Thursday, 9 April 2015

Shining a Light on Wattpad!

Most of you will know what Wattpad is, but for those that don't: Wattpad is an online writing community and social media platform.  It has over 75 million stories, and 35 million users - many of whom are teens.  


It is a global writing group for writers of all levels to share and chat about their work. Users are encouraged to comment and vote on each other's stories. The right feedback can improve your work.  Great, well written stories generate a lot of votes and become more visible due to Wattpad's ranking scale. It can be an excellent way to develop a fan base and it's fun. 

  

In this series of “Shining a Light on Wattpad Authors.”  I'll ask authors about their writing processes and work, and their experience using Wattpad: what the positive and negative aspects associated with it are, has it influenced their work, how they think it may best be utilised by authors. 


Meet Gemma Humphrey, author of: Revelation, Book One in the Trinity Series.

Revelation is a fabulous New Adult novel on Wattpad which has achieved a stellar 660,000 reads and 157,000 votes!  This means Gemma already has an established fan base on which to build as a professional writer.  It also shows that her writing is bang on target for the her audience.


Tell us a little bit about yourself please?

I’m 29 years old and live with my boyfriend, Andy, in a converted barn in a picturesque corner of the English countryside. I have a cat called Ellie, and two chickens, Gracie and Maggie. I work part time for an Opera House as their Property Manager – a job that I love. I think that music should always be loud, and believe that family is the most important thing.


What books did you like to read when growing up?
Growing up, I read pretty much everything – including everything I shouldn’t. There was an area in my school library that was ‘out of bounds’ for younger students and I did everything in my power to gain access – only to find out it was mostly the likes of Catherine Cookson – the sort of thing that my mum used to pass down to me when she’d finished them anyway. The books I remember most fondly was a series called ‘Point Horror’- a collection of young adult ‘lite horror’ books. I think I had the entire collection and took great pride in them. I got into the fantasy genre when I was about sixteen, when a friend lent me his copy of R. E Feist’s ‘Magician’ – and I have never looked back.


Had you always wanted to be a writer?
Honestly, I’d never considered writing as anything other than a hobby for most of my life – although it’s always something I’ve done in various ways. It's only in the last couple of years that I’ve begun to really consider writing as a career, and have been looking into ways to make that a possibility.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was lucky enough to have an English teacher who took an interest in me - a typically shy, eleven-year-old girl at the back of the class. He was the first person to tell me that my writing was something worth reading, and used to push me to read out of my comfort zone - lending me books that we talked about after school. It was instilled in me from that point, but I never wrote anything other than bad fanfic’s and angsty teen poetry for a long time!


What motivates you to write?
Making up stories in my head has always been an outlet for me – whether I write them down or not - and so writing has become a sort of ‘go to’ when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. Wattpad has given me more motivation to write too. When real life people send me messages that plead for the next update, it pushes me to give it to them, and I watch my writing creep up the charts with a type of maniacal glee. I suppose, my overall motivation is the deep-rooted desire to create something tangible – that will exist when I no longer do.


Tell us a little bit about “Revelation” and the Trinity Series
Oddly, this is always a question I struggle to answer. I get lost in the depths of my plot and ramble on – only to realise I’ve not actually told them anything!
Put simply, Revelation is about an ordinary girl, who discovers that the Guardian Angel she’s imagined her whole life is real – and is protecting her from her own destiny. It follows the struggles that go with having to question all she knows and learning who to trust – and the complicated path that discovering who she is, turns out to be.
Don’t get me wrong, there are also two gorgeous guys and an ethereal battle for the fate of all mankind to deal with – but at a less tangible level. 

The whole novel revolves around the idea that our choices define us, and the consequences of our choices are the resulting ‘destiny’ – whether it’s under our own control or not. It’s very character driven (because that’s what I love to write) and most readers identify quite strongly with my protagonist and her various struggles throughout the book.

It’s based on the ideas behind the Christian religion – but with lots of twists and turns that make it a unique read.

Revelation is considered a ‘New Adult’ genre (18 – 23) but I have readers as young as 13 and as old as 84!   

You can find Revelation here: Wattpad 


Can you tell us about your main character?
Rose Davies is eighteen years old, and just beginning her first year at Cambridge University. When I first started writing, she was based on me, and her reactions and actions were my own. After a while, she developed as a character in her own right (there’s not much of ‘me’ left after all the various re-writes!)

