April Recap: What’s a Wattpad?

                I love it when a plan comes together… Rather, I love it when a plan fails to fall apart. April was, writing wise, largely uneventful. My fears about entropy became manifest and all the way up until the final five days I had written basically nothing. Not really the way to go approaching a 10,000 word per month goal.

                I was a little disillusioned overall this month, I think, because something was pointed out to me I wasn’t super jazzed about. Early in the month, shortly after my little post rebutting the Dalai Lama, I was told that I should be looking for someone who will pay me to have opinions because, when I sit down to write, opinionated rants tend to be the most readily available source of content. Which would be great, by the way; if anyone reading this wants to pay me to have opinions, let me know. I will reluctantly accept your money, thank you.

                Now, considering the source of the comment, I know that it was made in the most innocent and encouraging, if not complimentary, way possible. But it still struck a nerve. The blog has provided me with an easy place to put built up thoughts and allow others to read them, which is great, but it was beginning to overshadow what I’d rather be doing; creative writing. I never wanted to be a “blogger,” I want to be a fiction writer who occasionally blogs. Somehow I had allowed the model to reverse itself.

               So I took a step back from the blog and told myself that if I couldn’t write a story, one of the few on my “To Write” list, then I just wasn’t going to make my goal this month. No more blogging until a new story is written.

               Immediately I sat down and did… Well, I played video games, honestly. I played video games or watched TV or I basically anything and everything other than write that story right up until four days ago.

               It’s easy to become complacent. Especially when you talk about all the things you’re going to do. I read somewhere that if you have goals you should keep them secret, because telling people about them tricks your brain into believing you’ve already achieved them, or at least part of them.  Assuming that’s true, the fact that I had told people I intended to write 10,000 words per month all year, somehow made it easier to put off. Is that a good excuse? Can I use that? I’m not lazy! I was tricked! But when April 25th rolled around and I had nothing to show for it, well, that wasn’t going to fly.

               So I made time to write and I actually wrote. Four days and 8,300 words later, I’ve got a new short story which I’m really happy with. I’m sure it’s not perfect, and I’ll get some beta-readers to tell me why, but for now, it feels good to have it out of my head and onto paper. Once the beta-readers get done with it and I make my final re-writes and tweaks, I’m definitely going to pursue getting it published.

               In all honesty, it’s the first completely unprompted story I’ve written in probably ten years.  Prior to this, while my work was purely recreational, the entirety of my completed work was written for some alternate purpose; mostly competitions at A Writer’s Recluse. But not this one. This one I wrote just to write it, which means I was able to ignore a lot of the factors which typically influence how I write. I didn’t have to concern myself with competition parameters. I didn’t have to worry about who the judges are or what kind of story they would like. I didn’t have to limit, or pad my word count; I was able to allow the story to move and grow on its own and it was really wonderful to see it happen.

               I’m a little disappointed that I can’t post it here, but if I’m going to shop it around it’s better that it doesn’t exist on the internet prior to my doing so.

                Which brings me to part two of this update.

                While cruising the Twitters, a very nice man named Brian Rathbone gave me a word of advice when I was publicly lamenting that no one was actually clicking on any of the stories I’ve posted (it wasn’t one of my most dignified moments). Buy his books, by the way, read them; I haven’t but if you like dragons, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. They have really good reviews. Anyway, he said, paraphrased, “If the readers won’t come to you; go to where the readers are.” Which is such a stupidly obvious suggestion that I’m not at all surprised I never thought of it.

                Anyhow, he suggested this place thing called Wattpad. Wattpad is a website/app which allows readers and writers to interact. Writers can write stories and Wattpad will host them, free of charge. These stories will then be available to Wattpad users, again, free of charge. Readers can add comments, reviews, rate the stories, suggest them to friends and follow the author to stay up to date on future posts.

                I did a little research and it appears Wattpad has millions of registered users. The experience reviews from a few authors that I read were mixed. But they were mostly writing from the perspective of using the site to drive sales of their material. That’s not, at all, my goal I don’t have anything to sell. Right now, I’m just interested in attracting and interacting with readers. Admittedly, it looks like there’s a lot of trashy fan-fiction and supernatural romance up there, but there’s goo stuff to, you just gotta dig a little.

                The egoist in me hates to admit that outside validation is a valuable motivator, but the artist, the writer, in me needs to know that what he’s doing is at least being seen and enjoyed. Otherwise, he’ll just keep it to himself. Why have stories if not to tell them?

                Point is, Wattpad sounds like a really solid platform to help me meet my goals right now. So I figure, what the hell. But, of course, any step forward seems to meet yet another obstacle. All the reviews, an Wattpad itself recommend a couple of things I don’t have.

                1. A picture of yourself to accompany your work.

                2. Cover art.

                The first isn’t super difficult. Someone just needs to follow me around with a camera and snap a photo of me where I’m not smiling like a goon. Based on past research, candid photography is the only way to make that happen. Then I just run it through some filters, Photoshop the horns out, and BAM!, done. Hmm… Also have to learn Photoshop.

                The second is more challenging and I haven’t figured it out yet. The minimalist in me feels like a white page with black lettering should do the trick, but I know that would get exactly one click and it’d be me checking to make sure the formatting is right. I’m not expecting to make any profit on this particular exercise, and I don’t have a lot in the way of burnable money (I’m still kicking that Duotrope membership down the road) so it looks like I’m either going to have to become an artist fairly quickly, or sweet talk someone else into a mutually beneficial arrangement where we both gain exposure for our work but also zero dollars. If anyone else has any ideas, let me know.

               Anyway, this blog entry puts me over the 10,000-word mark for April and with the vast majority of it being non-blog content, I feel good; Mission Accomplished. So, with that behind me and a whole pile of new challenges ahead, I stumble into May.