Flying high on Wattpad

wattpad-reviewWattpad, the social media site for readers and writers, began featuring Beneath the Surface on Wednesday, 7 January and a week later Beneath the Surface reached eighth position in Wattpad’s top 1,000 of their Fantasy chart — and I’ve received over 600 votes and many comments.

It was extraordinary to watch. Every time I refreshed my browser more votes magically appeared. I found it amazing to think that while I sat at my computer screen, about the world people were sitting before their screens, reading my writing. And many voting and commenting.

So — forgive me! — I want to share two of these with you. I’ll be quick, I promise. 🙂

There are so many wonderful comments I could tell you about, but I’m singling out these two, both received yesterday, as I like how they respond toBeneath the Surface the story more broadly, not just at the chapter level. I received the first in the morning, the second at the end of the day. So I was on a high all day!

The first, from a London reader, has commented after reading Pt.1, which takes the reader through to the beginning of the adventure. Here it is, I’ve cut-and-pasted it in…

Wattpad feedback 1 (1)

You can find it at the bottom of chapter 7 here.

What more could you possibly hope for in a reader’s response? Hooked into the story. Loves the main character. Compares my writing style to a favourite book. Wow. Thank you! I don’t know Jenny Downham’s book, but I’ll sure be seeking it out.

And here’s the second quote I would like to share with you. All I will say about it is, this is my very first response from anyone anywhere regarding my book as a whole, so, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s feedback of critical importance…

Wattpad feedback 2

You can find that one at the bottom of the very last chapter, Chapter 95.

The comments and votes are still coming in. And — human that I am! — I remain apprehensive as I click open each and every one of them.

Thank you all, for your votes and comments of endorsement for my little fantasy novel about an unwell boy who enters a world beneath his garden. And thank you for permitting me this moment of pride in telling you how things are travelling for Beneath the Surface. Which I will end now.

Except to say, Beneath the Surface will be available to read in its complete form on Wattpad for a limited period. The story starts here.

Drafting Beneath the Surface

The next chapter of Beneath the Surface I post on Wattpad will be Chapter 23. This is still less than a third of the novel, but Christopher’s adventure in The Underplane is well underway. I’m aiming to have the complete draft novel posted for your ongoing feedback within the first week or two of December. Another 45,000 words (give or take) to go!

Beneath the SurfaceMeanwhile, I would like to present to you my latest chapter, just completed this morning. Bells are ringing throughout the village of Onehill, though Christopher — or Cee as his new friends call him — has yet to know what they signify. Christopher is eating breakfast with Ria and the children, and recalling…

Chapter  23: The church by the sea

I want to tell you about another time I heard bells.

On that day, I’d no idea where Dad was taking me and I knew better than to ask. All I knew was it took us a long time to get there. Hours spent in silence and bitter cold in Dad’s old Ford Falcon. The heater had packed up long before we’d ever owned it.

We arrived at a tiny church by the sea. It sat on a sandy strip opposite some shops and looked more like an abandoned portable classroom. Ferny branches hugged it, keeping it close and protecting it. When we left the car and made towards it, I could hear the rush of the sea somewhere out of sight. A sound, I thought, that had been going non-stop forever — before all things to do with humanity. Before that even. And would continue to go on forever. Way beyond us.

It almost suggested that the church, as piddling as it looked, was connected to greater things.

Almost.

I kicked at a pine cone and Dad tsked at me without looking up. But the pointy things were everywhere, just begging for it. More of them were piled up in the church’s lopsided gutters above us as we entered. Someone wasn’t doing their job and clearing them out.

And that was when I heard the bells. But they didn’t ring out all over the land like the Onehill bells. They dinged in a shrill, plasticky way. They came from a cassette player sitting on a trestle table just inside the door. The player looked like something left behind by a handyman; it was paint-spattered and the slot in the front where the cassettes went was held together with a rubber band.

People sat on rows of wooden benches. We stood sidelong to them and they turned and faced us. No one waved or nodded. I knew a few by sight — aunts and uncles I’d met once or twice. There were about fifteen in all.

I sat where Dad pointed, in the front row. Everyone behind us. Except for a lone man dressed in what looked like layers of green and white curtain lining. He jumped up from a chair as we sat own and hurried over and clacked off the bells. They went off mid-ding.

Din— Nothing.

Except for some sniffs, and creaks from benches.

Before us was a long wooden box. It was on a metal wheelie stand and in front of a colored glass window showing a bleeding man who was doubled-over, carrying a massive cross on his back. The wood of the box was glossy, I couldn’t stop gazing into its soft reflection. It looked as if it could be warm to touch. The lid was bolted down with shiny bronze knobs and Mum’s photo was on top of it, in a little frame.

I knew Mum must be in that box. I didn’t want to know, but that picture made sure I didn’t forget it. Though I couldn’t sense her with my radar illness. She was long gone.

