Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Wattpad Gives Me Hope (Lots and Lots and Lots)

Some days, the Internet is just awesome.

Some of you may have heard of Wattpad, the website where undiscovered writers can fling their stories out into the ether and hope for general approval. Others might have heard of Jukepop, which is sort of the same thing except with serialized fictions. In general, these sorts of sites cater to a very particular demographic: that of people who think of themselves as writers but just can't buy a book deal. (Oh, just kidding, the Christian Writers Guild has made that possible. ZING.)

I've mentioned these kinds of people before: the ones who talk a pretty good game about all the writing they're doing, but don't tend to, you know, actually write. The ones who treat an ancient and noble artistic pursuit as a hobby that anybody can do, because...really, how hard could it be?

The thing that I often miss when I rant about pretentious hacks is that, sometimes, there are diamonds in the rough. Every author has to start somewhere, and more often than not they start as pretentious hacks. How could they not, after all? Writing—and, more directly, making your writing public—requires an interesting degree of blind arrogance. Making your work public implies that you think the public might actually like the things you've written. Putting your work out there, even if it is just a website that caters to narcissism, is a step in the right direction. Heaven knows that writing you keep hidden in your desk drawer isn't going to change any lives.

Especially since, sometimes, self-publishing your work can pay off.

Beth Reeks (pen name Beth Reekles) is a 17-year-old writer who published a teen romance on Wattpad. She did what a number of authors have advised since the dawn of the written word: write what she wanted to read. She'd grown tired of vampires, werewolves, and fallen angels; she just wanted a teenage romance. So she made one, and she made it well, and it earned her a number of fans on Wattpad.

And then Random House heard about her, and now she has a book deal.

I only get to say this once because I hate needless repetition, so I'm going to say it as loudly as I can in typed words:


A 17-year-old kid getting published? Getting fiction published? That's the stuff of legends, folks. I just want to shake this girl's hand. What a champ.

It's stories like these that give me hope for writers and for starving artists in general. See, Barnes and Noble is on its way out. Borders is dead. Some nutcase author wants libraries to die. In short, the world of the printed word is in some pretty significant turmoil. Nobody's quite sure how everything is going to shake out. Will the next generation even care about stories when they can view all their stuff through neurological implants? Now that we've mastered video technology, are words even relevant anymore? Can the world of literature ever bounce back from Twilight?

The short answer is...yeah. Duh.

The world is changing, but this isn't the biggest change the world's undergone. It's just the biggest one we've been alive for. (Every wave seems huge when you're inside it.)

Maybe printed books die out and maybe they don't. (Here's hoping they don't.) And maybe the publishing industry is going to convulse and explode (which I'm not entirely sure is undeserved). And maybe my grandkids will think of books the way I think of vinyl records: quaint and romantic, but obsolete.

I doubt it. But, even if the printed page dies out; even if the book publishing industry goes belly-up; even if the libraries vanish....

The stories live on, and the storytellers keep appearing.

The Internet and its utterly public forum gives me hope for this. These days, all you need are 1000 people who desperately want you to keep making art...and you can. Artists have always survived on the charity of people who like their stuff; it's only in the era of Indelible Walt Disney Copyright that we've gotten the idea that "artist" isn't a proper job because only a few people get to make a lot of money at it.

Until the world settles, all we can do is keep on hoping. And keep on making good art.

What are your thoughts on the imminent death throes of Barnes and Noble, or the 17-year-old wunderkind publishing a book because of the Internet? Sound off in the comments!


  1. A very encouraging article, Chandler. Thank you.

  2. Don't lump JukePop in with Wattpad, you fiend!
    Otherwise, brilliant as always. :)