As some of you know, the Wattpad Block Party is an online event, held on the Wattpad profile of its host – USA Today bestselling author Kelly Anne Blount. Due to her participation in a program called Wattpad Futures, she had to remove the posts from the older Wattpad Block Parties from her profile.
That includes the post I’m sharing here today.
It has several tips on cover design, titles, blurbs, writing in general, Wattpad and creativity and motivation, and I think it will be useful to those of you who want to read up on these topics, but don’t want to jump from one blog post to another in order to cover them all. Some of these tips will only be useful to wattpadders, but others can come in handy for non-Wattpad writers as well.
Now let’s get started!
A lot of writers seem to think that the cover is not important as long as they have a good story, but the cover is the first thing that a potential reader notices. If they like it, then they’ll click on the story. Here are a few things to consider when creating your covers:
- Pick one that is clear and not smudged or pixilated (unless it is intentionally pixilated for effect).
- The image would appear in a couple of sizes, depending where your story is shown on Wattpad (as a suggestion, on your profile, when you click on the story) so pick one that won’t lose its details when it appears as a small thumbnail.
- It goes without saying, but pick one that is relevant to your story with the people/objects in it and its color scheme. For example, red and pink are good for Romance, bright colors suit a story in the Humor category and a dark image with bright red blood drops is perfect for Horror.
- The best size for Wattpad covers is 512×800 pixels or at least something with that ratio.
- As I said above, the cover will sometimes appear small so choose fonts that will be readable on the tinier version. Fonts that are too curvy or too thin are not a good pick as the first can make the words unreadable and the latter will be barely visible.
- Make sure that the color of the font isn’t the same or very close to your background color.
- Pick fonts that go with the theme of your book. A girly font with a heart instead a dot on top of i is not a good pick for a man’s memoir in which he narrates a dramatic life experience.
- Most people do not like half a dozen fonts on a single cover. Pick two – one for the title and one for your name. Three at most, if you want a word in your title to stand out by being in a different font.
WHAT TO USE TO MAKE A COVER
An obvious choice is Wattpad’s cover creator. But if that’s not doing it for you, try one of these:
- GIMP – a program you can download on your PC and use for free. It allows you to draw, crop, resize, use filters and many other options.
- PicsArt – draw something from scratch, edit an existing picture or create a collage. The app lets you add filters, frames, stickers. Both an Android and an Apple version are available for download.
- PicMonkey – a website that offers paid premium features, but you can do a pretty good job with the free version. You can resize an image, crop it, change the contrast, run it through filters and add text and other images to it.
- iPiccy– a site similar to the previous one.
- Canva – a site with a lot of templates, ranging from book covers and promotional material to Facebook and Twitter banners.
I’m telling you right here and right now that I absolutely abhor coming up with titles. In order to help myself and other with this headache-inducing task, I gathered and posted 15 Tips for Creating Titles, but I’m going to share just a few of them in this post. If you want the full list, click here.
- Do some research. Look at books in the genre you are writing in and see what their authors are using. Don’t copy the titles though!
- Use keywords that apply to your book(main theme, conflict/challenge that the characters are facing, mood, etc.).
- Think of the theme of your story and google it, but search for images. Pen down random words which describe the images that grab you the most – just a couple of words per picture – and work with those words when you make your title.
- Use similar titles for a series.
- Run it by your friends.Once you have a title ready, ask your friends and family what they think of it. If you are part of a writing group, ask your writing buddies. But even if you haven’t come up with a title yet, you could always summarize your story and ask people to give suggestions in writing forums.
A close second to covers on a lot of people’s I So Don’t Want To Write This list. Well, at least it is a close second for me. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you the next time you are facing this challenge.
- The blurb is not a short summary of the first chapter; it should apply to the whole book.
- As you write, your original intentions for your story might change and the blurb may no longer go well with the plot. It’s better to rewrite the blurb than to alter your story just so it would fit the blurb.
