Last weekend I jumped on a train and headed down to London to check out the Wattpad LondonCon. As with most things Wattpad this year it was an exercise in exploring the unknown and, much like writing A Day of Faces and taking part in the Story Fair, it was a resounding success.
The event was held on the top floor of the Foyles bookshop. Somehow in my 35 years I’d never heard of Foyles, much less visit the place. It’s six floors of book heaven which reminds you of how much we lose if we shop only through Amazon and co. They really seem to have nailed what a large, physical bookstore has to do in order to stay relevant in the 21st century. As a reader and writer, entering Foyles is less like going into a shop and more like stepping into a temple or church.
After an embarrassing incident in which I was nearly out-witted by a lift, during which I met the first of many friendly Wattpadders in the form of Becky Jerams, I found myself in the conference room above the Foyles cafe, surrounded by about 120 other Wattpad authors. It was just the right mix of exciting and cosy.
The day was arranged around a handful of panels on various subjects – check out Becky’s blog for specifics on the panels, as she does a great job of summing it all up. I was primarily struck by the massive diversity on display at the event: just about every age, gender and ethnicity was represented. There was probably a skew towards younger female writers, which isn’t surprising given Wattpad’s userbase and fan fiction roots, but there was also a good number of 30+ male writers.
As often tends to be the case in my experience with internet-based communities, the age and gender differences were neither here-nor-there. Panels were mixes of teenage authors with millions of readers and professional writers in their 30s and 40s, with a love of writing being the unifying factor.
Of particular interest was the experience of Taran Matharu, who found initial success while publishing his NaNoWriMo project daily on Wattpad. He’s since gone on to have stratospheric success and secure a traditional publishing deal, which is lovely. He’s in his mid-20s. I can’t say I wasn’t a tiny, teeny bit jealous. He came across as a thoroughly nice chap, which didn’t help.
Although the publishing aspect was undeniably exciting, it was actually the concept of publishing a NaNoWriMo project every day during November that really grabbed me. It’s not something I’d considered previously and I might just have to give it a go in 2016. Writing in serialised form has worked great for me with A Day of Faces, in a weekly form, and I love the challenge of publishing daily – and the nature of NaNoWriMo means you have to keep up that pace regardless.
It was a fun and informative event, spearheaded by Vic James. Inspiring stuff, and it’s always satisfying to feel like you’re surrounded by your tribe.