writing a novel

How to Get Started On Wattpad

What is Wattpad? 

Wattpad is a website where you can post short stories and novels, as well as read and review stories of all kinds. 

Initially, I was very hesitant to get started on Wattpad. I'm naturally suspicious of posting my creative writing anywhere online--ever since my Livejournal days when people would steal my fan fiction and repost it as theirs, I have a major paranoia about having my hard work stolen! 

However, once I started posting on Wattpad, I really started to enjoy it. Plus, it's always fun to have new outlets for reading. I've read so many great stories on Wattpad--some short and some long--and it's so much fun. 

Why Wattpad? 

If you're a new writer (my most recent newsletter was about getting started writing if you've never done it before), it can be overwhelming to think of having someone else read what you've written. 

Socially, we tend to have this notion that if someone shows us their art, we know they can get better. We really love to watch artists grow as they paint or sculpt or whatever. Conversely, when it comes to writing, it's very difficult to be a starting writer. People have very strict ideas of what is good and bad. I have seen some halfway decent fan fiction get absolutely torn apart due to things that can be easily fixed with grammatical knowledge and formatting. But because we have this idea that you're either a great writer from the start or a bad one, people tend to give up--or, they tend to react badly to any criticism whatsoever, and so they never improve. 

Wattpad is a great way to get around that fear. When it comes to feedback, sometimes it's best to start about amateurs and then, slowly, through writing communities, work on getting better. 

Getting Start on Wattpad

I wanted to post a few tips for getting started on Wattpad. It's very easy to get overwhelmed when you first register--there are so many stories, so many tags, so many new things to learn. Here are some tips: 

1. Use Canva to make your covers. 

Canva actually has pre-made templates for Wattpad covers. How convenient! One of the most daunting things of uploading your first story is that cover, right? It's the first thing people will judge. I also use Unsplash for stock photos for covers. 

2. Learn how the tags work. 

The tag system on Wattpad uses hashtags--much like Twitter or Tumblr--but in a completely different way. Some tags are very general (like #boy) and some tags are very specific (like #high-school). Search through the stories and learn how tags work, so you can better tag your stories & find readers! 

3. Join challenges.

Both of my stories currently on Wattpad were written as part of challenges! Challenges are a great way to just get writing, regardless of what ends up happening. (Full disclosure, I don't love either of the stories I have on Wattpad, but I'm working on them!) The challenges on Wattpad can give you great ideas of what to read and what to write. 

Want to read my Wattpad stories? Click here.  

Follow Up: Is It Possible to NaNoWriMo with a Newborn?

Months ago, in the time I refer to as "pre-Forrest," I wrote a little post about attempting NaNoWriMo the month after Forrest was born. At the time, I really felt like NaNoWriMo was both possible and totally impossible. So much of it depended on "how things were going" with the baby and, as I've written before, I had no reason to believe I wouldn't have the absolutely perfect little darling newborn. 

I got a comment recently on that old post about whether I succeeded at NaNoWriMo. In November of 2015, I had fully planned to write follow up posts--but if you go back in my archives, you'll see I posted only 3 times in an entire month. So that's how that went. 

I realize, however, that I never actually wrote a follow up. So here it is, nearly a year later. My NaNoWriMo with a newborn follow up. 

Did I Succeed? 

When it comes to success at NaNoWriMo, the deciding factor is, obviously, did I hit 50,000 words? The answer is no, I didn't. So I failed. 

However, I did write about 20,000 words in the first 2 weeks of November. That is obviously Not the Goal, but it's a sizable enough number, especially given the fact that I was caring for a very fresh little human, pumping every 2 hours, and taking care of a house. For the first 2 weeks of November, Forrest still slept relatively well in his swing for naps, so I could squeeze in 30-40 minutes of writing before I had to hold him and watch TV. (Not that I minded.) By the second week, however, he was rebelling against the swing, so I took to wearing him in my Boba wrap to write. This worked reasonably well until he started to hate the Boba wrap, so I was relegated to the couch again. 

In November, Forrest was still quite small and sleeping a lot--like, most of the day. If I got a few spare minutes, I was eating or making another pot of coffee or trying to clean up my house. I stopped worrying about NaNoWriMo and thus, gave up on it. 