- The blurb should introduce us to the setting, the main character(s) and the conflict/challenge. It should also show the mood of the story. A cheerful blurb would leave the readers of a dramatic book with the feeling that they’ve been cheated.
- Avoid giving away too much information with the blurb. Show the main theme and mood, yes, but don’t disclose the ending or a major plot twist. Would it even be a plot twist if people know about it from the start? I think not.
- Run it by your friends.Just like with titles, don’t be afraid to ask a willing audience about their opinion.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to some more general writing tips that tackle the things writers most often worry about.
- Plan your story. Even if you don’t know exactly what to include, you should have a basic idea of what the plot is and where will it eventually lead you (how the story would end). You might plan two or three, or more endings and while you write, you’ll eventually realize which one best suits your story.
- Do some research. If you want to write about a place you’ve never been to, read about it and look at photos of it; if you are writing about life before you were born, talk about that time with your parents and grandparents; if your character suffers from an illness or a disability, make sure you find everything you can about the symptoms, treatment and how it would affect your character’s life and the lives of those around them.
- Introduce the environment by interacting with it instead of enlisting what’s there.
- Give your heroes and villains a reason to say or do something, especially if that something is out of character for them.
- Make the characters real. It helps to base them on someone you know. Also, what do they believe in? How much are they ready to sacrifice for that belief or a cause? You are real, you have your convictions, so should your characters… If you want them to also feel real.
- Keep your character’s appearance consistent. Unless the character gets a makeover, make sure that they aren’t described as “tall and blonde” in Chapter 1 and then “with curly red hair” in Chapter 2. It helps if you keep a document where you write how each character looks or a character inspiration board on Pinterest. That way you’ll have something to reference when you don’t remember whether you wrote that the MC has freckles or pimples.
- Characters should develop; make them better or worse at the end of the book, but most of the time, they should go through some kind of a change. An exception to this could be when you are writing one of those stories in which your character goes through something only to end up in the exact same situation with the exact same skills and mindset as they had in the beginning of your story.
- Mentioning once that one of your characters is a part of a minority and never going back to that could be pretty insulting to said minority; they could view your character as a token. In order to avoid that, write how being a minority affect their personality, lifestyle, view of the world and show what difference it makes to your story.
- Having one character use a word or a phrase often would set them apart from the others. It becomes a recognizable characteristic of their speech and you could even turn it into their catchphrase.
- No text talk, unless your characters are texting.
- Use your audience’s vocabulary. This goes for titles, blurbs, tags and the story itself. If you want it to please your average modern teenager, don’t use fancy words that were hip forty years ago.
- A major plot hole can’t be explained with an A/N that goes “I know that *event* happened in the previous chapter but it’s no longer working for me so pretend you haven’t read it”. Well, technically, it can, but that’s just lazy. Unacceptable, some would say. Re-write the chapter, send a message to your followers to notify them of the changes and the next time you upload a chapter, write an A/N to tell people to re-read the previous (edited) chapter and why.
- And speaking of an Author’s Note: put it in the beginning or at the end of the chapter. It’s best to separate it from the rest of the chapter (the story) with something like ~~~~ or **** or #####, etc. You can also have the A/N in italic and/or bold.
- Adding twists is good, it can even be great and make your story stand out, as long as you don’t add so many that people are no longer able to keep track of what’s happeningin the story.
- Always proofread before you upload a chapter, preferably at least one day after you wrote the chapter. Sometimes we don’t see typos, because we know what we wrote by heart. We expect “that” to be written as “that” and not “taht” so our eyes just glide over the word without noticing that it is misspelled. The risk of that happening decreases as more time passes between writing a chapter and proofreading it.
- Something as simple as changing the layout of what you wrote can help you spot the errors when you proofread. If you are in a hurry to upload and have to ignore my previous advice, at least try this one.
- When it comes to words, most people would advise you to avoid repetitions, but they can be used to emphasize something.
- One way to avoid repetitions is to make a list of the words and phrases you use too oftenand write synonyms for each. Reference your DIY dictionary when you edit.
