The universe has a strange way of connecting you to things repeatedly once you hear about them. It all started a short time ago when I heard about Margaret Atwood using a variety of new platforms to showcase her writing. Instead of solely releasing books in print or eBook format, many writers—Atwood included—are turning to releasing short stories, alternate chapters, serials and even prequels to existing books in their collections online, most never to be released in print form.
And now, it’s taking off, becoming what some are calling the “YouTube” of books and writing! If you’ve ever seen a Youtube video go viral, you’ll know what I mean. The new writing platforms–sites such as Byliner and Wattpad–are making stars out of regular people writing fanfiction, as well as original works, and allowing established writers to keep their fans satisfied until their next books are released. The exciting thing about it is that many authors are being scouted by the traditional publishing industry now, too. If their works are especially popular, you can bet publishers are taking note. Maybe this will be the new form of slush pile.
We’ve discussed fanfiction before. If you don’t remember, it’s something written based on an existing book. For example, if someone loved the Harry Potter series, they might write a story based on the life of Hermione prior to attending Hogwarts, from her point of view. Fanfiction like this is not intended to be published (and would be considered plagiarism), but is perfectly acceptable in online platforms. Many times, fans of a series just want more….more story, more backstory, more of other characters….and fanfiction satisfies that need.
Recently, I read a fabulous Young Adult/New Adult book by Rainbow Rowell called FANGIRL, which deals with this idea exactly. In it, Cather Avery has a huge online following of her fanfiction on a platform very similar to Wattpad or Byliner, which presents an alternate version of her favourite books (loosely based on the Harry Potter series). Wanting to be a writer, she already has thousands of fans of her work, which is more than any young writer could want….except that she doesn’t want to write her “own” stories. Tricky problem.
If you’re interested in following some new authors, or maybe some of your favourite established authors, these platforms are important to check out. You might find yourself returning to read more and more…or maybe even post something yourself!