I like to think that she’s very true to life. She’s got as many flaws as she has positive traits. She’s stubborn and petty sometimes, and she makes mistakes. But she always tries to fix them (with varying success!) and she’s deeply loyal to those she cares about. She starts off not seeing much beyond her own life and values, and ends up (I hope!) learning from her mistakes and her actions, as she grows into herself.


How much research did you have to do for this book?
So. Much. Research. I have tonnes of biblical reference books: William Blake and Dante’s complete works, books on Stonehenge, King Arthur, Glastonbury, Physics… you name it, I researched it. I even looked into Taoism and Paganism to try and draw some cross references. I’ve talked to (read: interrogated) Jewish friends and Jehovah’s Witness friends – all in the name of making Revelation as ‘factual’ as possible. I love to put tiny little references into my writing – things that no one in their right mind will pick up on or even notice – just because I enjoy connecting the dots. 


Can you tell us about your next project?
Book 2 in The Trinity Series
I have a folder filled with handfuls of word documents on my laptop (backed up in about 3 different places since I’m entirely paranoid). Each one is usually only a page or two long, and is a new idea for a project that I’ve shelved until I’ve finished with Trinity. I don’t know which one I will pick to start on once I’m done – but the last one I wrote down was a weird ‘Beauty and the Beast’ meets ‘Persephone and Hades’ fairytale.


How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
As I’ve already mentioned, I started writing Revelation from my own view point and expanded it from there – but I try and keep my own personal opinions to a minimum now. I found that it put me in a bit of a quandary when I forced a character to actively behave in a way I found unappealing or go against my own personal moral codes. Sometimes, however, it’s flat out wish fulfilment – although those are the bits that usually don’t make it past the next edit!


Do you set yourself a writing routine and a daily word limit?
I try to write 1000 words a day but it doesn’t always happen. I don’t have a specific time that I try and write – just whenever is convenient at that point. I do find that I concentrate best early on weekend mornings when it’s quiet and Andy is still asleep, but it’s not always motivation enough to drag me out of bed to get on with it!


How do you juggle writing and working / other pressures and obligations in your life?
My job has a variable work load so sometimes I have more free time to write, and other times I won’t write for weeks. Throw in family life, friends, and all the books I’m trying to read and there’s not much time left in the day for writing! But it gets done eventually. The trick, for me, is not to feel guilty for not writing when you can’t. Just pick it up when you get a minute and keep thinking about it – and it always seems to get done.


How do you write: laptop, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?  Do you have a favourite writing spot?
I type everything out on my laptop, in good old-fashioned word. I carry a notepad with me wherever I go, but actually find writing quite distracting – I was one of those kids in school who practiced their handwriting, so I tend to get bogged down in how it looks rather than what it says. Typing is quicker, easier, and it’s all neat and uniform, so my (not so) inner obsessive-compulsive control freak is happy! I don’t mind where I write as long as it’s quiet – really quiet.


Do you outline your books from start to finish or just start writing? Or a bit of both? 
I started Revelation with a vague idea of what I wanted to write, but it got too messy for me to follow and I had to implement some sort of order. Order, for me, is writing out the entire story in ‘scene’ format. Short paragraphs outlining each point in the plot, including view points, what I’m trying to achieve, settings and surroundings etc. Most of these have snippets of dialogue – and there is usually no punctuation at all (Which makes for interesting reading when I go to write it out ‘properly’!) Three books in, and this is still the method that works best for me. It’s a form of free-writing which allows me to put down exactly what I need to make the scene work without getting bogged down in all the nitty-gritty details like dialogue (which is my Achilles heel) and punctuation. (I love unnecessary comma’s!)

Wattpad is a social networking platform, as such I believe you get out what you put in. Do you agree? 
Yes, I agree wholeheartedly!


How long have you been using Wattpad?
I’ve been on Wattpad for about 16 months.


How have you found Wattpad to be helpful?   Are there any drawbacks?
Wattpad has always been really helpful for me. It’s given me goals to work to, has helped me with my confidence, and has actually allowed me to shape and refine my work much better. I find I can see the ‘empty’ scenes much more clearly when I know someone is going to be giving their time to read them! It’s also a great way to make friends with similar interests – I didn’t have any ‘writer friends’ until Wattpad!


