So I was not a fan of Wattpad. I’d heard about it, kind of skirted around the edges of it, but never really dove in, if you know what I mean. I was a better writer than that. I was a better reader than that. But I wanted to write about a girl and a (fictional) boyband, and Wattpad readers were my demographic. So, in the interests of research, I created an account and started trolling, trying to get in, read, and get out without being seen.
I’ve never been a person to sugarcoat anything; I was the parent who told her five-year-old (yeah, cutest little five-year-old ever) that it was called a “talent” show for a reason, even if it was her elementary school, and that she couldn’t be in it until she had a talent to showcase, something she’d worked at, practiced, you know, was good at. I wasn’t going to turn it into a photo-op, just because she was adorable in every way. My friends were horrified. How could I crush her little self-esteem (hate those words)? I didn’t think it was wrong (and fifteen years later I still don’t) to set a standard; she needed something to be proud of, something she put work into. People whose egos are fed for no reason end up being proud of weird things. Like being pretty. Or being white.
SO, back to Wattpad. I saw a lot of what I’d call crap, not gonna lie: Terrible vocabulary, spelling mistakes, and, the kiss of death, for me, anyway, bad grammar. Wasn’t going to go there. No way. I realized that much of it was mutual masturbation, a kind of “you read mine, I’ll read yours, and we’ll tell each other how great we are” kind of thing. And I realized, too, that, although everyone talked a good game, very few people were actually looking for criticism. They wanted reads, votes, praise, stuff like that. So very not for me.
But I realized something else, too. There was a lot of good shit on Wattpad. There were writers who wanted to publish, but didn’t have the confidence to do it under their real names, who wanted to hone their skills with feedback from a live audience, who just wanted to tell their stories, period.
Writers who were a lot like me. And, as I perused the virtual libraries of Wattpad, it occurred to me that, truth be told, there was crap anywhere I cared to look. I can go online, to a dotcom magazine site or whatever, and find crap. I can go to the NYC Public Library, and find crap on the shelves. I can go to my local bookstores, look around for about two seconds, and guess what I’ll find? Yes. Besides, “crap” is a subjective term, isn’t it? So yeah, that was my epiphany: There was good and bad and amazing and awful writing EVERYWHERE. Including Wattpad. I talked to people there, readers, and writers, and they converted me. So I took the plunge, and hoped people wouldn’t put me in the “crap” category. So far so good, I think, since no one’s ripped me yet; these are early days, however, so we’ll see :o)
What I’ve found is that, while there isn’t any rhyme or reason that I can tell (some stuff that I consider to be just awful has millions of views, while some pieces that I think are real gems languish, unread), I can and have found some amazing stories. And some really nice people have read my chapters and been very encouraging. As with anything, you have to set your own bar. I remember telling my children not to bring other people’s standards into our house. And those words can fit any situation. Including Wattpad.
A lot of what I read on Wattpad is fan fiction (again, my demographic), which brings up some issues for me (ethical might be too strong a word, but it’s close); Fan fiction takes advantage of the existence of a real person, on whom the reader has already projected expectations. Most of the writer’s work is already done, which can make for some really lazy writing. But let’s save the fanfic discussion for another day :o)
In case you were wondering, my talentless five-year-old asked for and was given voice lessons for her sixth birthday, and slayed in the talent show the following year, singing “The Bare Necessities” while her brother accompanied her on the piano, and she is a senior at what many would consider the premiere performing arts university in the country. She can sing (and dance, and act, and write) like a motherfucking maniac. And I consider that to be a good thing.