Interview with Gavin Wilson (Wattpad Head of Content)

Hello and welcome to another interview!

Today, we have Gavin Wilson (@TheOrangutan) who is part of the Wattpad Community Engagement team. This interview will run differently to the previous ones. It will be divided into the Wattpad section, which will talk about the website and how it functions, and the second part where I get to ask Gavin about his writing and bombard him with randomness.

Let’s proceed…

1. Could you tell us a little bit about being with Wattpad and what has it done for you as a writer and a professional?

Gavin: Over the course of five and a bit years Wattpad has changed my life. It’s changed my career, how I write, and taught me a lot about dealing with people. I’m not sure I’d ever throw the word professional around in my company particularly, but I love what I do, and Wattpad has given me a place both to play and work, and that’s something kinda special.

May: That’s enviable. A job that you truly enjoy is really hard to come by these days. I’m so happy you’ve found something you love.

2. As a featured writer, I know that you need to submit a story and wait for the Wattpad HQ to pretty much say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to it. But, could you tell us a little more about the behind the scenes process?

Gavin: There’s not a great deal to it in many ways really. Writers submit their stories, the content team have a look at them, and then they’re either added to the List or not. Each submission generates a ‘ticket’ which gets assigned to one of the team. That ticket is assessed, the story reviewed for story, cover, content etc., and then we go from there.

May: So, no secret meetings in underground chambers? Or hidden passageways that you have to walk through? Dang. I’m rather disappointed.

3. Were there any memorable stories (in a good or bad way) during your work with featured lists?

Gavin: I’ve been doing work on the List since late 2012 now, and we’ve seen a host of stories over the years. I don’t think I’d ever describe any as bad though as writers have to start somewhere and every story has something that makes it special. There have been a few where you read the first line and it just grabs you by the brain, those are the ones that I love finding, and I also take it as a personal triumph when we discover a story that has few reads that we can really shine a light on.

May: Hear that everyone? You’ve got a shot no matter how bad you think your story is. So, submit it for a feature and cross your fingers someone at HQ thinks it’s a hidden gem. But, I would suggest going over your story again and trying to fix the grammar beforehand. It will definitely increase your chances.

4. There is a rumour that WP is looking into publishing routes like Amazon. Is this true?

Gavin: Not that I know of. We’re not a publisher. Rumours are just that really, rumours. We hear quite a few of them.

May: I think there are some weeping writers out there because of this.

5. This is a question from a fellow wattpader: is there a “glass ceiling” on Wattpad?

Gavin: I’m not sure how there can be, it’s the internet. No-one knows who you are, or even where you are. For example, when people go to my profile they see an orange hairy simian who writes stories. I can assure you I don’t type with my feet while sitting in a tree eating a banana. I don’t particularly like bananas anyway. Wattpad is a worldwide thing, and we are here to share stories, read and write.

May: That’s true. It’s good to find a website that allows writers and readers to communicate without hierarchy hanging over their heads.

6. Are there any new ways in which WP can help those authors who are being published but must remove most of their published story?

Gavin: Wattpad helps everyone as best they can. If writers want to remove parts of their stories or have to due to publishing deals, or restrictions imposed by folks like Amazon, that’s up to them really. If writers have to remove a Featured story, I’m always happy to chat through options with them though.

May: I guess this is mixed news for authors that are getting publishing deals since they have no choice but to pull the story due to their contract restrictions. I’m glad Wattpad is still very much approachable about this matter, though.

7. How does Wattpad promote their authors and how do they select stories that are shared with Twitter/Facebook audience?

Gavin: Wattpad has various things we do to try and help our writers. We have the Featured list of course which gives folk great exposure, and we have things like the Stars program, and various reading lists / genre profiles where we try and showcase some of our favourite stories. And we also have The Watty Awards, of course, which always gets great press and means we can use media like Twitter and Facebook to shout out about the cool stories we host on Wattpad. Stories are often selected by the staff as favourites, and all the staff at Wattpad HQ read on Wattpad. Some of the team log many many hours of reading, and all of them have different favourite genres so we pick up all sorts of interesting stories along the way.

May: For anyone interested in these programs, I am going to provide links below. There are some great Wattpad profiles that can help you gain more exposure like: Wattpad Paranormal, Wattpad Romance, WattVampires, Wattpad Horror, Wattpad SciFi, etc.

