Watty’s season is here again!
For anyone who isn’t super familiar, The Wattys are like the Oscars of Wattpad. Every summer hundreds of thousands of books are entered for consideration, with only a small group ultimately winning the coveted title in a handful of categories.
Last year I was extraordinarily lucky enough to be one of those winners. The Wattpad edition of my first novel, The Star and the Ocean, was named one of 50 winners in 2017’s Watty Awards. It’s an accomplishment I still haven’t gotten over, and it’s exciting to know that a new round of authors will soon get to experience that special thrill for themselves!
But if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I actually submitted TSATO for The Wattys in 2016 as well (it was only because I didn’t finish the book until February of 2017 that it was eligible to be re-submitted last year as well).
Needless to say, I didn’t win the first time around.
While I didn’t say anything publicly, I was SUPER heartbroken over it. I, like so many other entrants, truly thought my book had what it took to win. But because I knew I’d have a second shot I excused myself from my pity party and took some steps to make sure the book was as good as it could be when the contest opened back up again in 2017.
Whether you missed the mark last year or are planning on giving it a shot this year for the first time, here are some of the things I did to get my book ready for the Wattys!
Look for feedback and actually do something with it
Even the most constructive criticism can be hard to take, but if you want to improve your work you’re going to have to suck it up. Ask your readers for feedback and pay close attention to what they have to say. A lot of it might end up just being matters of preference but if you see legitimate issues cropping up, make the effort to address them.
I completely restructured the beginning of The Star and the Ocean, as well as the length of my chapters, in September of 2016 because of reader feedback. It was a massive undertaking (not to mention a frustrating pain in the ass) but in the end, it did make the story stronger and more attractive to readers.
Finish your story (or at least be as close as you can)
Technically your story doesn’t have to be finished to be eligible for The Wattys (in the past you’ve been required to have a minimum of five parts up) but I truly think it helps. The first time I submitted TSATO it wasn’t quite halfway finished, whereas last year it was complete. I’m sure the judges do their absolute best to keep an open mind when going into unfinished stories, but you’ve got to admit that it’s easier to appreciate and understand a full and complete work over a handful of chapters. Think of it this way: would you ever pick a favourite movie based solely on the teaser alone?
Get those reads
This piece of advice is completely based on speculation and observation. The number of reads your story has don’t technically factor into the judging criteria, and there are definitely winners each year with only a few thousand reads. But the majority of winning stories tend to have read counts on the higher side. Does it matter? Probably not. Does it hurt to try? Nope.
If you’re stumped over how to drum up reads, begin by understanding that no one breaks the 100k read mark overnight. When I submitted TSATO in the Wattys the first time I had around 3k reads by the time the contest closed. In 2017 I had over 100k when the contest opened. It’s a long game and you have to be committed to playing it.
Admittedly, a lot of my reads came from features; first by making the Wattpad Featured Fantasy list and again by their official LGBT account. While Wattpad has since changed how its Featured List works, there are still plenty of other Book of the Month lists you can apply – or have someone nominate you – for. I also recommend entering book clubs. They’re a bit time consuming but you’re guaranteed reads PLUS most book clubs require participants to leave feedback, which we already know can also be helpful.
Be kind to yourself
Would it be amazing to win? Damn right! Are you a shitty writer if you don’t? Of course not. Not everyone can win and there are SO MANY great books out there that will never win anything. No contest defines your worth as a writer, so don’t let this one stop you from doing what you love!
Best of luck to everyone who throws their hat into the ring this year – I’ll be rooting for you!
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