This post was updated July 4 at 10:11 a.m.
Jennifer Rosenfeld did not anticipate starting her writing career by searching Google for “writing website with social media.”
Four years later, the UCLA English alumna, who goes by the pen name Jenny Rosen, has published multiple books with more than 1 million views each on Wattpad, an online storytelling community. When Rosen began sharing her writing, she said she wanted active feedback from readers and writers to help ease her into professional writing.
Rosen said she published chapters of her recent story “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” in installments almost every week to gauge the number of people following her story and receive real-time feedback.
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Using readers’ critiques from the installments of “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.,” Rosen’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, released an audiobook version of the novel May 30. Rosen said she took suggestions from readers of her first draft on Wattpad to slightly change the audiobook version. In addition, Rosen is working on more books for the “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” series that are set to be published on Wattpad.
“I do not know if I would have taken writing as seriously as a profession if I did not have so much direct feedback from people reading my book on Wattpad,” Rosen said.
“Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” is a romance novel about a 17-year-old girl who moves in with her cousin and has to share a room with her cousin’s boyfriend’s rebellious younger brother. Since the novel has a romantic plotline that is geared towards a young female demographic, Rosen said it was helpful to hear her target audience’s thoughts and opinions on the piece as it was coming out. Even male readers gave insightful comments that helped her shape a realistic male protagonist who does not simply follow the trope of the romance genre, Rosen said.
“I think of my pieces on Wattpad as first drafts that I need to keep improving, using the comments of my readers,” Rosen said. “It is especially helpful that I can connect to the exact sort of audience I am targeting and hear their thoughts.”
Wattpad’s installment form of storytelling finds its roots in the serialized fiction of the Victorian era, said Gabriel Rossman, an associate professor of sociology who studies mass communication. For example, authors like Charles Dickens published their novels in literary magazines on a weekly basis, and readers responded to them through letters to express criticism or satisfaction.
“I think having (reader feedback) allows authors to shape the content and experiment to see what works and what does not,” Rossman said.
Rosen said she received feedback from readers about the content of her writing and the effects her writing had on her readers’ lives.
Rosen said she used constructive criticism to pay more attention to the pacing of the story to improve her audiobook version of “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” Because of the serialized nature of her Wattpad uploads, Rosen said she needed to rework the timeline of the story before writing it into a continuous work.
“On Wattpad, I often just went through without deliberating on the timeline until one of my readers wanted more information about how long the characters had known each other and such,” Rosen said. “For the audiobook, I really focused on getting that timeline so the story was clearer.”
Rosen said the active group of readers who gave her constructive criticism and praise on her work was her impetus to share stories she never imagined she would share outside her personal journals. Knowing that there was a significant number of strangers willing to put time into her stories helped Rosen take writing seriously, she said.
Before she began publishing stories on Wattpad, Rosen worked in the music industry after graduating UCLA and only wrote stories recreationally in her journals.
However, as Rosen began writing regularly on Wattpad, her audience’s anticipation for the next plot reveal drove her to pursue writing, she said.
“It is a great motivational point to know you have an active reading base waiting for your next installment,” Rosen said.
Apart from the edits of her weekly readers, Rosen sought edits from friends and peers, said Kristen Maglonzo, Rosen’s former classmate and co-writer for the sequel to “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” Maglonzo has continued to work with Rosen after graduation and helped Rosen with developmental edits on her first few books, she said.
Rosen and Maglonzo are still using Wattpad to share drafts of the second book in the series and to stay connected with their readers. The two have updated the sequel on Wattpad on a biweekly to monthly basis for constant reception, Maglonzo said.
With more books in the “Cheater. Faker. Troublemaker.” series in the works, Rosen said she cannot imagine her writing career without the constructive criticism and motivation that sharing her stories on a weekly basis provided her.
“I searched up something simple like ‘writing website with social media’ when I wanted to start sharing my writing and see how people react,” Rosen said. “I ended up with a world of readers and writers at my disposal who helped me share my stories.”