With only the box to look at, I concentrated instead on thinking about the time she’d spent propped up against a stack of pillows in a hospital bed in our family room, gazing through the bay window and into our garden. She’d been dying for months but living every moment, with her family. That was what her illness had taught her, she’d said. Live every moment.

Not so, me. Born ill, everything just was the way it was.

The man in curtains told us he was Scottish, in case we hadn’t guessed. He laughed loudly, like that was an amazing joke. But the only thing funny was his accent, as if he was always on the verge of cracking another joke, but then thinking the better of it. Thank God.

He told us he’d become a priest a long, long time ago and had been sent here. Across the sea. We were his family now. He raised his arms as he said that last bit. As if to a great crowd.

I twisted around and checked out this ‘family’, half-expecting to see a gang at the back, cheerily waving. But there was only us few bunched up the front.

And then it struck me. Dad was returning Mum to the town where she’d grown up. She would be buried in this place she’d left years ago. A place of happier times, maybe? Or not — she’d run away as a teenager (something she’d told me, but Dad didn’t know I knew).

So why?

I wished she could have stayed with us. We could have buried her in our back garden. That was not as silly as you might think. Who was to say anyone would have found out? (And maybe she would have appeared in The Underplane? Met my new friends?)

I’d never been to that church before or any other and I’d no idea why the priest included me in his so-called family. Same went with the rest. I bet they weren’t regulars either.

A lonely man.

And now, as I ate breakfast in a village in The Underplane with my new-found friends, remembering these things and thinking about lonely men, I wondered if Dad missed me.

Was he out wandering the streets of Acity, searching for me?

I let the thought go, stopped eating and sat back. The others munched on. Maybe my stomach was smaller than theirs? But honest to God, I couldn’t have eaten anymore.

One last thing, back to remembering the church by the sea. There were two things that most bothered me, and I don’t know which was worst: the priest at the end taking the photo of mum and shoving it in a trouser pocket deep beneath all of his layers, or two black-suited strangers turning up and, without a word to anybody, wheeling the wooden box away with Mum in it.

***

If you would like to check out my progress on Beneath the Surface (and the earlier chapters too), my Wattpad page is here.

Workshopping with the world – How it’s going!

Beneath the SurfaceIf you’ve been following my posts and tweets, you’ll know I’ve been workshopping my new draft novel as I revise it. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about an unwell 14-year-old-boy who enters a secret world under his garden. I have posted seven draft chapters so far, which comprise Part 1 of the story.

I’m happy to report the use of Wattpad for workshopping is going well. All was going well on Widbook until recently. Here’s a little more detail about them both…

Steady feedback on Wattpad…

A useful thing about Wattpad, from a workshopping point of view, is that one can put comments at the bottom of each chapter. This has been a very useful way for me to pose specific questions. For example, What do you think about the title? What do you think about the short nature of my chapters? Do you feel like reading on? These questions are not always responded to and that’s OK, but it’s great when they are. I genuinely want to know!

I’ve received all sorts of advice, some of which I’ve immediately acted upon, some I’m still thinking about, and some I’ve parked to one side in my mind, waiting see what a professional structural editor might suggest, when that time comes.

It’s been extremely useful to hear what readers have found interesting in the story, their various observations and reactions. I am not always sure I’m getting the balance right in terms of suggested symbolism, subtle meanings, character portrayal, plotting and so on. I’m wary of overstating something, which then may seem labored and obvious, or slipping into ‘clever writing’, which can interfere with the reader’s engagement to the story. It has been greatly reassuring to hear from readers that they are picking up on the story’s depth and various dimensions in an enjoyable way.

And I do have to say, the positive comments have been very gratifying too! They have helped me feel, Yes, this is a story worth writing. This is something others would like to read.

But slower on Widbook…

threeThe news on Widbook is not so good, I’m afraid. Sadly, after an initial burst of activity, feedback has dried up. At kick off, things were similar to how I’ve described them above, but not so any more. I believe there are still a number of Widbookers reading my draft chapters — my book was added to someone’s shelf only yesterday and I received a new follower today. (I always follow back, because I think that’s nice to do, but that’s just my style and obviously not a rule). But the energy has waned.

I have received some excellent support from a number of the Widbook staff (I’m yet to hear from anyone on Wattpad!). They made one of my earlier books ‘Book of the Week’ and also invented me to write a blog post for them. They were very friendly and I immensely enjoyed my interactions with them.

There are a range of possible reasons for the drop off in responses to my writing. Here are two that I’m pretty sure haven’t helped…

There are many Spanish-speaking writers/readers on Widbook, and no doubt this has an impact on ongoing interest in my English written work, even though users generally appear to have a good handle on English, especially from a reading point of view. However, as I cannot understand the Spanish language at all, I’m unable to reciprocate the gesture of feedback by commenting on a Spanish written piece.

Widbook has a five star rating system — this is probably not a good thing when it comes to formative writing/drafting. A rating system leaves writers too open to the subjective impulse of others. And of course — as we indie writers know only too well — it is open to easy abuse: friends giving each other top stars, or tit for tat.

