Sunday, April 9, 2017

Four weeks of Wattpad, one day of Scribophile

On March 4, 2017, I joined Wattpad.

I'm a month older now, and my life still sucks 😊 On the other hand, I actually wrote 40 to 50 thousand words. (After several rewrites I'm probably 30% into my first novel, yeah!)


Statistics

    Title: Have Hat Will Travel
    Online since: March 14, 2017
    Chapters: 12 (published)
    Size: 39369 words (including unpublished chapters, notes and comments)
    Reads: 447
    Votes: 11
    Rank: SciFi #207


Was it worth it?

I haven't got a clue! But in a way... yes. If only to force myself to write a novel. Been there, done that, you know the drill.

I did learn some things though...


Popularity contest

Wattpad is nothing but a popularity contest. It's not about writing, it is about reading and being read.

There are some free, good books to be found, but you have to look hard. There are some great ideas, but they may not be properly worked out.

It's a great place to be though to if you're a girl who wants to read and share all about unanswered love. And bad boys. And vampires. Brrrrrr.


How to get reads?

I'm not the expert (and with only 400+ reads to my name, you shouldn't even be reading my tips!) but here's my plan to achieve world domination... and #1 on Wattpad...

(At the time of writing I did not even pass 500 😞)
  1. Decide what is important
  2. Proofread every step
  3. Write your profile
  4. Pick a genre
  5. Choose a concept / subject
  6. Choose a title and the right tags
  7. Create a blurb
  8. Create a cover
  9. Write a good introduction chapter or prologue
  10. Write several chapters
  11. Work on the quality of your writing
  12. Become active in the forum (clubs)
  13. Make regular updates
  14. Interact with your readers
    (Read on for more detailed instructions.)


Note: whenever you read your own story that also seem to count as a read. And you will read your own story to look for mistakes, comments, and bask in that feeling of having actually accomplished something... so, just assume half your reads are your own until you pass the 10k or so 😊


1. Decide how important the number of reads is to you.

Are you writing to get as many followers and readers as possible, or because you have an interesting story to tell, or simply like to write about something specific? It makes a world of difference, and there's nothing wrong with either choice. So decide:

A. Highest number of reads, whatever it takes.

B. Highest number of reads, but staying (somewhat) true to yourself.

There's no 'best' choice, but it's an important one. (It's still nice to have a decent number of readers, if not only for your ego, but also because it will provide some feedback on your work.)


2. Proofread every step and stop

You do not have to be a grammar Nazi, and your work doesn't have to be flawless, but at least make sure your sentences start with a capital letter, end with a period, and have commas etcetera in all the right places.

When in doubt read aloud!

Also, you just might want to make sure everything has seen a spellchecker... No reader will bite if your profile, your blurb, your first chapter looks like the product of a kid from first year primary, whose native language was French. (Charming, perhaps, but not an excuse to skip the spellchecker.)

A. For the winners: well, your target audience doesn't care too much about an individual typo, as long as there is enough swagger and swoon.

B. If you want to have decent feedback, why not fix any glaring issues yourself before bothering others?

Would you read someone else's poorly edited, rambling prose, full of editing mistakes, non existing grammar and missing punctuation? No? Have you checked your own work?


3. Write a good profile

Readers like to know something about you (even if it isn't true). They will see your profile when looking for your other works. They may see your profile as the first add when reading your book. You don't want to scare them away.

Reconsider your profile picture. If you look exactly like a supermodel, then use that supermodel picture you've been saving for an occasion like this.

Privacy

You have to decide for yourself if you want to use a real image of yourself, and how much of your personal information you would like to become public knowledge. Be a bit careful with email addresses, websites, Facebook names and so on. Perhaps a little anonymity may suit you well later on.

A. Six packs attract. So do goth looks.

B. You were probably thinking about a six pack of beer, weren't you? Bad boy!


4. Pick your genre

A. If it is important to reach the stars, then start writing either teen fiction or romance novels. If that is what you were planning to do anyway, good for you! (Just look in the 'hot' list and check out the most popular genres.

B. All the other categories? Meh. Forget about ever reaching that #1 spot.

(Take all of this with a grain of salt. I think Wattpad is great, but I will allow myself to make a joke or two about its workings.)


5. Choose a concept / subject

What is the story you want to write? Is it about love? Glorious adventure? Small town life? The flat tire of your grandmother's neighbour? You decide.

