to just churning out those words. What I do tend to do, is wait until the weekend and then I’ll don my running shoes and slog through a marathon of writing, which usually culminates in a 2am bleary-eyed update. 5 hours of sleep follow and then I’m awake again, thinking WTF happened last night, as if I’ve been on a 24-hour piss-up and have woken up not quite knowing how I managed to get home.

This happens on average every couple of weeks. I’ll run a marathon session and churn out (here’s that word count rally cry!) 5-6k and then I’m left so exhausted from it all that I can’t bring myself to touch the MS for a week or two. I allow myself to procrastinate. In fact, I bloody rejoice in it, because it’s the easiest way to avoid writing again, or avoid thinking about writing, and that all comes down to the fact that marathons just drain me. I don’t just sprint. I run. And then I have a nice lie down.

Now 5-6k doesn’t seem something to sniff at. It’s a good volume of words. In the world of Wattpad, where shorter chapters are popular, 5-6k is practically WINNING.

Only it doesn’t really feel like winning to me when it’s like a never-ending cycle of running yourself into writing oblivion every couple of weeks. It doesn’t feel particularly productive or even a healthy way to write. It feels harder. Now of course, many of my (kinder) readers would tell me that’s just pressure I’m putting on myself and that they’ll wait as long as it takes and celebrate whether it’s 2k or 6k and I love them for it, I really do, but if I’m being real honest, the facts speak for themselves.

As each week goes by and updates become less frequent, reads can decrease quite significantly and have done with my latest work Hedoschism. I’ve even had some readers tell me, without malice or agenda I might add, that they didn’t finish my previous series because they struggled with my sporadic updates. I get that. I understand it. Because, you know, snazzy life boats and shit. Reliability. Continuity. We want that in our Wattpad writers. We want to know they aren’t going to leave us stranded without a ride back to shore.

I want to update more often, but most of all I want to write more often. What’s that phrase? Less is more. I don’t want to kill myself every time I write a chapter. I don’t particularly want to churn out 5-6k words in one sitting, because there’s nothing celebratory about that if I can’t even bring myself to open the MS for a week afterwards. And so, I’m going to try and make some small changes. Even if the updates don’t yet come more frequently, I would at least like to be more productive with the time that I do have and not end each writing session viewing my MS like it’s a dead animal that needs poking with a stick to see if it really is dead or whether it might suddenly open its eyes like the cliched ending of a B-grade horror film.

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I’m going to try and go for that whole less is more mantra. Sprints. Not marathons. I’m going to keep the running shoes, but I’m going to resist that nice lie down afterwards and just keep writing.

Say it with me. Less is more. Less is more. Convincing, right?

 

 

 

Wattpad

The Open Novella Contest – Interviews

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I was honoured recently to be asked to take part in an interview with the @CoffeeCommunity profile on Wattpad, all in aid of the fantastic Open Novella Contest – a multi-genre contest to write a 20k novella. The contest has been a huge hit so far, with hundreds of entries and is being featured by multiple profiles across the site, with a chance to win big prizes, including signed books, e-books and the chance to have your story critiqued/polished by experts. The @CoffeeCommunity profile have been reaching out to various Wattpad Stars, Ambassadors, Watty Award Winners and emerging talent, to ask them about their writing process, editing, inspiration and top tips and I was thrilled to be included in the list of some amazing, inspiring Wattpadders.

Hi, Lindsey, thank you for taking the time to get involved with the Open Novella Contest on Wattpad. It’s great to hear from authors like yourself and get to know a little bit about what motivates you to write longer works of fiction.

LC: You’re very welcome! Thank you so much for asking me to join in on the fun and good luck to everyone participating in the contest!

So, to begin, tell us a little bit about yourself as an author on Wattpad. For anyone who hasn’t met you before, how would you describe your fiction?

LC: I’ve been writing on Wattpad now for about five years. My short story The Fan was Featured about three years ago, which is when it pretty much blew up for me and I really started to get noticed, and not long after that I was asked to join the Wattpad Partnership Program (now known as Wattpad Stars) which enabled my work to be paired with brands such as Universal Pictures and the A&E TV network in the States. Somehow along the way I’ve managed to achieve almost 7 million reads across my combined works, including over 2 million alone for my #1 Featured novel, Playing Dead. I’m probably best known for my urban fantasy novels and have two series’s on Wattpad, the very amateur Dark Sanctuary, and the hopefully less amateur The Whitechapel Chronicles, plus I’ve recently started a new UF standalone Hedoschism. I would describe my fiction as dark fantasy with a disturbing edge. My first love was horror fiction, so if you’re looking for a sizzling urban fantasy read, don’t be too surprised if I throw a few unsettling and gut-churning moments your way! I love to take fantasy elements and entrench them into a real setting, whether that be vampires living in the underbelly of modern-day London or spider-eating Grandma’s picking victims at county fairs in the Deep South. 

