Writing Wednesdays: 3 things I've learnt from Wattpad - 10 years after I first joined

This year will be ten years since I joined Wattpad and started posting my book online - in this post, I share the three biggest things I learnt from that experience

Back in 2010, a friend told me about a book she was reading. I loved the sound of it and asked what it was called so I could order it to read - which was when she explained that wasn't published, exactly, but was online, on a site called Wattpad.

I went home, looked up Wattpad, and found my people.

Wattpad is a global story-sharing platform that has blown up since then. They have production and publishing branches now, help writers monetise their work, partner with brands, host conventions...

And as for me? I've gone from not telling a single soul I liked writing, to eight published books and two Netflix adaptations.

(Side note - I promise this isn't like, a sponsored post, or anything. Just in case anybody was wondering. It's just a platform I have a lot of attachment to.)

This week, I'm going to talk about the three biggest things I learned from sharing my writing online, ten years later.

The power of community

Wattpad was the first place where I really found my people, and found a sense of community. Nobody knew I liked writing, and I didn't really know anybody in real life who liked it, so I always felt weird about it. I was always the shy, bookish nerd - think Belle, or Hermione. 

But then I discover this whole host of other young people, who love writing, and where it's not weird. That was a huge deal for me.

It was only when I had the freedom to be myself online (totally anonymously) that I had the confidence to be more like that in real life, too. Nobody was judging me on there - if anything, as my book got popular on the site, I even became kind of cool. People looked to me for advice, wanted me to read their book.

And as my book took off online, my confidence built enough that I could take that offline, too: I was unapologetic and open about the fact I liked physics and I liked languages, that I wanted to work in tech, all the fandoms I was into, the music I liked. If people didn't like that... well, honestly, I was realising that I didn't give a damn.

Which leads me on to my next point...

The confidence boost alone made it all worth it

Even if my book hadn't taken off, it would all have been worth it. Right when I started out and had just a handful of readers (and I'm talking, like, twenty people here) I was over the moon.

Something I still hate now is the idea of someone I know reading my work, and telling me they liked it - because I always feel like they're just saying it to be nice, or to spare my feelings. But online, these total strangers owed me nothing. If they didn't like it, they just didn't read it. But when they kept coming back and reading the newest chapter, commenting to say they liked it, I knew they meant it. 

By the time I found Wattpad, I'd been writing novel-length stories for about four years - since I got an old laptop to do schoolwork when I was eleven, and used it to write instead. I'd always had this pipe dream of being published - the idea that yeah, it'd be nice to get published one day... But I knew it'd never happen. Because come on, why the heck would it? I was a bad writer. It was fun, but that didn't mean I was good.

And then suddenly, I had these total strangers, who were genuinely invested in my book, who enjoyed reading what I was writing, and that was incredible. I couldn't believe it.

As my books started to get more popular, I began to actually believe in myself more, and publishing went from this impossible idea to something I might actually be able to achieve one day. (And, obviously, I did.)

It helped me learn more about my writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I always say to write the kind of book you want to read - and I also think that the more you write, the better writer you'll become.

I had no idea I could write humour until I posted my book online. People commented telling me how funny they found certain parts of it and I was totally taken aback... because, seriously?! Since when was I funny?

More recently, when I began uploading Lockdown on London Lane, I said I hoped it would be funny - because when I was writing, there were bits that I found humorous, but I didn't know if other people would agree. So I bloody loved going through all the laughing emoji comments to see which bits of my book people thought were so funny, and, not gonna lie, I felt really proud when it was a line I'd intended to be funny.

If not for that feedback, though, I never would've understood that about my writing - or myself, I guess, either. 

Ten years after joining the site, I've been posting a new book.

If any of you guys have followed me on Wattpad, you've probably noticed that I haven't uploaded much in the last few years. Most years, I've written a short story for Christmas, but I haven't particularly posted a whole new book.

When lockdown kicked off and I got back into writing for the first time all year, I had the idea to write a collection of short stories where all the characters were connected somehow, and all stuck on lockdown in the same building. 

I write, first and foremost, for myself.

But, I thought, this could be fun to post on Wattpad. And why not? So I made a cover and started posting it, committing to one short story a week. 

This was a really fun project for me in a lot of ways. Yes, because I had so much fun writing it, but I also haven't really posted a new 'book' on the platform in years, so it also felt like a cool experiment to see if I could even get anybody to read it. I've loved keeping track of how many reads there are each day, and going through comments to see what people think and what they're responding too most. I've forgotten what that rush of immediate feedback is like - and it's been so cool.

I've never regretted posting my work online - and quite honestly, I believe that if I hadn't, I wouldn't have achieved even a tenth of what I have now. It helped me to pursue my ambitions and to dream big, to become confident and unashamedly myself... and hey, if The Kissing Booth hadn't been noticed by an editor on the site for being so popular, I wouldn't have published eight books by now!

If you've ever shared your work online, I'd love to know what your experience has been like, and what it's taught you - let me know in the comments, or over on Twitter!

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