Comedy Spotlight: Humor writer Andrew Shaffer on how Wattpad helps his comedy writing

There are people who claim they don’t suffer fools gladly. We think those people are probably lying. April Fools’ Day is a 24-hour window where it’s socially acceptable to test the limits of our own comedic tomfoolery - and shed light on those who spread laughter the rest of the year, too.

Since humor is one of the most searched for categories on Wattpad, we spoke with Andrew Shaffer - a comedy writer who uses Wattpad to showcase and beta test his own writing, as well as to supplement his existing social media presence.

We wanted some tips and insight into how he uses Wattpad as a comedy writer specifically - and possibly to get some ammo for our own humor writing arsenals.

“I was already a published author with two nonfiction books, and one novel [Goodreads Choice Awards-nominated parody, Fifty Shames of Earl Grey],” says Shaffer, who joined Wattpad in 2013.

“But I saw a different readership on Wattpad from the one I could reach with paperbacks or ebooks—an international audience, reading stories from around the world.”

Shaffer initially began by posting some previously published material, just to test the waters. Soon, he found himself posting fanfic for Sherlock and Guardians of the Galaxy.

He discovered what an increasing number of already-published authors have found with Wattpad - a platform for stories that otherwise wouldn't have found an audience, and a way to test reactions to new story ideas.

Shaffer will be the first to tell you that to deliver laughs through fiction is not an easy task. “It's often difficult to know if I've written something funny until someone else reads it,” he says. “Like a stand-up comedian, an author needs to test out funny material to see if it works.”

Which is why he sends some of his work to beta readers, some to his editor, and, other times, tries some of his bits out on social media (including Wattpad).

“I'm currently serializing a rough draft of a parody [Catsby: A Novel] on Wattpad to get a feel for what works, and what I need to revisit on my next draft,” says Shaffer. “Feedback is essential for comedy writing. The more eyes on it, the better.”

Like many comedy writers, Shaffer finds that humor can be a great way to spark conversation about otherwise more serious topics.

“Nobody likes to be lectured to,” he says. “Especially with important issues, it's very easy to get heavy-handed. If you have a point to make, humor helps the medicine go down. Comedy is the cherry flavoring.”

We wanted to know if Shaffer had any tips for crafting a solid punchline… possibly for our own personal research, but also for science.

“I think it's fairly easy to write a good punchline,” Shaffer tells us. “People who aren't writers do it all the time on Twitter, for instance. However, it's more difficult to craft a good punchline that works within the context of a story. Does it fit the tone of the story? Does it ring true for the characters you've created?”

“The other thing about punchlines,” he reminds us, “is you need to throw out the first couple you think of. Don't take the most obvious route—go in a different direction. The bigger the left turn, the funnier the punchline.”

Definitely some noteworthy intel.

As for what Shaffer finds most useful about Wattpad specifically, he points to the ability to serialize his work, and connect with readers through comments as he posts.

“When you're writing a novel, you might spend a year or more alone with these characters in your head,” he explains. “But if you're serializing something, and readers can comment directly on the work-in-progress, the writing process takes on an entirely new dynamic. It's both fun and scary to hear from readers as a work is in progress! Wattpad has the ability to radically alter the drafting process.”

Shaffer, of course, is not the only comedy writer who’s found success on Wattpad. Kevin Fanning, for example, has garnered a huge following thanks to his hilariously creative writing, as well as YouTuber Grace Helbig. Because ultimately, comedic prose can take many forms.

“Humor can be sweet or it can be snarky,” Shaffer reminds us. “The only thing that really matters for me, though, is, ‘Is it funny?’"

For more comedy and tomfoolery, check out Andrew's writing, the humor category on Wattpad, or write your own story.

From Zero to 40 Million: A Look Back at Nine Years of Wattpad

This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founders Allen Lau & Ivan Yuen. Today, Wattpad turns nine. Around this time of year, Ivan and I always get a bit nostalgic as notifications pour in from people around the world wishing Wattpad a happy birthday. These notes remind us of the impact we’ve made since Wattpad launched in 2006.

When we launched, we were told that we were disrupting the publishing industry, but Ivan and I knew it was bigger than that. Wattpad goes beyond text, it’s entertainment where everyone participates,  and where stories reflect the interests and experiences of the world.

To celebrate our ninth year, we’re counting the memories we’ve shared along the way.

One idea started in 2002, before smartphones and social networks. An idea that, in the future, people would reach for their mobile devices to read books and stories.

Two co-founders. Ivan and I connected in 2006 and realized we were both independently working on similar projects. Together, we knew that our idea of interactive stories optimized for mobile devices could change the world.

Three early years building Wattpad proved to be some of the most challenging years of our entire careers, but ultimately laid the foundation for our future success.

Four people dedicated themselves to Wattpad in 2010. After we raised $600,000 in funding later that year, we doubled the team. Today, Wattpad employs over 120 people, and we're hiring :-)

Five scholarship recipients were selected this year on Wattpad. They shared inspiring stories about the things that have impacted and shaped their lives. The opportunity to award scholarships and support their educational journeys was a great moment for us.

The Six is Toronto, the city where we build Wattpad.  For us, the choice to build here has been one of the best decisions of our careers. Like October’s Very Own, Drake, we’re putting Toronto on the map and we couldn’t be more proud.

Seven plus 2000 gives you the year we made the decision to put Wattpad on the backburner. We had families that we needed to feed, and decided to get creative.  A switch in our focus was required to pull in enough to get by. It was a tough decision, but we always knew we'd come back to Wattpad.

Eight months into 2011, we reached a milestone: one million people on Wattpad. The momentum continued to build and, later that year, we went on to raise our Series A funding round to push Wattpad even further.

