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Sunday, January 11, 2015

In Which I Discover Wattpad

Well, not really. I knew about it. Some of my students write on it and wrote on a predecessor site whose title I have forgotten. It's got everything from fan fiction to epic fantasies. I even knew that occasionally real publishers wander in and offer contracts to the better writers.

But when I was ordered to teach Creative Writing as a Year 9/10 elective I thought it might be time to explore this form of online writer community. I joined, though I haven't yet posted anything myself. If it worked for me, I might recommend my students join. As far as I know, two of them are already writing there, though one of them won't give me her username and the other one did, but I can't find her there under the name she gave me, so perhaps I'm doing it wrong.

It's quite a site! People have their own followers; my nephew's daughter Dezzy certainly has a fan whose comments read along the lines of "OMG, this is so exciting! I can't wait to read the next chapter!"

You don't ever have to write anything if you don't want; people just read the online contributions, which have blurbs and exciting-looking book covers, and make comments if they like. One "book" I saw had had nearly 4,000,000 reads! Needless to say, it seemed to be erotica of some form, judging by the cover.

Not all the stories are good, but they have fans anyway, and a surf through the bios produced a lot of teenage girls.

Personally, I think it's wonderful that so many kids are having a go at writing, experimenting and posting. It's not very disciplined, with so many just writing a bit at a time without knowing how it will end, but it's great practice and sooner or later they will learn from it - including, I hope, how to develop a thick skin, something everyone who is published needs.

And I think I have suddenly realised why I get so many short slush stories divided into chapters. They have probably been originally published on Wattpad or something similar, or the author has become so used to it, they don't know how else to write. The default form of a story on this site is serial. Even if the entire story is only about 1000 words long, it comes in chapters.

Serials are certainly a tradition. All those nineteenth century classics started life as serials. There's the famous story about people in America gathering on the wharf when British ships arrived to ask, "Does Little Nell die?" And Marcus Clarke had to be harassed into finishing The Term Of His Natural Life (a novel with two endings - the serial version has a happy ending, the novel version doesn't).

In those days, though, you did have to wait till the publisher put out the next issue. Now, the author can just go online every night and write the next chapter.

How times have changed! :-)

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