I’ve always loved the satisfaction of having people read a story I wrote. All throughout school, there was nothing I enjoyed more than my teachers reading stories I’d scribbled down on scraps of paper, but by the age of 11, I was writing full-length novels alone in my room, storing them on my laptop, where no one else ever laid eyes on them. Yet I felt I was missing out on that excitement of hearing someone’s feedback, of finding out that someone had enjoyed what I’d written. It didn’t feel the same without sharing.
Eventually I decided that I needed a way to show my work to people. I’d left primary school and wasn’t comfortable enough to show it to any teachers at my new academy yet, and I was too embarrassed to show my parents and friends. One night, I did some research online and came across some writing websites where people could post their work and give each other feedback. At first, I was slightly apprehensive. There were a lot of people on these websites, of all different ages and nationalities, and I wasn’t sure if these strangers would like my writing or not. I was worried any negative comments would discourage me, but I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, and at the age of thirteen, back in 2010, I started posting my writing online.
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When I finished the first novel I’d ever written, I started posting DIMILY (which stands for Did I Mention I Love You), and these same readers started reading my new work.
At the same time, I started to become really active on Twitter @EstelleMaskamebecause for a lot of teenagers the internet can be a safe haven, and I probably spent more time talking to people online than I did talking to people in real life. And so during 2012, a year after DIMILY had been online, I decided to ask some of these Twitter friends to read my work. I’d never synced Twitter and my writing until then, but I gradually began to realise that using social media to promote my work could potentially be extremely beneficial.
These couple of friends agreed to read my work, and they loved it. All it took was for them to tweet about DIMILY a few times, and then I had people asking, “What’s DIMILY? Where can I read it?” I jumped at the chance to send these curious people the link, and they’d read it and tweet about it too.
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Around the same time, I discovered Wattpad. It’s the largest online writing community by far and it was absolutely daunting at first, but I posted what was written of DIMILY so far. I let my readers on Twitter know that I’d moved websites, so I instantly had readers who bumped up the read count from the moment I posted it. Wattpad has millions of users and the hits started racking up quickly. I posted my work on Wattpad but promoted it on Twitter, directing people back to Wattpad.
Before I knew it, I had people tweeting me asking when I’d be posting the next chapter, people discussing the latest chapter with each other and others simply freaking out. I’d let people know what date and time the next chapter would be posted, and in the lead-up to it I’d post sneak peeks and hints about the chapter to get them excited. The hour before I was due to post a chapter, my mentions on Twitter were always full of people waiting and counting down, so the moment a chapter went up, everyone was reading it at the exact same time. Everyone would live-tweet their reactions while reading and would often discuss the chapter for hours after it was posted.
This grew into what we called “update nights”, which really helped to motivate and inspire me to keep going.
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Using social media to promote my work means that I’ve got a close connection with my readers, especially now, because they’ve been with me since the early days. In a way, we’re all in this together, and ever since the start, I’ve always loved going on Twitter to interact with them. They love the books so much that they even help me promote it. Twitter also has an amazing community of other aspiring writers and book bloggers. It’s incredible the way people across social media can interact simply because of our love for writing and reading.
So I ended up with four million hits on Wattpad.