Over the course of my five years on Wattpad, the question I’ve been asked the most is how do you become successful?
Everyone has a different opinion of what constitutes success and varying expectations of it. For me, I didn’t start writing to earn fame and fortune, but maybe that is why I feel like I’ve achieved much more than I ever expected.
I began writing stories when I was around 11 years old. I know this because I can remember my dad always telling my teachers about it at Parents’ Evening. I’d wake up an hour early just so that I could write before going to school, and then I’d spend all evening on the family computer, typing away—or scribbling in notebooks whenever I couldn’t get to the screen.
Even back then, I was fiercely private of my writing. Of course, I now realise that my parents could very easily have read my stories—and probably did.
It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I decided to post publicly—and I use the term publicly very loosely because I was writing under a pseudonym to protect my real identity. It acted as a barrier, but that barrier allowed me to share my writing and kick-start the journey I’m now on.
I discovered Wattpad on the App Store; advertised as a site with millions of free stories, I was quick to download it. My sister, also a keen writer, made an account and started posting a story. She shared it with our family and we’d get excited every time she received a comment or her view count increased.
In July 2011, my then-boyfriend broke up with me. It came as a complete shock and my slightly-naïve, eighteen-year-old self thought it was the end of the world. To distract myself, I started writing a story, loosely based on him. It was a form of escapism and allowed me to release all my thoughts and frustrations about the relationship into a positive form of expression.
Then, not telling anyone else, I posted it on Wattpad.
I didn’t expect many people to read the story. I just needed to get it out there as part of my healing process.
Posting on Wattpad served as a great distraction. It kept me occupied as I uploaded chapters on a regular basis. I even started posting a few of my older stories that I’d written when I was younger—the majority of these were deleted later on, but that’s a story for another time. No pun intended.
August 2012 – 1 year later
Six months later, my first story was completed and, six months after that, it had been read over 50,000 times and received over 800 votes – the equivalent of clicking “Like”. I was shocked, but ecstatic.
My other stories—the later-to-be-deleted ones that I mentioned earlier—also did well, but as they’d been written when I was much younger, I had a feeling they were therefore appealing to the younger audience, who make up a lot of Wattpad’s users.
Over the next year, I reached 2000 followers and my first story had accumulated nearly half a million reads with over 7000 votes. At that point, two years into my Wattpad experience, I felt proud of myself, like I’d achieved something huge through my love of writing. I didn’t realise it would get dramatically better.
While my success on the site was growing, I was away at university so didn’t have to worry about anyone finding out about my secret writing habit. It did make me want to take writing more seriously, though, and in the summer of 2014, I started a new story and deleted a few of my older ones—those that I’d written as a young teenager.
My first story, though, inspired by the break-up, remained posted and continued to grow its readership.
Unlike that first story which I wrote spontaneously, making it up as I went along, this one I planned out. I concentrated on my character development, plotted out tension graphs and made sure I knew exactly where the story was going. That story was a turning point for me.
My follower count doubled and my original story was close to hitting a million reads, while the new story was gaining traction fast—both from my current followers and new ones.
A lot changed over the next year—including the site which had a huge makeover and caused major controversy among users who weren’t a fan of the new look.
My own follower count hit 12,000. I’d been approached by Wattpad about that first story of mine which had soared past the 2 million mark – they wanted to feature it in a Sour Patch Kids promotion.
And the new, summer story? That hit #1 in the charts, won an award for best New Adult Romance and received interest from publishers. A few months later, Wattpad contacted me again. They wanted me to become a Wattpad Star: an exclusive program for a small number of Wattpad users that offered them unique opportunities to make money and enhance their presence in the writing world.
That first, relationship-inspired story of mine is still my most popular. It’s not my strongest writing but it was my first ever Wattpad story—the one that kicked off this incredible journey—so it’s very special to have it be so successful. It now has 5 million reads, over 100,000 votes and 42,000 comments.
So when people ask me, how do you make your stories successful or popular? My answer is always patience and hard work. I never intended to become this successful on the site. The story I posted was purely to help me get over a traumatic event—it was never supposed to become a huge hit.
Nevertheless, if I had to list a few tips that I always abided by, it would be these:
- Post regularly, even if you feel like nobody is reading. That way, when people do discover your story, there will be several parts posted that will hook them—and the regular updates mean they won’t lose interest waiting for new chapters
- Always reply to people who comment and leave messages, and always be polite. People like to know that their feedback is appreciated and by replying, you’re showing that you’ve not only read their comment, but you’ve also taken the time to respond
- Similarly, don’t engage with hateful comments. Ignore, delete, block or mute. It might be tempting to lash out at rude people, but you will earn yourself a lot more respect among the community if you avoid nasty confrontations
- Read and comment on other people’s stories. Not only does it earn you exposure through having your name crop up in the comments section, but a lot of writers will check out their readers’ profiles—particularly if you leave long, thoughtful comments that make you stand out from the crowd. Plus, writers should support one another. It seems unfair to expect reads and comments on your own work if you’re unwilling to engage with other users
- Most importantly, write because you want to write—not because you want to earn instant fame and success. If you enjoy what you write, people will notice. Going back to the first point, keep posting until your story is complete. A lot of readers prefer completed stories because it means they don’t have to wait for updates. All my stories saw a huge increase in reads once they were completed
For me, the success was a snowball effect. It grew slowly, picking up speed as my reads and fan base increased. Some users have stories that went viral and earned them thousands of followers within weeks. That didn’t happen to me, but I’m actually quite glad about that. My success was through pursuing something that I loved on a regular basis, and it made me realise that if you have a passion for something, you’ll always find a way to succeed.
For this post, I used the site Wayback Machine in order to view my Wattpad profile over the course of the last five years.