Top Ten Tips to Starting Out on Wattpad

Wattpad is a writer/reader platform, like a YouTube for stories. There are around 45 million users, so if you are a writer, looking for a home for your work – it could be right up your street.

I joined Wattpad in 2011 and since then I’ve posted 3 short stories, 2 novels and a collection of essays, and had over 2.4 million reads of my work. These are my top ten tips to starting out.

  1. Have a read

The first thing I would recommend is something all writers are good at – grab a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy a good read. There’s all sorts of stuff on there. The majority of the users are female teens, so there’s plenty YA. The Romance and Fantasy genres are strong but there’s also loads of other stuff such as Sci-Fi, Historical and Poetry. Hopefully there’ll be something that will float your boat. There’s an app if you like reading on your phone.

  1. Have a wee think about it

I would definitely recommend, once you’ve had a look, having a wee think about whether this is the right move for you, for this stage in your career. Remember, you aren’t getting paid for the work you post so if you feel you are at a stage where your work ought to be selling, another route may be preferable such as self-publishing on Amazon or any of the other self-publishing platforms there are out there. However, if you are starting out, and you want to practice writing, and put a bit of pressure on yourself by knowing your work will be out there and being read, then Wattpad is a good option.

  1. Post your work – eek

This bit can be scary. You’re putting your heart on the line, you’re revealing your work to the world. To do this, mechanically speaking it is easy enough – you sign up for the website then go to where it says ‘Works’ then ‘New Story’ and away you go. However it may not be so easy on an emotional level. I know, I’ve been there. I remember the battle that raged in my mind between ‘do it!’ and ‘don’t do it!’ If ‘do it!’ wins, and you go ahead and post, you will officially be out there and your work will be available for the entire planet to read.

  1. Persist

One thing I will say is this. Thousands of hits on your story will probably not flood in from the first moment you post. No one may read it, apart from yourself and your boyfriend. Your boyfriend may not even read it. I was able to count the number of followers I had on one hand for the entire first year I was on Wattpad, and that included my own mother and my auntie. That state of affairs continued for what seemed like ages, where my read numbers were very low and my followers close to zero. However, I did keep going and now there are thousands of followers, the reads of my work just keep going up and I barely have time to answer all the comments and messages I receive every day.

  1. Interact

It is a good idea to interact with the other people who are on Wattpad and not take a ‘too cool for school’ attitude. People are there for the community as well as the stories. So it helps if you reach out to others, read their work, genuinely comment and get involved. However, there’s no need to spend so much time doing this you don’t actually write anything.

  1. You could get Featured

At some point whilst I was posting my first novel, the Wattpad staff contacted me and asked me if it could become one of their Featured works. This was a great opportunity because it meant that once the book was finished it was entered onto a page which is home to some of the best works on the website. This gave a good boost to my exposure. I’d say the reason I got this is because I was writing the best work I could at that time and I was writing regularly.

  1. Craftwork

Writing is very much a craft and it takes hours and hours and hours (and hours!) to become a master of it. Wattpad is a good place to do this – it provides an interesting framework for you to work in whilst you dedicatedly hammer your craft. The more you write, the more you improve and if you publically announce you will be posting a chapter a week it keeps you accountable to an audience, no matter how small, and forces you to write, even on those days when hiding under a duvet is a much preferable option.

  1. Know you readers

Steven Spielberg says that in his early days as a director his audience were everything to him, and he constantly strove to know them and to thrill and excite them. Wattpad allows you to know what parts of your work are hitting home, what parts of your work are resonating with your audience. You can also learn to take criticism, and how to take praise too.

  1. Become a Star

Those writers who do gain a lot of traction may be invited to become ‘Wattpad Stars’. These guys are the ones with the most followers and reads, and they can be invited to take part in paid projects with major TV networks and film studios. I was commissioned to write a short story for USA Network to promote the launch of a new TV show. Things are constantly changing on Wattpad and there are new opportunities to be had. You may also receive a free t-shirt like I did. Who doesn’t like free t-shirts?

  1. Find your team

Most writers write alone. But they don’t reach success alone. They do that with help – whether that’s from friends, family, agents, publishers, whoever. There’s some kind of a team alongside every great writer, even if it’s just a long-suffering husband, wife or pet dog. Posting stories on Wattpad can be a great way of finding your gang. When you post, you can promote your work on your Facebook page, or your twitter or wherever. Certain people you already know will take an interest, they will read your work and they will support you. Not everyone. In fact people you thought would support you, may ignore your efforts entirely, but no matter, because the handful that rise up to support you – those are the gems, those are the people you can have with you, all the way to the top.

