Sharing your work publicly – The Wattpad Example

Hello everyone.  If you are here I am going to guess one of the characteristics you define yourself by is “writer”.  And that being the case, I am going to take a leap of logic.  You write because you want people to read it.  I know that is not true in 100% of the time, but generally speaking a person writing is writing for another reader.  Hopefully lots of readers.  And thus brings you to a dilemma.  Because whilst it is often hard to get your work published and on the shelves of the local book shop there are places you can share your work publicly, and for free.  And a writer has to ask themselves, “Is this a good idea?”

That is what this article is about.  I will specifically be referencing Wattpad, which I do in fact use, however I have used others in the past and I suspect there are more story sharing sites out there that I haven’t found yet.

So, you are a writer and you have a story to tell.  You hear about this Wattpad and you are now hit with the quandrary.  Do you share it?

And the answer depends entirely on your purpose for writing and your purpose for wanting to share.

If you are writing something you want to publish, then the answer is most definitely not.  Keep your stuff away from the public domain.  For one thing, most publishers aren’t going to be interested in something that has already appeared on a website.  It doesn’t matter if only four people saw it.  They are no longer the first people selling your story and that takes the shine off for them.  Secondly, there is a chance (however small) that someone will see your stuff and it will inform their writing.  This might be something small, or it could be an outright copy.  Now, if it is an outright copy and your stuff is still present on a public site, and you can prove when it was shared then maybe you could legally challenge.  If it isn’t and the website has no record of your upload, then you will have a hard job proving anything.  And having stuff in the public domain is no proof that the person that wrote something appearing to copy you ever actually saw your work.  Coincidences can happen (Maybe one day I will tell you about the video game Dragon Age, and why I can never bring myself to play it – it relates to this).

So, that is one reason not to share.  If you are less worried about publishing then perhaps there is still a place for you on these sites.

If you have more or less finished and are just wanting to share your work to see what people think, then all power to you – go right ahead.  Just be aware that in my experience no one will read your work if you don’t read their stuff first.  Not until you are part of the regular community on the website.  And this might mean slogging through a lot of stuff that you may not enjoy.

The last reason I can think of to share on these sites is to find critique of your work.  As writers, we are fallible and unless you are supremely gifted/had your weetabix that morning, you are always going to benefit from a second set of eyes.  What better place than a whole social media network devoted to writing, you might say.

Well, a small(ish) group of folks who you know, and whose ability levels you are aware of for one.  If you are going to a public/social media platform to share your written work for criticism, I would suggest that the calibre of criticism you will receive is low.  Don’t get me wrong, you will get some folk there who are good critics capable of giving balanced and useful feedback.  Sadly, it is my experience they are in the minority.  For the rest, best case scenario you will get people commenting who enjoyed your work and will start their criticism telling you such.  (You can read my article about feedback HERE where I take some time to explain why I don’t find this particularly useful)  And they will tell you stuff they liked about it.  And that’s probably about it.  Certainly not useless, as an ego boost and a confirmation that some folks liked what you did.  But there is no critique, for the most part on this end of the spectrum.  You don’t get anything telling you what to improve.

The other end of the spectrum, I have encountered perhaps two people in the community who gave critical feedback to me.  One was good, and I listen to that person when they say something isn’t working.  The other was awful.  I recieved a comment highlighting what the reader thought was a problem with the story.  That was fair enough.  I didn’t agree with it, however if a person takes the time with me I take the time with them.  I thanked the reader for their comment, and explained that I had considered their feedback but was not going to incorporate it.  And I explained why.  What followed amounts to harassment.  The reader decided I was wrong.  The reader sent me more comments telling me I would never be a good writer if I didn’t do what they said.

I’m not exaggerating that, and I believe the comment is still on my profile.  I didn’t feel embarrassed by it.  I handled myself with politeness but the reader did not.  And that is one of the problems.  The person giving feedback didn’t have any concept of how to give feedback.  Imagine if I had been a brand newly minted writer, really pleased with my work and someone comes along, seeming to know what they are talking about and tells me I will never be good if I don’t do what they say.  If I was less confident in my work, that sort of feedback could prove crippling.  I have to say this has only happened once to this extent, but it does illustrate a point.  There is a fine line between giving good, useful, critical feedback and giving a writer a metaphoric slap in the face.  There is no way to insure the first on a social media platform.

Actually, there is a third group.  The follow for a follow, read for a read crowd.  Since starting to move in blogging facebook groups I have become exposed to various threads that are follow for a follow back which often seemed disingenuous (Certainly in the much larger groups.  In the smaller, niche, groups it is more genuine and effective because the subject matters are more closely related.  Geek Blogs Unite is one such group that I recommend to Geek Bloggers on that front).  Unless the groups are similarly themed, those new followers (if they happen at all) are unlikely to read your stuff regularly.  And the folks reading yours to get you to read their work are unlikely to give useful critical feedback as they might not want to upset you.

I have an account on Wattpad.  I don’t share work I intend to send to agents.  I don’t share work for critique, though I sometimes get it unsolicited.  I share because I want folks to read my work, and the gratification of receiving a comment or a vote helps keep me motivated.  It confirms that whilst my work doesn’t appeal to all, I do have an audience out there.  In that respect, sharing on Wattpad or another platform is invaluable.  So, taking this into consideration then I say Yes, Wattpad, in response to the article title.

If you want to read my work, you can click the following LINK.  If you want to leave feedback, you can.  But none of your nonsense!  I’ll also be posting some of my work on this site in the coming months. Thanks for reading.

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