Writing for sustained periods is a hurdle that every writer, beginner or experienced, faces from time to time. What powers you through those longer bursts of creativity and keeps you focused?

LC: Goodness, great question and I wish I had some secret formula to reveal to all those budding writers out there, but the truth is I am the WORST procrastinator, particularly when writing novels, which can be mammoth projects to undertake. Writing a novel or indeed, a series, can be a hugely daunting thing, especially when you’re desperate for it to take off like a firework, rather than fizzle away like a damp squib, and the tendency to lose focus is something that still haunts me with every project. It’s easier to give up than it is to keep writing. One thing I have discovered recently and would advise to anyone who, like me, has the uncontrollable urge to give up and procrastinate instead, is this: TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Hide it in your underwear drawer. Let the battery run down to zero. Throw it into an oubliette. Okay, maybe don’t do that, but, if you’re a big social media fan or get distracted by the internet, ditch the damn phone. Phones are a serious risk to creativity, social media is the path to Hell and Hell is a place where people post pictures of their dogs wearing Halloween costumes, where ordinary citizens become raving lunatics and where Trump hangs out when he’s not at the golf course. Seriously. Turn off the phone and just write. I did this recently and was shocked at how much I wrote in just a few hours. For me, it’s definitely going to be the way forward to boosting my creativity and productivity.

What top tips would you advise for getting a novella or a longer piece of fiction off the starting line? What kind of story developments motivate you to see it through to the end?

LC: Now, this is an interesting question because five years ago, I would have just said wing it, sit down and start writing and see where it takes you. I did that with my first series, Dark Sanctuary, but to be fair, I think the disastrous consequences of that is evident in the story itself. These days, things are a little different. Every writer is unique, so I’m kind of loath to tell anyone to do this or do that, but I don’t write anything now without at least some semblance of a plan. For me, getting a novella or novel off the starting line, is all about being able to see the finish line in the distance and know exactly where I’m heading. I start by plotting my first and last chapters and then it’s about how to arc the story through from start to finish. Sounds easy when I say it like that, and of course, it’s not easy at all and things will always change as I’m writing, but I find that having a plan is invaluable, as is fleshing out your characters before you start. You can’t write a novel if you don’t know who your characters are. What do they look like? How do they move/walk/gesture? How do they speak (a good tip here is to ensure they all sound different so that if you removed dialogue tags, would your reader know who was talking – try it, it works, honest!)? What’s their back story (you don’t have to tell your readers this straight away, but it’s important that YOU know)? Get your characters and plot bedded down and you’re ready to don your running shoes and get off that starting line like the Mo Farah of the literary world. 

How much do you edit on the fly? Or do you prefer to edit after you’ve finished the initial draft?

LC: Oh, I edit ALL THE DAMN TIME. I can’t actually move on to writing the next chapter without re-reading and editing the previous one. I haven’t quite decided whether it’s actually a failing of mine that I do this, or whether it’s a good thing to strive for perfection, but it doesn’t seem to be a habit I’ll ever be able to break. I must admit, however, that sometimes I think it cripples me a little in that I struggle to just sit down and keep writing, because I’m too focused on editing a previous chapter. Trust me when I say that every Wattpad chapter I upload has been through a gruelling journey of at least five-ten edits before I post, which is probably why it takes me so bloody long to write a book!

Personally, what kind of novella — be it any style, theme, or genre — would you like to see emerge from the Open Novella Contest?

LC: I’m going to forgo the whole question of theme or genre, because to be fair, I am obviously a big fan of anything paranormal/fantasy/horror, but to me, that’s not the most important thing here and these days, I’m discovering I’ll read just about anything as long as the writing is good. What I would like to see are brave writers. Writers who, no matter what genre they chose, are brave enough to buck trends and not strive for the popularity route, writers who dare to be individuals. Wattpad is a place where trend and popularity is key and I see many wannabe writers falling into the trap of chasing popularity by churning out clone fiction of what they think is popular, I also see well-established writers switching genres or writing particular themes, because they want to chase the reads and capture a certain audience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be popular and gain reads, but if you’re going to do it, do it by being yourself. Be daring with your novel, be willing to push boundaries, challenge your readers. I want to see brave fiction by brave writers!