- “I did this. I did that. I did this other thing as well. I was happy with the outcome.” That sound more like a list than a story. You know why? Because all four consecutive sentences follow the I + VERB + SOMETHING formula. It bores your readers so switch it up and use a different sentence structure.
- Start a sequel right away. When readers finish your first story they are already hooked so if there’s a sequel, they’d be eager to read it. But as time passes that enthusiasm decreases. They might completely forget about your story or once you announce the sequel, they could think “It’s been so long; I don’t remember exactly what happened in the first book and I’m really not in a mood to re-read it just for the details”.
- Tags make it easier for people to find your story, so use them. When you post your story, you have to put it into a category – Romance, Humor, Action, etc., but what if your story is more than one genre? You put the genres as tags, of course! What else could be your tag? Anything that is relevant to your story. If it’s about a fairy who finds a baby dragon, then use “fairy”, “dragon”, “mythology” and “folklore”; if it’s about a celebrity, use their name.
- Most wattpaders read on a mobile device and their screens are small so write short paragraphs as readers often find several consecutive long paragraphs off-putting.
- If you are uploading chapter by chapter and not all your content at once, pay attention to the comments; they can inspire your future chapters and show you your mistakes so that you could avoid repeating them.
- If somebody is harsh and says they don’t like your work, don’t take your story down, try to make it better.
- If you want more feedback, join a critique/review group. This will help you improve your writing while at the same time adding a few reads and comments to your story.
- Upload at least once per week (more often if possible); people could stop reading if you don’t update in a long time.
- If you have a reason not to post for a while put “ON HOLD“next to the book title and send a message to your followers to tell them you won’t be uploading and why.
- Don’t postpone updates because you don’t have enough reads/votes/comments. Seeing an A/N or a message that goes “I won’t update until I have *number* reads/votes/comments” is a total turn-off. Not to mention that this is unfair to the people who are already supporting your work by reading, voting and commenting on your books. Don’t be so ungrateful. People will unfollow you. They’ll stop reading your stories. And all that because you couldn’t appreciate the support you are already receiving.
- Communicate with your followers. Show them your appreciation for their support in an A/N or a message. You just might make some new friends.
Sometimes we feel completely burnt-out. Sometimes we stare at a blank page and don’t even know where to start our chapter. Yeah. These tips are for those times.
- Read a book/short story or watch a movie in the genre you are writing in and make a list of what you liked and disliked about it. Apply the likes and avoid the dislikes when you work on your own story.
- Change your routine. Sometimes doing something as simple as changing the usual time you write at might prove beneficial to your creativity and concentration.
- Don’t write. Just visualize. Run things through your head as many times as you need to and when you sit back in front of your PC, the white page won’t be so daunting.
- Re-write the last few chapters from another POV. Getting into the head of another character and seeing things from a new perspective could help you get ideas about how to go on. It could also help you discover a plot hole or a weak point in what you’ve already written.
- When I can’t write a blurb or have a problem coming up with characters, or I don’t know where the plot is headed, I talk about my story. It helps me remember why I started it, what is most important about it and to discover what it’s lacking.
- Set up long-term and short-term goals about word count and post them online. Maybe it’s because you don’t want to look like a slacker in front of your friends and family, maybe it’s because you promised an ardent reader you’ll update their favorite Wattpad story on a particular date and don’t want to disappoint them, maybe it’s just because your schedule is out there, written for the world to see, but you’ll mark more goals as completed when you’ve told people what you plan to do and when you intend to do it.
- Reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; “If I write 1 000 words today, I’ll treat myself to my favorite snack” or “If I reach my weekly goal, I’ll buy the new book that one of my favorite authors just released” will do.
This is it for this post. If you have any questions or would like to suggest a topic for me to cover in another post, leave a comment or tweet me @CatMint_cat; if you think this post might be useful to others, don’t hesitate to use the share buttons (at the bottom and above the VOTE button and related blog posts).