A. Obviously, with the majority of the readers teen girls, you would opt for romance and love.

B. Any other topic. I guess flat tires won't be popular though...

POV and tense

Once you have reached this stage you also want to decide on form and tense, and you probably want to make sure you stick to that form or tense... Check out the Internet for explanation and examples, just make sure you stick to a specific format...
  • First person
  • Third person single
  • Third person omni
  • Present tense
  • Past tense

Format and chapter length

Writing for Wattpad is different from writing a normal book. Most books are read on a small screen (mobile) so anything you write feels 'different' when compared with regular print. This doesn't only affect page layout, paragraphing, and sentence length, but also chapter size.

Wattpad advises 2000 to 2500 words per chapter, but I've noticed that the most popular books seem to have smaller chapters than that.

A. Going for number 1? 1000 to 1500 words per chapter.

B. Whatever works best for you, I still would suggest not to make the chapters overly large (< 3500 words) but it is your choice.

Don't make chapters too short or too long. Too short chapters and readers get annoyed because of all those commercials, too long and you might lose the reader, it's probably better to put in a few cliffhangers here and there so they will return to you.


6. Choose a title and the right tags

Title

A good title will stand out...

Your options:

A. Boy, love, anything that triggers some emotion.

B. Take your pick. Sharp, mysterious titles still score better.

It seems a typical cliche title may attract more readers, even if it makes your book stand out less. Weird, I know. I guess people want to be surprised, and at the same time still want to get more of the same.

Tags

Wattpad uses tags to help readers find (similar) stories. I'm not sure if these are used for anything else, but if you pick the right tags your story has a better chance to be discovered.


7. Create a blurb

Very, very important. Create a blurb and a summary. Most potential readers will first see the title, then the book cover, perhaps click on it, and then read the blurb. This is the moment you will hook them or loose them.

Work on that blurb. Make it as perfect as you can. I prefer blurbs to give me some information without going into details, using the following format:
  • ATTRACTOR
  • Hook
  • Description

Using my own blurb as an example:

    THEY CALL HER THE SPACE WITCH.
    And now they want her dead.
    Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla... more bla bla.


With so many unfinished stories on Wattpad I actually like it if people add something in front of their blurb, just to save me some frustration:

    In progress, updated weekly
    THEY CALL HER THE SPACE WITCH.
    And now they want her dead.
    Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla... more bla bla.


It's all a matter of taste, I know.

A. Absolutely say something about unanswered love, a new start, the boy at school. Gosh, you people going for number one have it easy!

B. Hook them. Find something that would pique the reader's interest. Ask yourself: what would make that jaded reader pick out your story over all those other stories?


8. Create a cover

Create a good cover. Have a good cover created. Make it match your story.

The cover is the first thing most people see. Boring cover? Reader gone.

I'm not even going to show you my covers. They are probably sufficient reason to scare potential readers away, and those that overcome the shock will only last until the second chapter...


9. Write a good introduction chapter or prologue

This is a matter of taste. You could do this, or not. I think you should, though.

If you have a greater plan the reader should be aware of, then this is the place to put it to writing. For example:

"I am a member of the book club 'allromanceloversmustjoin'. This is the first book I ever wrote. I am still writing. I plan to write seven books, I am now at chapter two. It is a bit long but I promise it gets better later on. It is about a young girl who is cheated by her boyfriend, in a post apocalyptic world. She then falls in love with the bad boy of a senior class, who turns out to be the son of a magician. She then discovered she is actually the daughter of a billionaire and is asked to save the world from the evil company that killed her parents. She must then choose between her love and saving the world. Yes. You will all be my slaves. No PokΓ©mon were harmed in the writing of this book. If you follow me I will follow you back. Oh, and also read the pretty from my friend, it is very good! Kisses!!!"

Or something similar. (Did you notice how I squeezed world domination in there?)


10. Write several chapters (in advance)

You want to have some chapters ready. What if a reader thinks the cover looks good, the blurb is great, but finds out there is nothing to read? Bye bye reader.

Buffer

If you plan to use a regular update schedule, consider having some chapters ready in advance, ie. you've already written your stuff, spellchecked it, but you haven't published it yet.

Now if you're a weekend out, overloaded with work, sick, or simply too much in love to write a single paragraph, then you can just post what you have and keep your regular customers happy. If any.