Nine literary classics are mentioned in the viral hit After. Anna Todd is one of our Wattpad Stars, and, in her story, she references classic novels. Thanks to Anna, and other Wattpad writers like her, young people all over the world are reading classic stories on their mobile phones. That’s the power of social stories.

With the help of 40 million Wattpadders around the world, we’ve significantly changed how the world discovers and shares stories in under a decade. Together we’ve created new behaviors and expectations for what the reader-writer dynamic should look like. As our team grows and community expands, we’ll continue to look for ways to reinvent storytelling to make it more immersive, inclusive, and impactful.

Happy birthday Wattpad! Here’s to another year of stories we love!

Building a positive community

This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau. Community is at the heart of Wattpad. It’s the environment and atmosphere that welcomes you as you start socializing. Numerous tech companies think they’re building online communities. In reality, most are building software and waiting for an engaged network to appear magically.

In 2006, when Ivan and I built Wattpad, we became our first community managers. We knew every Wattpadder personally and discovered that hosting a community is a lot like hosting guests at your home.

At an event, as more and more people start to attend, it gets harder and harder to engage in every conversation. As the crowd grows, keeping things civil depends on the environment and atmosphere you’ve established from the beginning. It's hard to change that atmosphere as more people arrive, this is the problem many networks face once they’ve reached maturity.

So how does one balance fast growth with community management? There is no simple answer to this, but I’ll share with you some insights I’ve gained over the years.

Know what makes a good community manager

Good community managers never feel bored with users and understand trust takes years to build and seconds to break. Good community managers are online social butterflies who build audiences and motivate volunteers.

Good community managers can make hard decisions. They see the dark side of the Internet daily, but know that they have the power to make the Internet better one user at a time. Without them it is impossible to build a positive and supportive atmosphere.

Hiring a great candidate can make or break your blossoming community. After all, they’ll represent the voice of the community within the company and vice-versa.

Interact with your users

At Wattpad, community training is mandatory for all new hires. This gives them a chance to experience the product in the same way users do. When personal connections occur naturally through user interactions, what most view as a chore becomes fun.

I spend time and energy to read stories, post comments, and thank new followers. Sometimes, great moments stem from small acts. For example, after I wrote this on my blog:

Wattpad turns 7 today.  Calling the last 7 years as life changing is an understatement. Not only for Ivan and me but also for millions of people around the world.

I received this note:

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.37.26 PM

 

This message showed up in 250,000 Wattpad news feeds. That's how things go viral! Showing some love makes everyone feel good. Just check out the comments on Your Story to see what I mean.

Empower your community

Our community is empowered and connected to our team. They are our co hosts, interacting with as many guests as possible and reporting suspicious behavior as it arises, like any good house guest.

Through programs like Wattpad Ambassadors, passionate Wattpadder’s help us manage the day-to-day happenings. They come from around the world, and from all walks of life. As Wattpad grows, this team of passionate volunteers refers us to new, like-minded users - some of whom now work with us full-time.

Make user obsession a company-wide value

Creating this amazingly positive space is a team effort at Wattpad. Every department in this company plays a part in ensuring that the Wattpad experience is unique. It’s reflected in features we’ve built to protect our users, the work of Wattpad ambassadors, and the positivity and support we see daily. At Wattpad user-obsession is a core value.

We have the power to build a more positive Internet if we put love into our product and work diligently to support a positive atmosphere in our online communities. Have you ever come across a space so full of positive energy that you had to join in? It’s something rare to find, especially online.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, let’s talk positive communities - comment below or message me on Wattpad @Allenlau

3 BIG reasons why storytelling is crucial to your brand

Storytelling is universal and can transcend language, race, gender and socioeconomic barriers. Humans have exchanged stories long before the formation of written language or the invention of the book. They are integral to who we are, how we express ourselves, as well as our collective experience of life and our relation to each other.

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Sprouting Emergent Behaviour

Sprouting_Emergent_Behaviour This post is brought to you by Wattpad Co-Founder and CEO Allen Lau.

When I first met Ben Ling of Khosla Ventures I asked him one question: How did YouTube expand into so many different categories? I knew Ben had worked for YouTube and Facebook in their early days, so I took this opportunity to relate his knowledge back into my product.

His answer was quite simple:

We didn't start these new categories.  It is extremely difficult to "cold start". These categories emerged organically and we spotted them early. Then we poured fuel on the fire.

For any startup looking to create a supportive environment for user generated content, it is important to consider this statement. YouTube did not create how-to videos. Users started creating them and YouTube oriented their product around it, adding support and focus to manage it properly.

Pouring fuel on the fire is an exciting way to think of growth. In the early days of Wattpad, however, growth was much more gradual and required the kind of care and attention you would apply to a new plant.

At launch, your first users are your first seeds. As any good gardener knows, seeds are naturally dormant until the right conditions facilitate germination. The environment you create for onboarding users should be like rich soil, cable of supporting and nurturing organic behaviours.

Plant_Growth_Diagram1

From rich soil, a seed will begin to sprout roots usually not visible from the surface. On Wattpad, we didn’t create real person fiction. Our users did. In this way, they began to sprout their unique behaviours and categories. A sprout is a good sign of growth.

When a sprout begins to show through the soil, more attention must be paid to it. As we spotted trends, we amplified them. We took the time to assess what was happening naturally on the platform and encouraged it, making it easier for users to do what they were already doing.

It was not our job to create new Wattpad categories that didn’t exist before. Our job was to create the environment where emergent behaviour could be created organically.  In other words, we avoided building our services too tightly around particular use cases, thereby choking good seeds.

When your startup reaches enough users, you should leverage their collective intelligence.  Cold starts are extremely difficult for user-generated content companies. By limiting how creative users can spread their roots, you prevent growth. Always pour water on sprouting behaviours, always pour fuel on the fire.