This week, Wattpad celebrated its 10th birthday and it’s encouraged me to reflect on the influence of the site today.
With over 45 million users, it’s clear that Wattpad is doing something right and you cannot deny the influence that it’s had, particularly on the younger generation, some of whom had never voluntarily read a book before using Wattpad, and now read several stories a week.
Offering instant feedback and a more interactive experience between reader and writer, Wattpad truly has put a fresh spin on storytelling. It’s made reading and writing fashionable again, creating a safe and tolerant environment where people of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds can share their work on a diverse platform which is, on the whole, exceptionally accepting.
Campaigns have been created to promote diversity and feminism within literature, friendships have been formed between readers who can easily connect via a common interest, and conventions have been held where users can meet up to spend the day talking all-things-Wattpad.
Several writers have acquired successful publishing deals through Wattpad—some of these wrote viral stories, and others had significantly fewer reads yet caught the eye of agents due to their talent. Recently, the annual Watty Awards took place with a few categories focusing purely on newer or undiscovered writers. Having witnessed several years’ worth of Watty Awards, it’s great to see Wattpad now also offering chances for undiscovered writers to win, rather than it being solely a popularity contest.
One of the things that makes Wattpad so special is the fact that it’s completely free despite its rapid growth. Not having to pay for the features makes the site accessible to a huge range of readers—particularly younger ones who don’t have access to credit cards—and it adds to the genuine nature of Wattpad, how the creators don’t want to exploit users but instead prefer to use advertising that ensures they can still afford to run the site whilst simultaneously rewarding their writers. This may not be available to all users at the moment, but the feedback I’ve had so far from my in-story adverts has been overwhelmingly positive; readers love to support the writers, and that just reinforces the compassionate and encouraging nature of the site.
What is particularly disheartening, however, is hearing various users claim that Wattpad is an awful site due to the quality of stories and over-used plots. Those over-used plots are over-used for a reason: they’re popular and lots of people enjoy reading them. It doesn’t make it an awful site; it makes it a diverse site where people of all abilities can share their stories in a safe environment without feeling like they’re being attacked or shamed.
There are so many talented writers on the site, too, creating unique stories with an exceptional grasp of writing. Just because their stories don’t always hit the charts, doesn’t mean they’re insignificant. It’s unfair to say the clichés represent Wattpad. They may make up a large portion of the stories, but no single writer, plot or story is more important than another. No single writer, plot or story makes the site.
It’s sad to see any kind of intolerance towards young writers who are trying to explore a newfound passion, especially on a site that is so active in promoting acceptance of all people. We shouldn’t be trying to belittle the creativity of any writer. We shouldn’t be saying they’re not entitled to success. We shouldn’t be saying the site is bad just because there are young, inexperienced writers on there. It should be the opposite. We should be celebrating how successful Wattpad is, and how it has managed to engage a young audience to pursue a hobby that is greatly considered exposing, challenging and risky.
So, here’s to 10 more years of Wattpad, writing and supporting each other.