You can asks skip the buffer thing and do what you like. I do. But then, I have no customers to keep happy. A good thing too, because that would distract me from writing my other six books. And poetry.


11. Work on the quality of your writing

Yes, things like spelling, grammar, but also flow, dialogue, pacing. The story may be great in your mind, and your first write-up feels just right. Then a day later you spot the plot-holes, the inconsistencies, the spelling errors, the stupid mistakes in tense or person...

Proofread

Proofread yourself. And have your text checked by others.

The best way is to find like-minded individuals, and exchange paragraphs / stories / feedback. Use the Wattpad clubs, or sites like Scribophile, or friends. Harsh but honest critiques are the best (even when they might hurt).

Scribophile

Scribophile takes critiques to a complete new level. It doesn't focus on reading but on writing, and thus is a very different beast than Wattpad. I suggest wannabe authors with a certain minimum level to check it out. Some of the critiques are pretty darn good and will help you improve your writing. It's very time consuming though, so perhaps not for the average fun writer...

Stop endless tinkering

Your writing is never good enough, but sometimes you have to stop tinkering. As a rule of thumb:
  1. Don't post your first draft.
  2. Never let rewrites slow you down.
  3. Endless tinkering means the chapter is wrong. Delete it and try again.

The danger of updates

Too many updates (of older chapters) will annoy readers, so as a rule of thumb only update one or more older chapters just before you add a new chapter to your story. It also seems to reduce the number of notifications send out.

Synchronization issues

Be aware! The web-version and the app-version both have some issues with synchronizing updates, so readers might simply not get a newer version, unless they delete app data or refresh their browser. You may want to tell them.

Fixing sync issues is easy.

When using a browser on a PC: hit Shift + Refresh, or clear your cache

On an Android device: go to Android Settings / Apps / Wattpad / Storage, and Clear Data. This will force Wattpad to reload everything in your library. You will have to log in again.


12. Get noticed

You've taken all appropriate steps, but when is your book showing up in the suggestions? That depends.

Score

Each book receives a score, and how that score is calculated is Wattpad's secret. We can only guess. But the higher the score, the more often your book will be shown in all sorts of lists.

As far as I can tell, the score is based upon:
  • the number of reads
  • the number of votes
  • the number of chapters / words (not sure about this one)
  • the kind of tags (not sure about this one either)
  • the frequency of your updates
  • your activity inside the clubs
  • the number of followers
  • being listed in (public) reading lists, or in people's libraries
  • the number of posts in clubs
  • the number of comments received and replied to
  • how many times you are referred to in clubs (not sure, but this was suggested by someone, it would make good sense, but not everything on Wattpad makes good sense)
  • ...
  • the position of the moon and stars? (just joking, just no one but Wattpad knows how the score is calculated)

Sadly, the following aspects do not seem to matter, unfortunately...
  • if a story is complete or not
  • how old a story is
  • the number of recent reads / comments / updates / other activities

Which means that some very old stories are still listed at the top of the 'hot' lists. Well, they have the most 'reads' but I don't think that is what most people consider 'hot'... Oh well.

But however it is calculated, it jumps around and sometimes the send to be no relation to your activities... For all I know it could be poorly random...

Clubs

So, to increase that score you have to become active in the clubs. Pick one or more topics and participate.

Note that the clubs are not a real forum. You cannot search, refer, and tracking posts is almost impossible. It's a free for all kind of chat, but it can still be a lot of fun.

Participation will increase your score it seems. And anyway, interacting with other authors and readers to increase the quality of writing is never a bad idea.

Weird thing? You cannot participate in the clubs using the app?!? Wattpad is a very strange beast, after all. Some things can only be done on the web, others only through the app.


13. Make regular updates

Pick a schedule and stick to it. Create a buffer if possible.

Returning readers means more reads. More posts mean a higher score. The higher the score the more exposure, the more exposure the more reads.

Forcing yourself to a schedule also has another advantage: it makes you more productive. At least it did that for me.

A. The most successful writers seem to update their stories once or twice a week. Use the begin or end of your chapter to inform your readers about the next update.

B. I would suggest once a week. If you are irregular, tell your audience in the preface / introduction or in your profile.

There is nothing wrong in writing a good book/ story and taking your time to do so. Perhaps even more so if you are not driven by the number of reads...


14. Interact with your readers

Ask and answer questions, listen to suggestions, check out any reported problems with your works.

Of course, you may have to slow down a bit once you have a few million readers...

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