Monday, March 24, 2014

Weaving Fiction on the Web

Serializing fiction online brings readers in touch with writers (like the old days of oral story telling?). NYTimes tells all:
Wattpad is a leader in this new storytelling environment, with more than two million writers producing 100,000 pieces of material a day for 20 million readers on an intricate international social network.

When Jeff Bezos wonders if Amazon’s dominance of e-books might be outflanked, or Mark Zuckerberg ponders whether Facebook will be deserted by young people in search of something cooler, Wattpad is likely to come to mind.

“Now that everyone’s been given permission to be creative, new ways of telling stories, of being entertained, are being invented,” said Charles Melcher, a publishing consultant who hosts the annual Future of StoryTelling conference. “A lot of people are lamenting the end of the novel, but I think it’s simply evolving.”

Wattpad is not the sort of site where writers talk about suffering for their art or spend hours searching for the mot juste. Much of the most popular work is geared to young women and draws its energy from fan fiction. (Harry in “After” is inspired by Harry Styles, the teen heartthrob from the band One Direction.) Other popular categories are vampire fiction and mysteries.
Keeping in touch:
Wattpad eliminates any remaining distance between creator and consumer. The reader has been elevated to somewhere between the writer’s best friend and his ideal editor, one who offers only adoration. “This sentence literally broke my heart,” exclaimed one “After” reader. Enthused another: “What’s the point of life without ‘After’?”

Acquiring such fans is the most important job of a Wattpad writer. Then comes keeping them happy, not only by doling out new work on a regular basis — for a while Ms. Todd posted a chapter a day — but also by responding to their comments and questions.
And even participating directly in the story and the process:
“I’ll admit that when I get ‘This is the best book ever,’ I can be a tad cynical,” Ms. Sky said. “But writers are so self-critical. To have a team of people cheering you on is nice. When I write full time, my goal will be to have a team of people help me respond to every comment.”

Besides letting readers post a public comment, Wattpad allows them to send a private message to the author, vote for a work or become an official fan of a writer. Fans can also dedicate a chapter of their own novel to other writers, make covers for books and create YouTube and Pinterest tributes.

They can offer casting selections for a favorite story as if it were a movie. Starting a few months ago, they could insert comments directly into the text of a story through in-line commenting, which all readers can see. They can even sponsor a writer with real money.

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