Stars program:
Feature list application:

8. Why should published authors migrate to Wattpad? What benefits do they receive for joining and creating an account?

Gavin: I’d say the main thing is exposure and broadening your potential audience. Some writers love Wattpad because it means they can explore genres other than what they tend to write normally, some because they find a new or different audience, and, of course, some because they get to interact directly with folk who read their stories. This isn’t something that happens anywhere else really, so the Wattpad Community is a benefit in itself.

May: I have seen some well-known published authors on Wattpad helping new and aspiring writers by providing advice and answering questions. It is great to see them doing things like that. Some of the ones I know are: Christopher Pike, Margaret Atwood, Michael J. Sullivan, and the list goes on.

9. We have heard about the multimedia feature being implemented and a lot of popular accounts are already utilizing it. Was this a feature requested by the community or is this something unique that Wattpad decided to add?

Gavin: I think it was a bit of both to be honest. Wattpad always listen to the Community. Sometimes we may not be able to implement what people want to see immediately, or it gets put on the ideas shelf for a bit while we complete other projects, but Wattpad always takes note of ideas from both the Community of Wattpad, and of course from all the folk we have on the team.

May: When I heard the multimedia feature was going to come out, I immediately thought: picture books. But, at the same time, I think it will be pretty hard to keep people from posting gifs of unrelated or indecent content onto the website. The increase in server storage space would also be inevitable. Nevertheless, it is good to know Wattpad listens to the folk that use the site.

10. With WP always evolving, are there any new features we can look forward to in the future?

Gavin: Wattpad will never stand still, and new things are always being looked at, experimented with, tested, etc., and things are always being tweaked to improve how they work too. And to answer the question, yes, there will be more things coming, I just can’t tell you what they are =]

May: Ah, so secretive, Gavin. Here I was hoping we could get some top secret info out of you. *laughs*

Now that we got to know Wattpad a little bit more, I would like to talk about you as a writer and your career so far.

1. What helps you stay out of the writer’s block? Have you developed any way to avoid it over the years?

Gavin: If I get stuck on something, I tend to drop it and go and do something else, or write something else. I don’t often work to deadlines, so if a story sits there for a bit without being completed, I can live with that. Often, the act of doing something completely different gives the brain space to think and helps to formulate the story that otherwise you’d sit there staring at blankly for a few hours. There’s no point forcing things, so I tend to go and do something else for bit.

May: Oh, deadlines stress me out sometimes. I like to finish projects before a deadline so I don’t have to think about it or freak out that it’s due in 10 mins (like at Uni). As for doing something completely different, it does tend to help get out of the writer’s block. I did notice that for me, it is a problematic state. If I stay away from writing for too long, it becomes harder for me to get back into it or, the complete opposite, my fingers start twitching and I just HAVE to write something.

2. You are a rather diverse writer. Your genres seem to vary from Sci-fi to Historical Fiction. Do you do a lot of research while writing your stories? If so, do you begin your research before the project or during it?

Gavin: I’ll take that as a compliment, but I suspect diverse means I have a very short attention span. I tend to come up with the idea first, then do some research if it’s needed and roughly plan out the story arc. Then, I’ll start writing and do additional research where required. Some stories need more research than others, particularly Historical Fiction.

May: There’s nothing wrong with being diverse. I love trying out new genres and mixing them up a bit. It would be really boring if you had to stay within the bounds of a single genre for the rest of your career. Since we’re on a topic of research, my process would be pretty much the same as yours, except for the story arc bit. Even though I tend to write out the full plot before starting a book, the characters stop listening about 1/3 of the way in, which renders my schemes useless. At least, the major events and character backgrounds stay, so there are still some plotting remnants there.

3. Let us avoid the normal and jump into some fun. If you could get on stage in front of twenty thousand people and sing a full song, which song would you pick for the occasion?

Gavin: Given that my singing voice has been likened to a moose in pain, I’d probably empty the stadium in short order, so I suspect I’d go for something classic by Queen as at least the backing music would be good. ‘We Will Rock You’ is perhaps as good as I’d get.

May: As much as I love singing Evanescence “Bring me to life”, I may need to go with something less gothic. Humm … and since I can’t think of one, the audience may just have to suffer with Evanescence after all.