What suggestions can you give authors who are starting out on Wattpad for the first time? 
The best suggestion I can give is to mingle. Don’t expect people to come to you – you have to go out into the clubs and engage with people. Read people’s work, comment and vote. You’ll find your work will take care of itself as they return the favour. But you have to really invest your time to get it back. Those people who jump onto my profile having not read a word and say ‘Hi! I love your work – please read mine and vote and comment!’ don’t get anything from me!


Is a great cover essential for Wattpad?
I think a great cover is essential for any type of book – be it hardback, e-book, or wattpad story.  The old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is, for me, entirely inaccurate. I’ve always been drawn to pretty or unusual covers, and find that most of the books I read look similar in some way or another - which makes sense when you think about it. Publishers pay a lot of money for cover designs, and I’m sure there is some form of science or psychology behind putting them together. I work hard on the concepts for my covers and then badger Andy endlessly about it until he makes them a reality (using a combination of software including Photoshop and an ancient edition of Flash.) I like my covers to convey a particular 'feel' and visualise an aspect of the story, but I'm also keen that they should avoid the tropes and clichés that covers in the genre can sometimes lapse into.


How can they best engage the community?
I’ve found the advertising posts in each ‘club’ forum very useful when looking for people to read my work. They clear it each week so it’s always fresh in people’s mind to check out. Try and keep active in the forums, chatting to people and generally being involved. The best way though, is to read. Read works that are like yours, read works that aren’t. Just make sure you take the time to comment and vote for everything you read – positive is great but constructive criticism is always welcome too. The more you give to the Wattpad community, the more you’ll get back over time.


Have you found that to utilise it properly takes a huge amount of time?
Book 3 in The Trinity Series
One of my writing friends is constantly on Wattpad. He’s forever commenting on work he’s read, or replying to comments left on his work – and because of this, he has a huge fan base and has just recently hit that coveted one-million reads. I don’t have quite so much time on my hands, and so it doesn’t come so thick and fast for me, but I do find the more time I spend on Wattpad, the better my rating in the chart the following day.


Writing is a solitary endeavour and many writers are often beset by self-doubt.   
How do you deal with this?  Does Wattpad reduce some of this isolation?  Does the feedback from Wattpad help with those moments of self-doubt?
As a writer, I find that I am half egotistical maniac, half insecure child cowering in the corner. I vacillate between thinking I am the next big thing, destined for stardom, and wondering what the hell I think I’m doing calling myself a writer. I’m not alone – this seems to be a very common theme amongst all the writers I know!

I am lucky enough to have a very (Very!) supportive boyfriend, who lifts me up when I need it, and drags me back down when I’m being stupid – but Wattpad has probably helped most with the self-doubt. The comments I receive are wonderful 99% of the time, and there is nothing better in this world than checking your email and finding ‘OMG! I love your book! Please update, I’m dying here!! TEAM NATE FOR LIFE<3’ and other crazy stuff. 

On the days when I wonder what the point of all my hard work is, these comments serve to remind me. It can sometimes be too much of a good thing though – as Wattpad is so full of praise, you can start to view your work through those rose-tinted glasses. Luckily, there’s that pesky 1% to keep me grounded...


Has the feedback from Wattpad readers altered your writing?
The feedback I have received has been invaluable because it’s helped me become a better writer. When it's just you writing for yourself and a handful of beta-readers, it's very difficult to see other ways your work might be interpreted. Wattpad opens the door to a wider view, which can sometimes be very surprising!

An example of this is my love interest, Christian. I adore him, but when Revelation was first posted, I was surprised to find out that people considered him to be passive aggressive! It turned out that following my boyfriend's advice to ‘Man him the hell up’ was a bad plan after all (who’d have thought!) However, because of the comments, I knew what to look for, and was able to go through and correct some of the dialogue and actions that seemed to misrepresent the character. The problem disappeared, and it’s something I’ve learned not to repeat in my writing since then. 


Would you recommend Wattpad to new authors?
I recommend Wattpad to pretty much everyone I meet. Its an amazing community filled with amazing people – and I think joining might have been one of the best things I could have ever done for my writing career. If you’re a reader or a writer and you’ve not signed up, do it now. You won’t regret it! 



You can find Gemma on the following links: