Last week the Guardian reported that Margaret Atwood joined Wattpad, a story sharing website where writers can critique each other’s work. Wattpad is the world’s largest community for discovering and sharing stories on the web and across every mobile device and is the only place offering a mobile, social, eReading experience. The idea for writers is that you can upload a chapter of your work at a time and see the feedback from the Wattpad community, therefore you can judge what doesn’t or doesn’t work about your story.
Atwood is an author that has fully embraced social media with a Facebook presence and a very active Twitter account. There are other authors who have engaged with the online world too: Paul Auster’s publishers are doing a smashing job with his Facebook page and other initiatives; Augusten Burroughs has a great Facebook page with information on all his books and links to buy; Neil Gaiman is a tweetoholic and Chuck Palahniuk is on Twitter too.
Some writers see social media as a productivity annihilator. It demands constant updating which is not ideal for someone who needs hours of focussed uninterrupted concentration. While I’m not the world’s most prolific user of Twitter, I do love Facebook (Multiverse page here) and blogging. I am and always have been a communication junkie: phone calls, emails, Facebook and Skype are all an integral part of my world and my idea of hell is to be stuck on holiday without a working internet connection. Therefore social media is something I enjoy and I don’t think it actually takes up that much time to build a strong presence which can be an effective tool in the struggle to sell books!
Back to Wattpad. It seems like an interesting idea. My only experience with an online writer based community was Authonomy which I used for a few months when it launched. It was conceived as an online slush pile for Harper Collins and the idea was that users of the site would rate others’ work and the books with the most votes would be looked at by an actual editor. Two things quickly became apparent to me: 1. the standard of writing on the site was fairly abysmal with loads of spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors (I know this seems pedantic, but if you can’t be bothered to get at least that much correct I think you’re fooling yourself that you have a chance at getting published); and 2. the site quickly became political with users touting for votes.
As a result I’m not sure that Wattpad is a site that I will use, but with serious writers like Atwood getting involved perhaps I should spend a while on it before I write it off completely. Below is a video that explains how Wattpad works.