4. Different writers either have to word count goal for a week or for a day, what is yours?

Gavin: I don’t really have any goals as such. If I get an idea I write it down. If the idea lights up my brain then I write the story. I suspect my approach is a little haphazard, but it suits me.

May: I don’t particularly have daily goals. I do try to stick to 2-5k words a day when I’m in writing mode. When editing, all of that gets tossed out and I do however much I can, when I can.

5. Apple, Android, or Microsoft?

Gavin: Android

May: Yay, I’m the same. Android all the way.

6. Based on your profile, you are a family man. Have you considered writing a children’s book?

Gavin: I’ve written a couple of short things that my kids liked, but most of my stuff is a little dark for them at the moment. I’d love to write more kids stuff but I think you have to be in the right mind-set to do it. I’d love to be able to write like Roald Dahl, Pratchett, or David Walliams, their kids books are wonderful and I do very much enjoy reading them with my own children.

May: I think eventually I, too, would like to write a children’s book. It would be interesting to see if I can do it. But, since I don’t have any kids just yet, I’m pretty much going to stay in my mixed genres for New Adult for another decade or so.

7. What is it like for you to manage the ambassadors? Do you select them or is there a criteria/guidelines you must stick to?

Gavin: It’s usually complete chaos but with some order amongst the madness. But it’s great fun too. The Ambassadors are a truly inspiring bunch of people and I genuinely enjoy talking to them and seeing what they’re up to. These guys love Wattpad and love helping people, they’re the epitome of all that’s best in the Wattpad Community. They also work very hard at what they do, and Wattpad value them very highly.

The team is very carefully selected. We get about a thousand applicants each quarter, and usually about 50 get selected. Each one goes through several rounds of checking, then they get a month’s training. They have to be over 16, but apart from that the team has people from all over the world in it. We cover something like 50 different languages now which shows how diverse they are. They’re an impressive bunch of people.

May: A thousand applications? Wow. I would go mad going through all of those. Well, it is nice to see that Wattpad Ambassadors are so diverse and ready to help the users. So far, from my dealings with a few, they are absolutely lovely people. You pick them well. Thank you, Gavin.

8. Here’s another one of the strange questions I simply have to ask: if you got a chance to become a captain of a spaceship, what ship would you pick?

Gavin: The Millennium Falcon. Cos it’s just kinda cool, and I’d like to learn to speak Wookie.

May: My pick would be Atlantis from “Stargate: Atlantis”. I get to have a whole city flying through space and we could land anywhere. It would be awesome – I feel for the maintenance guys, though.

9. Do you have any writing advice for all the young writers out there?

Gavin: Go for it. Write stuff. The more you do the better you get. Give yourself permission to write badly, everyone does at first, but learn, read, develop and keep going. To be able to give someone the gift of a story to read is an amazing thing, and anyone, truly anyone can write a story.

May: The hardest thing for a lot of people is completing their first story. They like to hop and skip or start thinking their idea is no good when they reach midpoint. I’ve been there a few times. Every time I reach the middle of my book, I have to just keep typing and hope that my readers are still having fun. After all, I write for them as much as I write for myself.

10. Please feel free to share any stories you are currently working on with us.

Gavin: Current projects include a short story about a mad cat lady, a prequel to my story Merlin’s Gold, various odd additions to Orangutangents, a story about human experimentation gone wrong set in World War 2, a one shot about cryogenics, another short about a man who feeds the birds, a few odd and bobs of poetry, a story about Morpheus, and a short story about a beach at the edge of the universe.

Told you my brain was easily distracted =]

May: Thank you, Gavin, for taking the time to answer these questions. As always, I’m going to provide a blurb for Gavin’s book “Merlin’s Gold” which is available on Wattpad.

 Merlin’s Gold

Treachery and intrigue, adventure, action and romance are at the fore in this tale set around the legends of Arthur and Merlin.

The court of King Arthur is under threat from Hengist’s Saxons who, lured by the promise of gold and land, surge out from the Saxon Shore to wreak havoc in the peaceful lands beyond.

The Knights of the Round Table and their allies sally forth to defend the fragile peace. Will traitors bring down Camelot and the Kingship of Arthur? Can Merlin find the legendary hoard of the Dragon?

Merlin’s Gold awaits, for those who are brave or foolish enough to seek it out…


You can find Gavin at the following links: Wattpad, Twitter

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