Wattpad Creator Scarlet (@lettherebescars) has been writing on Wattpad since 2017. One of her most popular stories on the platform is Chasing River. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Wattpad corp. or affiliated companies.
Hi! Scarlet here, coming to you live and in stereo from the comfort of my bedroom. It's a late summer night and the waning moon bleeds through my open window bathing me in its graceful embrace. There's a steaming cup of cocoa beside me and my laptop screen is a little bit too bright. I find myself squinting slightly as I write this. Pause–you could picture that, couldn't you? The entire scene of me writing this blog post to you without you actually being able to see me? That, my friends, is the magic of imagery. The power of words being able to create an unseen world.
Where did it all begin?
Well, allow me to let you into my world for a moment, as I take you on a trip through time. The story behind how I discovered the Wattpad app despite being a tad bit embarrassing is one I know will resonate with many girls my age. I discovered the Wattpad app when I was about thirteen years old as I was immediately immersed into the world of One Direction fanfiction that provided the ultimate escapism experience for my tween fangirl heart. As I travelled further down the rabbit hole, I was able to discover amazing stories with unique and captivating storylines that I simply wasn't able to find anywhere else. I have always believed that it's the freedom of creativity and power of self-expression that Wattpad allows that is its one true charm. It doesn't matter what kind of life you lead in the real world, because the second you open that little orange app, you can be whoever you want to be, and create characters and worlds that are entirely your own. Little did 13-year-old Scarlet know, underneath a blanket past midnight staring at her mom's laptop screen, that that website would create a butterfly effect that would lead her to where she is now—a Wattpad creator!
My first story... wasn't an immediate hit
The majority of you reading this right now are mostly familiar with my story Chasing River, which garnered millions of readers over time. But the truth is that it wasn't always like that. I wasn't always confident in writing stories that remained true to myself. In the beginning, Chasing River was just an idea that my best friend and I thought of during a lunch break in the school library, giggling at the impossibility of it all while sharing a bag of Jolly Ranchers. We dreamed of someday going to Paris, being sent a letter that invited us to join the most prestigious and elite art academy in all of France, and meeting a clever group of friends to tell all our secrets to. Perhaps we'd even meet a mysterious boy with dark eyes and an even darker past.
As I'm sure so many of your stories are too at first, merely ideas. But I was uncertain, you see, I had never seen any successful books online about girls like me, African women with curls in their hair and a passion for art in their hearts, fighting to keep their traditions alive while navigating the world outside of their home country.
And so I thought of changing the narrative, making my main character what I thought would be more palatable instead; straightening her hair, giving her white skin and blue eyes. At 13, I had thought that that was the answer to a successful story, to have it be able to appeal to what I'd assumed were the masses. From what I had seen, all the popular stories were about girls who tied their hair in messy buns, grew up in small American towns, and went to Starbucks every morning. Not about girls who braided each other's hair, grew up in small cities under the African sun, and bonded over bowls of porridge with their sisters in the mornings.
It's okay to be inspired
I found myself being inspired by Wattpad authors like Anna Todd who wrote the After series which got me into reading romance and gave me the courage to upload my first book onto the app. Having read her stories before they became the sensations that they are now and watching her grow into a published author with film adaptations truly inspired me. So dear Anna, if you ever read this, your words live on forever in my heart. Authors like @grraciie_, who wrote Bad Boy Roommate which introduced me to the ever-flawless and captivating boarding school trope that I'd never get tired of, and @bridgyr, who wrote Last Summer, a book written with such effortless passion, with such realistic and flawed characters that reminded me of the importance of making your characters feel human. My friend @kaylarosewrites who wrote Clarity, a story that discusses mental health in relationships in a more positive yet realistic light which taught me that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.
But... Why write on Wattpad?
Writing on Wattpad was the best possible option for me because it gave me the opportunity to connect with thousands of amazing people and share my words with them. Growing up in a big family it was easy for me to feel overlooked sometimes, but writing on Wattpad was the first time I ever truly felt seen and heard.
In the beginning, I was anonymous, which Wattpad also gives you the freedom to be, a good option for people who want to have a secret identity. It can feel like a superpower sometimes to have so many people enthralled by your stories all the while they have no clue who you really are. Some of the best Wattpad authors out there remain anonymous even still. Wattpad is a platform for everyone that encourages stories and perspectives from all different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences.
As a Zambian author, it is so special to me that Wattpad consistently makes efforts to amplify the voices of African authors, giving us the chance to share our stories with the world. It is a gift and something that I and many other authors appreciate a lot. I am seventeen years old now, I've graduated high school, and I'm on the rise to university. I went from having 5 or so dedicated readers—who, if I'm being honest here were just my best friends from different accounts supporting me—to having millions of readers, being a part of the new Wattpad Creators Program, and having 18,000 friends (well, followers haha, but who I truly have grown to feel are my friends). Seriously, as far as I'm concerned, we meet for a book club every week, there's even coffee if we're in the mood. Despite this sometimes feeling overwhelming, it is a gift. This was all possible because I was able to remain true to myself, be consistent and find my voice.
So I'm going to wrap this up and share with you all my top tips on finding your voice!
How to find your voice
- Write what YOU would want to read. Have you ever found yourself at the library but unable to find a book that catches your eye? Well, write it!
- Be authentic, write a story that comes from the heart and is true to who you are.
- Imagine your ideal reader. Describe them in detail. Then, write to them, and only them. For example: My ideal reader wants to be drawn in from the very first sentence, doesn't really keep up with the times, and is unfamiliar with pop culture references. My ideal reader analyses every word and easily picks up on hints to plot twists. Also, they're a sucker for all the romantic cliches.
- Scribble down a few of your favorite books, then ask yourself why are they my favorites? What about them stuck out to me and why have I been unable to forget them?
- Live vicariously through your characters. Imagine that you are them; feel their feelings to be able to describe them accurately, understand what makes them happy, sad, and what their flaws are. Know your audience. Who are you writing for?
- Write what you're familiar with. Sometimes our best work comes from what we know. For example, base your story on the town you grew up in, and all the wonderful things there wareere to do and see. Was it a sleepy town? Or was it the type that never rests? What makes it memorable? Make your reader remember it too.
- Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.
A word of encouragement
To conclude this lovely little letter to you all, allow me to highlight that in the beginning, I was just like you, I was a girl with a dream to be heard, with infinite amounts of stories inscribing themselves in my mind like an overflowing sink. To quote one of my favorite coming-of-age novels, The Year After You by Nina Depaas, "there is nothing that is excluding you if you let yourself be a part of it". I want to hear your story, and Wattpad does too. Millions of readers are yet to discover you—their new favorite author. Be patient with yourself, and write at your own pace. Rome wasn't built in a day. Write with the kind of genuineness that allows your readers to know you through your characters. I'm excited for you to embark on your journey, and rooting for you always.