It seems insane that I’ve been a member of Wattpad for nearly four years. In that time, I’ve gone from being a nobody, to featured on the site, to having one of my stories reach an incredible 3 million reads. I am thankful for all of it, and never cease to be amazed at my fortune… and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg! Lots of things have changed for me, both on and off Wattpad.
But some things haven’t.
When I first came across Wattpad (which is a story for another time), the first thing that struck me about the site were the fans. Of course, at this point, I had no fans of my own; I was merely looking around and reading some of the most popular works on the site, just to get a taste. And the thing that stood out the most to me were the comments left by said fans…
“Update soon! I might literally die if I have to wait too long!”
“I love this! I can’t wait for your update.”
“When are you going to update? I hope it’s soon! :)”
For someone who was looking into sharing their work, this seemed incredible. The passion and love that these people had for the stories they were reading was heartening… even if it was often Justin-Bieber-as-a-werewolf fan-fiction (hey, you do you). These comments gave me the kick in the pants to start posting my own work.
Of course, those weren’t the only kinds comments I saw. I also saw critiques, general gushing, theorizing on the plot, swooning over characters. But there was one kind of comment that I noticed were different from the rest. There was something about its tone that made my skin crawl…
“Where’s the update? Have you died? It’s been way too long! Why would you write this just to leave me hanging? This is the worst! If you don’t update by tomorrow I am never reading this story ever again. [AUTHOR] should be ASHAMED!”
If you’re an author on Wattpad (or any other publishing site), then I’m sure you recognize this kind of comment.
In many ways, this comment isn’t so different than the ones above in terms of content. Both readers want to know when the update to the story is coming. Understandable! I can commiserate, especially if the writer crafted a particularly engaging story. I know I hate it when I’m reading a series of books, and the last book will end on a cliff-hanger and the next book won’t out for another couple months! Argh, my heart.
But the difference is that I don’t act like a spoiled brat about it. What sets that one comment apart from the rest is its tone… its entitled, down-right whiny, sometimes almost threatening tone.
And my reaction to this was just a kind of… shock. Horror, I guess, would be a better word. Really? This is how you treat a person — a person you barely know — who is sharing their carefully crafted story with you, often for free? These sorts of comments aren’t supportive. They’re rude, hateful and childish. They only serve as a tool to bully the writer (who, remember, is the creator of a story they supposedly like) to get them to do what they want.
I feel like this is the equivalent of someone being offered cake — free cake! — and they slap it away in disgust because it’s not their favourite kind. Not a simple refusal, no thanks at being offered cake at all, just a snotty rebuke because it’s not exactly the kind they wanted.
This kind of reaction is absolutely disheartening for someone who isn’t a “professional” writer, especially when I started to get them myself. I felt guilty that I couldn’t post as much as I’d like, but what could I do? I was busy, and unfortunately, keeping a roof over my head is more important than my stories. I want to share my work, but at what cost? I don’t get paid to do this — and even if I were to charge, rude readers would still have no right to dictate my schedule or plot choices.
I am not alone. For most authors on Wattpad, writing is not their day job. They don’t get to spend every day writing as much as they please. We have jobs, school, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, families, vacations… And that’s just the good stuff, not to mention the tragedies that befall some of us. But essentially, we have lives, and writing is often just a small part of it.
I love writing, and that’s why I do it, even when I have so many other things on the go. And I love (and I’m thankful for) my fans, otherwise I wouldn’t continue publish my stories. As the saying goes, I’m not letting one bad apple spoil the barrel. But that doesn’t mean I won’t sometimes get bogged down by my life, and it also doesn’t mean I deserve such vitriol because I need to live my life. No author does.
So, a reminder: you’re not entitled to your favourite flavour of free cake. You’re not even entitled to free cake. You’re getting free cake ’cause someone baked it and wants to share. Be thankful for your cake, but also remember who made it for you. Remember that there’s a person behind the cake, and they deserve your respect. Be nice to them.