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My feelings about Lemonade

My good pals Fran Perbohner and Sophia Fraser told me that I had to watch the visual album, Lemonade by Beyoncé. Sophia is a big time Beyoncé fangirl and they told me to watch it weeks ago. However I never got round to it. I liked and respected Beyoncé a lot (who doesn’t?) but I wasn’t a hardcore fan.

However, yesterday Fran insisted that I watch it and so I did and I told her I would write a blog post expressing my feelings about the album, whether I liked it or not. So here we are. My feelings about Lemonade!

I think I didn’t want to watch it because I had heard that it was about Jay Z cheating on Beyoncé. With them having a little child and it being Beyoncé (the thought that any man could cheat on her is depressing to me), I found that to be off-putting. Which is naughty of me really because I should know, well, I do know that a lot of art, if not all art on a fundamental level, comes from the artist’s experience, their life. But I think in this case it was somehow just too close to home because I already know the characters involved.

You could say Adele does the exact same thing, she writes songs about her own personal heartbreak. And that is raw and wonderful and relatable. However I’m not actually familiar with the guy that dumped Adele, prompting her to write 21. I didn’t really know anything about Adele before that so there were quite a few degrees of separation that made the work safer. Much safer than watching work about a family I already know, admire and support in my own way.

So yeah. I also think it doesn’t help that the initial introduction to Lemonade was in that very tabloid ‘Jay Z cheated’ way – this is how I first heard of it online. Because now I’ve seen the work I would say that the cheating is just one part of it, a catalyst to a much more epic communication that spans history, culture and music.

And that’s the thing that startled me the most when I watched and listened to this album. That from one woman’s personal experience could come an exploration of the entirety of womanhood, the entirety of race, the entirety of a nation. And more!

I have a newfound reverence (not even respect, reverence!) for Beyoncé after this, for a lot of different reasons. She risked something. Possibly almost everything. Her career, her family, a lot of stuff. And she did it anyway. I feel like she knew it would work and I feel like many people thought that it wouldn’t.

But she forged on anyway. She could have gone down in flames, and the unbelievable pressure that it must have put on her family… How do you have that conversation? Husband, I know you cheated on me but I want to make a huge visual album about it. And please can you be in it with me? It’ll be brill, promise!

That’s the thing isn’t it? What I learnt from this album artistically is that it isn’t about the idea. It is about the execution. This is a breath-taking example of someone coming up with an idea and then battling the living daylights out of it. We can all come up with ideas right? …I’m going to make a film about a racing car driver who lives large and dies on the track… I’m going to make a music video featuring girls dressed as tortoises… God, ideas are ten a penny, good, bad, ugly, whatever. But the execution is the thing. Given the time and expertise and passion both those ideas could turn out to be amazing. They could also turn out to be abysmal.

And that’s what Beyoncé embodies. From the original idea of – I’m going to make an album about this pain I feel about my husband cheating, it has grown and grown and grown and grown some more! I knew we weren’t only going to be finding out about Beyoncé’s troubles when imagery of some kind of colonial plantation house came up and we get these unbelievably beautiful images of black women… And that’s just the start. It becomes about more ideas, more music, more references than I can possibly keep up with.

On a personal level it spoke to me in a way that genuinely made me change, like actually change, the way I think of my own life. I wasn’t excited to watch it because it wasn’t a palatable subject matter to me. And I think this is what happens in life. And I think it explains some things that have happened in my own life.

When I went through a difficult time when I had my first son I found that it was hard to have the same ‘appeal’ to other people that I normally had. I felt like there were parts of my life that were no longer interesting to others, in fact they were down right ‘off-putting’ – just as I had described my idea of what this album would be like right?

I wasn’t as easy to be around, as enjoyable to talk to, and I found my circumstances difficult to admit to. I saw that it visibly confused some people to see me not the same as I usually was. This is not a damnation of others, it’s what happens, I’ve done the same myself… But watching that album made me realise that it is ok to have times in your life where things go wrong, where the screen goes blank and the unthinkable happens.

It’s ok because life is this adventure and if I avoid life then maybe, yes I won’t have to experience these things. And maybe if Beyoncé had not become an international singer and married Jay Z and had a beautiful child, then she would not have had to go through the pain of world famous adultery. But I don’t think that she would have it any other way, and that inspires me to think the same about my own life. So thank you Beyoncé, for that. And thank you to my pals Sophia and Fran for making sure I saw it!