I got about halfway there, which is farther than some people get. And, full disclosure, I also pumped about 800 ounces of breast milk in November, so who's a failure really

What I Learned

Life is nothing without lessons. Whenever I don't do as well at something as I expected, I try to at least take some kind of lesson from it. So, if you're expecting a baby and thinking of attempting NaNoWriMo with your newborn (or just-out-of-that newborn stage baby), here are my suggestions: 

  • Be realistic. Not every baby will nap independently as a newborn. Some babies are great sleepers, but poor eaters, which means you have to keep a diligent eating schedule. If you are having your baby right before November, you have no idea what kind of baby your baby will be, so set realistic goals for yourself. 
  • Know that you'll be exhausted. This goes without saying, but if you have a few spare moments to sleep, you'll take them--versus writing.
  • Get a good wrap or baby carrier. I love my Ergo (I wish I'd gotten it instead of the Boba wrap). I still wear Forrest for naps in the Ergo now. It's easy to sit and work, or wash dishes, or do all kinds of things while you baby wear. 
  •  It's ok if you don't "succeed." Realistically, you might not hit the goal, but if you try, you've still at least tried something
  • At the end of the day, flexing your creative muscles, in whatever capacity you can, will keep you feeling human, even when your life is taken over by the tiniest, meanest boss you've ever had. 

Have you attempted NaNoWriMo with a newborn or young infant? Tell me about it on Twitter @michellelocke_

Preparing for NaNoWriMo in 3 Easy Steps

Are you a NaNoWriMo newbie? 

Take it from someone who has won three (four? I can't even remember) times: preparing for NaNoWriMo is a way of life. I mean, if you want it to be. 

The truth is that you're just as likely to "win" NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) whether you dive in without a minute of planning or spend a month outlining, scene building, and character mapping. But that doesn't mean you should jump in willy-nilly. If you're really dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in November, planning should be part of your process. 

Here are my tips for a successful NaNoWriMo November. 

1. Plan your time.

What's your November look like, time wise, really?

For those in the U.S., November is a holiday month. I've always struggled with NaNoWriMo during the week of Thanksgiving. Be honest with yourself: how much time can you see yourself dedicating to writing (and I mean, really writing) every single day? 30 minutes? An hour?

My goal has always been to spend 30 minutes to an hour every weekday after dinner writing, hopefully to my daily goal (1,700 words). On weekends, I try to dedicate two hours to writing--with the intention to get as many words on the page as possible. This has always worked well for me: on weekends, I can often write 5,000-7,000 words ahead of my goal, which means when Thanksgiving rolls around, I don't wake up at 1am in a cold sweat realizing that I'm now 4,000 words behind my goal. 

2. Write an outline. 

Depending on how you like to write, this might not be an option you love. But hear me out! I'm not typically an outline writer either. I usually like to have a rough idea of what I want to say, what my characters are like, and that's about it. But when it comes to NaNoWriMo, that just won't do

When it comes to NaNoWriMo, you have to think of it like this: it's more of a brain dump than a novel. I know, I know, unpopular opinion. But it's true! When trying to get 50,000 words on the page, you eventually have to settle for any words on the page. And that's much easier to reign in when you have an outline. 

I recommend dividing your rough idea into 10 chapters. Each chapter needs to be at least 5,000 words to hit your goal. Now, write down 5 scenes (1,000 words each) that you want to take place in each chapter. 

Why does this work? Eventually in November, you're going to forget a day, get sick, get tired, or just plain hit a wall. You can always glance at your outline, pick a scene, and write... and at least hit your goal for the day. 

Then you can worry about editing later... like in December. 

3. Get support.

Talk to your friends, your family, your cat or dog. Tell them about your novel; get them pumped about it. Describe the plot, the characters, the setting. Tell them you how much time you want to dedicate to writing everyday. 

Why? you ask. So they can hold you accountable. When you decide to ditch writing for after dinner drinks, you might notice your literature-loving coworker giving you side-eye. "How's the novel?" She'll ask and you'll remember: you're writing a book that she's excited about too. 

The more support you have, the more your friends and family know about your goal, the more they can help you to reach it. That might mean watching your little ones (if you've got 'em) for an hour while you write, or taking your dog for a walk, or promising to bring you a bottle of wine and a pizza after you finish your writing. Start talking about it now and you'll breeze through that novel this November. 

Do  you have your own tips for preparing for NaNoWriMo? Share with me on Twitter or in the comments below!