Lastly, because we’re always curious… What was your first ever experience with the power of the written language?

LC: Okay, this is probably going to sound weird, particularly as I don’t even remember the name of the poet or the poem itself, but I remember reading a poem in the school library when I was a kid that has NEVER left me to this day. The poem was about a boy who hated the moths that came into his bedroom at night, and I vividly recall the part where the moth forced its way into his mouth, which yeah, is a pretty damn freaky poem to be hanging around in a school library, and absolutely contributed to my life-long fear of moths and my life-long love of horror. I’ve never forgotten that poem. I’ve never forgotten how petrified I was, but how utterly fascinated I was by it at the same time. To me, that’s the ultimate power of the written language – poetry or fiction that pulls you in, captivates you and stays with you for your whole life.

It’s been great hearing from you, Lindsey, and thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge in storytelling.

Best wishes in your future endeavours from the Open Novella Team.

Find the interview here plus interviews with other wonderful Wattpadders.

Wattpad

5 Reasons I’m Looking Forward To London WattCon 2016

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In 2014, Wattpad held their first London WattCon. I went, and it was so much fun, so of course I had to go to the next one the following year! This Saturday (3rd December, from 11:30 to 17:00), I am attending the London WattCon 2016, and I am infinitely excited. Jess (bookendsandendings) is also a Wattpad ambassador, and is needed slightly earlier, so I’m going with her to help set up.

I used to be completely obsessed with Wattpad. In fact, I used to have a story up on there that reached 10k reads before I unpublished it (it was a story I’d started writing aged 12, I’m sure you can understand why I wanted it deleted from the internet). Now I just like to read on it when I have time, but I still think it’s an amazing platform and love going along and joining in with…

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Short Stories · Wattpad

Everything Will Be Dark / The Returned

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A second blog post from me in two days….I know, right? I’m clearly high on Easter eggs and Ben-Hur.

A couple of months ago, one of the lovely people from Wattpad HQ contacted me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a story inspired by the A&E television network’s new series, The Returned.

‘We need about 15,000 words,’ they said. ‘And we’ll need weekly instalments every week for four weeks. You’ll be asked to sign a contract and if you don’t meet all the contractual agreements, we’ll send the boys round to cut off body parts and stick your head on a pike.’

Okay, so the last bit might be a lie and I might just have been watching too much Game of Thrones, but to be fair, being asked to write to order, seemed almost like putting my head on the block. I was about to start writing the third book in my Wattpad series The Whitechapel Chronicles AND I was pretty stressed out at work and the last thing I needed was to put myself under any additional pressure.

‘We’ll pay you!’ Wattpad said.

‘SHOW ME THE MONEY, you crazy Canadians!’ I replied with gusto. Yes. Gusto.

And so, I found myself signing up for my first PAID writing job. AND they were going to pay me in actual real money. REAL MONEY. Not that Monopoly stuff my older brother used to pretend was real money when we were kids (and that he used to steal from the bank whenever we played – YES, I STILL REMEMBER THAT BROTHER!)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not all about the dosh. I’ve been more than happy to write for free on Wattpad for the past three years but to get the opportunity to earn a one-off salary for writing a 15,000 word short story, well, I wasn’t about to turn that down.

Not only that, but the story itself was to be commissioned by the A&E Network and that was an opportunity I knew I’d be insane to turn down.

I’m sure many people think it must be easy to write knowing you’re going to get paid for it, right? WRONG. It was hellish. I struggled with every chapter. The pressure was immense. The first chapter went down really well and then the pressure built to the point where I might have cried a little. Okay, I may have even sobbed. I almost missed the final deadline. The final chapter screwed with readers heads so I sobbed some more. It wasn’t pretty. All in all, it was much, much tougher than I ever imagined it would be.

But…if asked, I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Call me a masochist, if you will, but I really would. And no, not just because of the money (although getting paid for creating stories is always a bonus) but because it was an experience I will never forget and one that I was really proud to be involved in. I was honoured to be asked by Wattpad because to me, it meant the great powers at HQ knew who I was and trusted me enough as a writer to do a decent job. On a site with 35 million users, it’s not easy to get noticed. But somehow that’s what happened, and now my story entitled Everything Will be Dark has amassed close to 90,000 reads, which is way more than most of my other short stories, barring The Fan and it reached the top three in the mystery/thriller list.

If you fancy checking out just what made me sob like a baby for four weeks, here it is.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/32744515

Thank you,

Linz xxx