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Whiplash

This weekend I watched one of those films that is so memorable I’m still mulling it over days later, and I’m telling my closest friends that they just have to watch it. The film is Whiplash, and it is about a young guy who attends an elite music school in New York. He’s a jazz drummer and he wants to be the best in the world. He doesn’t just want it, he really wants it.

Like, he doesn’t have much of a life, at all, apart from his dad and his music. He just wants to be the best, friends take up too much time and judging from the other students in his school nobody would want to be friends with them anyway. He’s quiet, and cute and he practices his drums a lot.

There’s this conductor/teacher who leads the top ensemble in the school and our guy is invited in. He’s thrilled to have the opportunity… Then all sorts of stuff ensues (to cut a long and complex story short). I won’t spoil it for you, if you haven’t seen it. Let’s just say the story is about being pushed to one’s artistic limits… the complexities of artisitic greatness, what that is and how it comes about.

It’s one of those films that leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach, in a good way. I relate to it on quite a few different levels. Firstly the guy and his desire to be the best in his field. I was never so focused as he is at his age. If I were in New York at the same stage in my life, suffice it to say I would not have spent the time in my room practicing… But at this age I am at now – 36 – I can completely and utterly relate to his devotion to his craft.

It has always been there for me, that I wanted to write and that I wanted to be really, really good at it – great at it. I’ve always written but I’ve always lived too, which I would say, in hindsight, is actually a large part of writing. The living. The adventures I’ve had, good and bad, inform my writing now. For me at that age, I could not have had the maturity and deeper understanding of life, people and situations necessary to write very well.

These days I am much more like the character in the film. It’s like all roads have led to this point and now I am more than happy to spend hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years… devoted to my craft. Great story-telling has developed into something of an obsession, because I finally feel like that’s all right. I can spend my minutes doing that, because it is what I am here to do. And it doesn’t matter who would prefer me to be doing something else, or the fact that it is in no way financially viable. I believe that it will be, one day soon.

So yeah, I relate to the drummer. I relate to his willingness to sacrifice for greatness. One of the visual motifs of the film is him drumming so hard and so long his fingers are actually bleeding. His drums get covered in blood. And the first reaction could be, ew, that’s gross. And it is. And it’s what I thought. But then I remind myself that I might not have outright bled at the keyboard but I have bled in my own way, in a different way.

I could have been doing a million things that are much easier and far more lucrative than writing a book. I have a baby who I love with all my heart. I need to raise that baby, feed him, clothe him and give him the best possible start in life that I can give him, that is the most important thing to me. Things got real when I suddenly had a child in my life. The stakes raised but instead of running from writing I turned to it and the pressure of parenthood has pushed me along more than any other experience I’ve ever had.

I also relate to the conductor, despite the fact that he is a grade A jerkass. He pushes his students to breaking point and it is really quite ridiculous the lengths he goes to. I’m in no way condoning abuse however he says he’s doing it to get the best out of his musicians. And on a more humane level, looking at it metaphorically, it makes me think of again of pressure. That’s how diamonds are formed, right?

Without pressure I find it harder to produce the work I’m proud of. I need pressure. Now, I seek it out. I gain pressure from, like I said, the pure necessity of looking after another small person. The need to provide for him and his future. The need to ensure that he is never ever left without the resources he needs to lead a decent and fulfilling life. I gain pressure from the desire to lead the life I’ve always wanted, to actually live the life I always believed was possible.

I know from experience that this life can come to an end. An abrupt, unexpected end. It can seem like we live in this comfortable world where everything is A-OK most of the time and there’s all this stuff around us that makes it seem easy and makes us feel content. But the fact is that it can all end, in a moment. And there are things in the world that are very much worth fighting for. Other people, perhaps in places far away from us, that need us to be the best we can be so that we can create the resources to help them. I think of all this, and it makes fingers hit the keyboard.

I also relate to the director whose name I don’t even know, but by watching this film I have a certain understanding of who they are. And I feel like they have mirrored the artistic rise and perfectionism of the young drummer in the film itself, by making it one of those rare pieces of film-making that live in your heart for a long, long time.

 

 

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Interview With a Book Lover

I love it when you find a great blog to read. And that’s exactly what I did a few months ago when I started following Polyliteramore. Written by 19 year old Gillian Ebersole, the blog includes regular insights into her life and her loves, which include books, dancing, travel and more.
Gillian drinking real butterbeer!
The posts are composed in such an honest and eloquent way, they really caught my attention. I just had to reach out to Gillian, to ask a few questions of my own. So, here we go…
1. What are your top 3 books and why?