Olearia-stuartiiSo, after posting only a few draft chapters (three, I think), the book was awarded an ‘average’ three star rating. Ow! This a draft I’m workshopping, people! Not a published book on Amazon — ready for customers’ reviews and ratings. Now, no matter how many revisions I undertake and further draft chapters I post, that mediocre rating will sit there for the rest of my draft chapter postings (nine tenths of the book is still to come!) and until I take it down from Widbook, in readiness for publication. The average rating has the potential to put off further readers who may have had highly useful feedback.

How I wish that that reader had instead chosen to give me actual feedback. Why did they find it average? That could be marvelously useful to know. Instead, I’m left guessing and others are possibly being influenced and staying away. A rating system (especially one akin to Amazon’s customer review system) in a creative space can only serve to throw a wet blanket over creativity, don’t you think? 🙁

What’s next…

I love the story I’m writing, and the feedback from these two social media writing sites has definitely contributed to story improvements, revision ideas (not to mention one helpful typo spotting!) and the keeping up of my energy —  serious redrafting can be exhausting.

Regrettably, after a very promising start, I may need to rethink how useful Widbook is for workshopping a draft novel, but I most certainly will continue to post to Wattpad in readiness for professional structural editing later in the year.

By the way … why all the damned daisies? They make sense if you read the story.

Here is where you will find me slaving away on the redraft of ‘Beneath the Surface’:

If you visit – be sure to leave some feedback!

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I have been busy on Wattpad

wattpad-review

I have been busy on something called Wattpad (not absolutely sure why it’s called that, but there you go). And at last I’m back and writing a post about it.

Wattpad is a Canadian-based online reading and writing community that has been around since 2006. And it’s a very busy place! Many are there as readers, but many others are also posting their own writing efforts — articles, stories, poems… And you are able to comment and like stories or join discussion groups.

 Just who is on Wattpad?

wattpad3

I have been dabbling on Wattpad for a few months now and it’s quite clear that most users — readers and writers alike — are women. Though I have come across men too, including a male video game designer. And many are teenagers. It’s terrific that so many young people are keen to explore their writing abilities. There are many good story ideas and I’ve spotted some pretty impressive writing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are plenty of stories written in the young adult romance genre, though sci-fi and fantasy seem very well represented too. I have also come across a fair bit of  fanfic, which I have to admit I am not so keen on. I am not that interested in reading imaginary stories about members of One Direction or about Justin Bieber. However, if someone on Wattpad grows into a great writer through writing about their favorite pop stars — that’s fine by me! (And besides, if the story’s good enough — they can always alter the characters a bit later.)

What have I been doing on Wattpad?

keep-calm-and-write-stories-on-wattpadMy main reason for being on Wattpad right now is to establish a presence with those who may be interested in my writing, i.e. young adult readers into sci-fi and fantasy. My hope is, if I establish some kind of presence on Wattpad, I can upload the draft of my next book there first. If I’m lucky, I may attract some interest in the story and receive some useful feedback prior to publication. Hence, maybe I can use Wattpad as a giant feedback workshop.

To gain some visibility before I introduce my next book, I have so far uploaded one short story, MotherCraft, which currently has just over a thousand reads, and I am in the process of uploading my first published novel, EleMental: A first-person Shooter. I am up to Chapter 20 in that book, so only 10 chapters to go. It currently has a little over 4,000 reads.

Just on this ‘read’ business, by the way, before you get too impressed. I doubt very much if over five thousand have assiduously read the short story and novel chapters I have uploaded to Wattpad. It’s all software-based counting remember. It has no idea what the ‘reader’ is really doing. But at least they’ve had a peek, eh? No matter how fleetingly. And some have gone on to read it, surely. (Tell me that’s true!)

When I have put all of EleMental on Wattpad, I will effectively be offering the ebook version of that first novel of mine for free through Wattpad. I will then make it free elsewhere also, and upload the first few chapters of MonuMental, my sequel to EleMental.

How to get to Wattpad

keep-calm-and-wattpad-on-3Here’s where you will find more info about Wattpad (complete with a Margaret Atwood endorsement): About Wattpad.

And here’s one of Wattpad’s many writers writing about how to use Wattpad (she gets 14 votes):  Wattpad instructions.

And here’s where you will find my Wattpad page: my exciting page on Wattpad.

Or you can go straight to a story:

  • MotherCraft – A father leaving home can be painful at anytime. Leaving the planet, doubly so.
  • EleMental – The future. It’s all about friendship, young love … and dangerous video games.

Keep on Wattpadding!

Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams, CS Lewis, Tolkien and just about every sci-fi and fantasy film and TV show you could possibly think of. His ebooks EleMental: A First-person Shooter and MonuMental: The Hack’s Back are available through Amazon. (Just Google ‘Amazon’ and ‘Steven O’Connor’ to see). You may also like checking him out at one of his hangouts:

Website ¦ Wattpad ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook