Writers live for feedback on our writing. There is validation in having someone tell us what they think. At times eviscerating, and often heart-wrenchingly difficult to digest, in the end, it makes us better writers.
Feedback is important for growth. It provides us a way to improve our writing muscle, to give us that esoteric goal to reach for when we are hard at work wringing words out of our minds, akin to getting an ocean of water out of a tiny towel.
Traditionally, critique comes in the form of reader reviews, our peers reading an advance copy, editors doing their edits. Our family will praise us, our writing friends will present (hopefully) constructive criticism, and the writing community at large?
Well, I’ve been eviscerated myself, a time or two.
Feedback when writing online - serial fiction - is very different. It is instantaneous, it is global, and it is often unstructured. Why? Most of the feedback comes in the form of comments by readers on the platform.
How Does Commenting Work on Wattpad?
Wattpad enables readers and writers to interact directly in their stories via comments that work somewhat like a reply section on a Facebook post. The writer can always reply, and mute, report, and delete comments that aren’t appropriate. Wattpad administrators also have access, if necessary.
Readers can comment at the end of a chapter, or attach them to a paragraph when a particular part evokes a response. They can tell the reader what the passage made them feel, if they loved it or not. Younger readers - in my experience - use emoji quite a bit.
Truly interactive, it is akin to social media in the way that the writer will see these comments instantly, and can respond.
Readers can also interact on a writer’s profile, and follow a writer they like. Writers can also announce updates and news to followers, which is another way they can interact with their reader base.
One of my favourite comments from Western Heat, and my response:
When I first started receiving comments on my books, I was enthralled. I noticed patterns, I was deluged by them at times! Quite a few are ultimately praise-bombs at the end of the book. Others are reactions to character actions and situations. I don’t get very many reactions compared to other writers, which is fine, each writer has a demographic base that will vary in their desire to interact.
In particular, I loved these reactions to a character’s actions from Out of His League. Hundreds of my readers reacted to this part of the book with comments like the ones in the picture below. I knew, at that point, I had written it well because it got people mad!
Comments that Hurt
However, not all comments are good.
I may be lucky in the sense that I have not yet received a hateful, spiteful, or insulting comment directly on my writing or about me, from a reader. Fellow Star and Paid writers in my Wattpad peer group have shared some of the more eyebrow-raising vitriol they have received from readers. It is horrifying. Some of it is violating Wattpad terms of service, others are just so terrible I am befuddled why someone would bother to write such hateful, targeted junk. I’m thankful we can delete and report comments to weed out those who feel they need to spread hate.
I have experienced some conversations in my comments section that I have had to delete, but were readers arguing and insulting each other, using hateful and inciting words that I will not tolerate. That also is another post, should I choose to give the behaviour further attention.
I suppose these comments are a risk you take when you interact online in any fashion, on any platform. The Internet is a strange place. People are odd. That level of anonymity can permit people to let their manners and tact go, and type things they would never say to another person in public.
As writers on Wattpad, we also risk having that kind of negativity simply by sharing our work. There is implied understanding that if you are willing to put yourself out there, be prepared for the muck that may arrive. I have a thick skin, so I never worried about that. Some people might find it debilitating. Everyone is different.
So not all comments are wanted, but do arrive despite, and it is part of the experience of writing on Wattpad.
Why it Matters
As a Wattpad writer, I can tell you comments on my stories normally make my day! I try to respond to them when I can. I endeavour to interact with my reader base, and this is a truly unique part of writing on Wattpad. Very different than Goodreads, or Twitter in the directness of delivery, all over the world. I’ve had conversations with readers from India and Australia about my writing! That does not normally happen (traditionally publishing a book) unless you put time and effort into a secondary platform to engage fanbase.
At heart, comments are a reaction to something I wrote, even if they are raking my character’s decision over the coals because they think it is wrong and are utterly furious with me, as the writer. Any reaction is good! It means my writing struck a chord in some way.
Comments and reactions on Wattpad are one of the core concepts of the way the website works. The interaction is part of the algorithm that dictates if a story is successful or not (votes are something different).
So the point is this.
Taking two minutes out to let a writer know what you thought, sending them a note to say you enjoyed the book, or specific comments to say you loved/hated something makes a difference. We work hard on these stories. Good, bad, terrible or otherwise, it is something we spend a lot of time agonizing over.
Hearing back from our readers is motivating, validating, and above all else, lets us know you’re reading!
So next time you are reading a Wattpad story, take a moment to send a quick note to the writer. It might just make their day!