The Rise of Wattpad

Nausea-inducing hotbed of teenage wish fulfilment - or empowering space for young writers to spread their wings?

Quality literature is arguably hard to find nowadays. With the rise of the tech-savvy self-publishers, many of the stringent editing checks employed by professional publishing houses have been done away with, in favour of home-made front covers and the instant gratification of having your manuscript on the (virtual) shelves. With Wattpad, a few hours banging out a 3k chapter and a couple of minutes of Canva cover editing can produce a book which is disseminated widely among readers who don’t care if the entire masterpiece lacks capital letters, commas, or any sort of plot. Art is art, even if some English teachers would call it a tragedy.

It is undeniable that Wattpad and other online publishing platforms have produced some questionable products. A certain notorious Twilight-knock off is one example. However, the rise of illiteracy among youth has been a source of complaint amongst elders from all eras. In the early 18th Century, Jonathon Swift complained that “most of the Books we see now a-days, are full of those Manglings and Abbreviations”. No doubt, millenia ago, in some dusty Athenian agora, old men were also sniffing at the new bastard language of Latin.

It could be argued that the point is not the dubious quality of these stories that is important, but instead the opportunity that it gives young writers to share their work with others and receive positive feedback, regardless of how many comma splices their ‘book’ has. No one remains frozen at the 13 year old stage, where every girl has glossy ebony hair and every guy is a brooding Cullen lookalike. Once the satisfaction of seeing the likes and the comments fades, young writers move on to writing their own stories, with their own styles, having learnt their own lessons about writing. Their Wattpad stories become mildly embarrassing documents in some deep abyss of their hard drives, never to see the light of day again.

…Or, equally, they might become the next E.L. James and turn their Wattpad scribblings into a number one bestseller. Either way, some good comes of Wattpad. You either springboard off it to better writing, or you can garner instant success.

Yana VII