My all time favorite book is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I also love The Book Thief and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. In general, I love historical fiction and watching a character triumph despite incredible hardship. To me, the best books are ones that encompass both the joy and the pain of the simple moments of everyday life, and these three books capture this perfectly.

122. I noticed you did a series of posts ’52 Weeks of Gratitude Challenge’ – what things are you most grateful for in your life? 

I am so grateful for so much, but it truly is the little things that make me stop and take a moment to wonder at the world around me. Light rain, good books, bustling coffee shops, summer sunsets, the thrill of dancing – all of these are the most precious aspects of life I give thanks for every day.

3. What is your favourite thing to bake?

Pumpkin muffins. Or any kind of cupcake really. I read this book called The Cupcake Queen in middle school, and I have been in love with baking cupcakes ever since. They are just so fun!

4. What is your favourite place in the world, and why?

Over the summer, I travelled to Amsterdam, and I fell in love with the city and the culture. The lifestyle there focuses so much on living in the moment and enjoying everything from food to biking and walking to art and architecture. If I could, I would move there in a heartbeat.

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5. If you could give a few words of advise to your younger teen self, what would they be?

I would tell myself to stop doubting the worth of my own thoughts. Older generations tend to pick apart the thoughts and arguments of the teenage generation, and I think this age range holds some of the most powerful ideas. Society is stifling six years of valuable and unprecedented creativity when teenagers are told to grow up and be adults.

6. What do you most want for your life?

I want my job to be my life’s work and passion. It is a lot to ask, I know, but I am determined to combine my love for art and dance with my love for writing and thinking. While I would love to perform as a dancer, I also am drawn to using dance as a form of social action to bring art to those who lack the access to it.

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7. Who has helped you most in your life so far?

I have been blessed with many excellent teachers, both in school as well as in the arts, who encouraged me to follow my dreams. When a teacher tells a young student that anything is possible, it has a massive impact on the formation of that student. My accomplishments rest upon the words of the teachers who believed in me; I owe everything to them.

8. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go the most?

Right now, I am dying to go to Spain. I speak a little Spanish, and I love the language and culture. One of my life goals is to hike the Camino de Santiago, from France across the northern border of Spain, and enjoy the art and journey along the way.

9. What do you think is the most important thing that needs to happen to make a better world?

People need to care for each other more. Today, so much focus is placed on numbers and data, and we lose the sense of humanity in these numbers. I truly believe that the world would change overnight if people looked around and gave a little more love to everyone they met. And, I think art, in all its forms, is a vehicle for this change, for it counters the data-obsessed nature of current society, encouraging open-mindedness and the need for appreciation of all people.

10. Who inspires you the most and why?

My hero is Anne Frank, and I had the privilege of visiting her hiding place in Amsterdam over the summer. Here is the message I left in the guestbook, “As a teenage writer myself, I can only aspire to convey the truth as Anne did. Her striking honesty and faithful optimism shine even today as an example of the human power to persevere and to thrive, even in the darkest moments of history. Anne’s voice will live on, fulfilling her dream to become a renowned writer and proving the potency of the thoughts of the teenage generation.”
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To follow Polyliteramore, go here. You won’t regret it!

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To Mothers Everywhere

To Mothers everywhere,

If anyone ever made you feel like you are “just a Mum” they are wrong. Your role is not one to be taken for granted or devalued or discounted. Ever.

Because women have been Mothers since humanity began does not make it any less valuable.

Because we carry out our duties without fail every single day does not make us any less essential.

Because we will never stop being there and doing what we do does not make us any less needed.

And because we had no clue what we were getting ourselves into when we started does not make it any less worthy.

Now we know what we signed up for, and we continue.

I’ve seen articles trying to put an imagined salary on Motherhood, attempting to account for the ‘hours of unpaid work’ involved.

How could a price be put on what we do? Any price? If any one of us stopped, even for a day, the consequences could be so disastrous as to be unthinkable.

What we have done and what we continue to do is priceless. It’s worth all the gold in the world. Without Mothers – of all shapes and sizes, beliefs and nationalities – where would our families be? Our societies?

As such we must, just the same as any decent executive or successful entrepreneur, command respect. Demand help when we need it and carve out our precious and pivotal position in the world.

With Love,

G.S. xxx

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photo cred: Huffington Post
photo cred: Huffington Post

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photo cred: yesterdayandkarma.tumblr.com

photo cred: mothermag.com
photo cred: mothermag.com