Sunday, May 17, 2015

New features on Wattpad

I am thrilled that Wattpad has new features. Even though they simultaneously added some glitches (like the sudden disappearance of paragraph breaks which means I have to go back in and add the breaks. And when I do they are super wide. Arrrrgh!). 

Despite these odd glitches I really love the new option to add video to chapter heads. It's a great way to connect with readers or–in the case of my non-fiction book–add another dimension of information.

Let me know what you think (link below).

Brad Teare–May 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Wattpad vs. Figment

Of the two principal social writing sites, Wattpad and Figment, which is better? As far as usability goes both sites are comparable. Both have a similar mission–to allow anyone to publish online–with similar features. However one feature makes Wattpad the winner—their mobile app for iPhone and Android. This one feature makes Wattpad the undisputed victor of the genre making it possible to read, write, and edit anywhere. Try it–it's awesome.

However I wanted to try Figment so I uploaded The Casebook of Martin Fierro to their site. Overall the feeling is a bit more amateur–with a more scrapbook-like appearance–and some of the features, like word count, do not work well (I could only see word count on the first chapter). On the plus side the environment seems more creative with less focus on fanfiction, although fanfiction still comprises the bulk of their content.

Please note that I have no objection to fanfiction. If people enjoy writing and reading it that's fine. It can be a good way for young writers to foster their writing skills. But by definition fanfiction is derivative and therefore inherently less creative and of less interest to me. Pastiche is a venerable tradition but is extremely hard to write–much harder than most young writers realize. Generally I prefer fiction that embraces broader creative possibilities.

As an experiment I decided to follow reader interest in Martin Fierro on Figment. I will continue to write my book on Wattpad and cut-and-paste chapters over to Figment. Below are comparisons of the different embedding features. I like the simplicity of the Wattpad imbed. Figment provides options for various formats. Let me know what you think. 

Brad Teare—Tierra del Fuego, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

What's Wrong with Wattpad

Wattpad is an amazing idea. But it has some drawbacks that need to be remedied if it expects to be a mainstream participant in the publishing business. Here are my suggestion:

Require all stories to be self-rated with more meaningful ratings. A rating of Mature means nothing if by mature it simply means the story is replete with obscenities. Many intelligent adults do not want to experience that type of entertainment. Having a rating system that casts sensitive adults in a pejorative light–as being prudes or immature–hurts Wattpad and makes its environment comfortable only for teens and young adults.

Allow authors control over what stories are recommended in the Similar Stories menu. I was surprised at the suggestions Wattpad makes for my stories and have not actively promoted them because I do not want my work associated with the suggestions. As far as I can see there is no way to filter poorly matched suggestions.

Consult with more writers, editors, and publishers about how to present the reading experience. The inability to format stories except as justified–which many professional typesetters avoid–mars the reading experience. Additionally there is only one font available. The word count in each chapter is useful but an aggregate word count for the entire story would be greatly appreciated. The fact there is no ability to add the em dash positions Wattpad as less than professional.

Make more effort to embrace a professional attitude. While I love the ability to write on the go Wattpad is making itself vulnerable to potential competitors by not incorporating at least some of these suggestions. Some negative aspects of the Wattpad environment are so egregious that in many ways it's like hanging a sign saying serious writers not welcome. Additionally it is difficult to make comments to Wattpad personnel which implies they they do not actively seek the suggestions of users.

I love Wattpad. It's an ingenious idea but to remain competitive they need to continue to evolve quickly.

Brad Teare–February 2015

Illustrations with Wattpad

Illustration for chapter 4.
I noted in my last post that Wattpad doesn't allow adding illustrations. But apparently that is not entirely true. When I posted my latest chapter, Roald Higginbottom, I noticed that on my iPhone I could add a JPEG at the top of the chapter while in edit mode.

So I drew a small cactus in Photoshop and placed it at the chapter head. It works fairly well although it is not easy to center the image (I ended up enlarging the borders in Photoshop and centering the cactus in the JPEG, which works well on the phone app but less well on the web). Also the image is grayed out until you click on it. I'm not sure why Wattpad thinks that is a good feature as it diminishes the impact of the illustration and adds an extra click to see the non-grayed out version. But perhaps there is a work around.

Although I like Wattpad I find the interface somewhat confusing, especially on the iPhone. I wish they could introduce a bit more clarity. For example I couldn't rearrange the chapters and assumed it couldn't be done on the iPhone until I accidentally tapped something and a chapter arrangement menu came up. Unfortunately I haven't been unable to find it again.

But like most apps I assume the more I use Wattpad the more intuitive it will seem. For now I will keep having fun writing with the additional fun of illustrating each chapter.

Thanks for reading.

Brad Teare–February 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Should You Use Wattpad?

I became acquainted with Wattpad via an article by a published author who used it as a way to get her writing projects done. I'm a huge fan of frictionless creativity and it seemed like writing on the go might be a way to get my Martin Fierro project underway (a project I postponed for several years). I found the Wattpad site, easily made an account, and started writing. Within a few days I had several chapters, a bio, and a temporary cover.

Although some dismiss Wattpad as YouTube for writers the reason I love Wattpad is the ability to write anywhere. I use the free app to write and edit on my iPhone often using the voice recognition feature. I can also write on my iPad and laptop. I never lose chapters or notes that previously littered my studio. With my currently insane schedule it seems the only way to get any writing done.

Another great feature is the keypad which has arrow keys so you can move quickly through text. Each chapter displays the word count in the upper right corner. I love Wattpad's simple interface but it needs a preview button to complement the edit and save buttons. I currently use Chrome's back button to preview my edits. I also wish there was an easy way to type the em dash. In most programs I use option+dash but that only gives a single dash in Wattpad (workaround–use two sequential option+dashes to make an em dash). Another function I would like to see is a variety of custom Wattpad links to embed on a blog or website (view the current embed feature below). A notes section for authors only would be cool. I currently keep notes in a chapter I save as a draft (a non-viewable option for all chapters). The ability to add illustrations would be great too.

Facts about Wattpad as of April 2014:
  • 85 percent of traffic and usage comes from mobile devices,[14]
  • 35 million unique visitors per month,[14]
  • over 100,000 story uploads per day,[15]
  • over 2 million writers

I suspect that most users of Wattpad are readers of fan fiction, romance, or Sci-fi and that humorous detective novels such as Martin Fierro might get lost on Wattpad (one indicator of the fan fiction emphasis is there is a box where you can cast your characters. Since My Dinner With Andre is one of my favorite movies I cast Wallace Shawn as Martin Fierro). As of today I only have 283 views. But achieving massive readership on Wattpad is not my real concern. I use it for convenience and incentive. If I know at least some are reading my work I tend to look forward to writing sessions a bit more. Conversely if I knew thousands of people were following me it might inhibit writing. So for me the balance is about right.

Let me know if you have any additional comments on how to effectively use Wattpad.

Brad Teare–February 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Newest Book Cover

I decided I needed a better cover so I crafted this one that is brighter and has my name more prominently displayed. Since an author's name is his or her brand I thought it appropriate. Regarding the story, I recently added a new prologue which foreshadows where the narrative is going. Check it out. I hope you enjoy it.

Brad Teare–Bariloche, February 2015