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Anna Todd and Wattpad Made It Easier To Dream of a Career in Writing

Using the small publishing platform, the 'After' author was able to make a name for herself — and at the same time, raise the possibility that others could do the same.
June 9, 2020
7 mins read

From a young age I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing plays, short stories and poems. When I was in middle school, a friend of mine introduced me to an app called Wattpad. While I initially joined because I wanted to support my friend’s story, tales with seemingly endless chapters about my favorite bands drew me in. Then, I discovered “After” by Anna Todd.

Wattpad is an app for aspiring writers and eager readers to come together as one and form a community. With an account you can read stories written by everyday people or even write some of your own.

Before advertisements were so prominent, Wattpad was an incredible app. You could read anywhere and at any time. You never lost track of where you ended up and every book you enjoyed was free. Now, in the midst of all their memberships and fees, Wattpad has lost touch with its original fanbase.

Still, whenever I open the app, it no longer reminds me of those middle school years. Yes, I know that it’s important to get with the times or be left behind, but people like me loved Wattpad for a reason.

I joined Wattpad in 2013, around the same time as Todd. I was publishing stories and gaining followers here and there, but it was nothing compared to Todd’s profile. She was much older and had way more experience than me, but I was in awe.

In an interview on Nightline, Todd explained that she struggled finding books to read in a post-“Fifty Shades of Grey” world. While sitting at home, she stumbled across Wattpad and out of curiosity wrote and published her first chapter. She enjoyed the instant feedback and that’s what she said kept her going. Classic novels like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Wuthering Heights,”  along with more recent young adult fiction like the “Twilight” saga and “Vampire Diaries” series, inspired Todd to begin writing based on her obsession with Harry Styles of One Direction.

This combination of influences earned Todd 9.8 million votes and 639 million reads on Wattpad. For her most popular Wattpad series, “After,” Todd received a six-figure book deal and a film deal for two full-length movies. If you didn’t stan her already, after getting published, she kept “After” on Wattpad. Some thought it’d be risky because readers could access the book for free, but true readers would want to support her and collect the physical copy.

Anna Todd changed the game for writers on Wattpad. If anything, it brought more writers to the app. She gave hope to writers like me whose dream was to become a published author.

As many of you probably remember, One Direction and fan fiction dominated 2013. Every preteen girl loved the British boy band, and if they weren’t running a fan account on Instagram then they were writing about them on Wattpad.

Wattpad writers portrayed One Direction in a different light — almost the complete opposite of their public image. In the media, One Direction was a pop boy band wooing the hearts of every 13-year-old across the globe. However, on Wattpad, plots portrayed the band members as archetypal bad boys. Most authors didn’t write about them like they were famous. In most stories, they were everyday people with a mysterious past and tattoos to match.

It’s hard to say if Todd originated this concept, but “After” was the first book I read with an alternative Harry Styles. To describe the story, she wrote, “Tessa Young is an 18-year-old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend. She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.”

To me, it sounded like your everyday romantic-drama love story. Initially, I was skeptical because I could get that kind of story anywhere. But “After” slowly pulled me in and I was hooked. There were so many twists and turns in one book and by the end of it, I was devastated.

Then I got a notification saying she released two more books titled “After 2” and “After 3.” I desperately needed to know what was going to happen to “Hessa” and Todd delivered. She even published a prequel titled “Before” once the trilogy was finished.

When news got out about there being an “After” movie, Directioners went ballistic. Of course, everyone wanted Harry Styles to play his character, but that was a far off dream. Not only was Styles not portraying his character in the film, but they also had to change his name to Hardin Scott. Deep down though, he was still the dark Harry Styles we grew to love and hate just as much as Tessa.

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In April of last year, Todd tweeted a picture of the script revealing that there would be a film sequel to “After.” The trailer for “After We Collided” is steamy and heated with the welcome addition of Dylan Sprouse as Trevor Matthews; if you’ve read the book then you know that Sprouse has a big role to fill.

Todd not only brought attention to the writers on Wattpad, but she showed the potential everyday people have — everyday people like me who loved to write, whether I had to write my paper or exercise my creativity.

Some may look down on Wattpad authors, but there are many hidden gems that deserve recognition. If you’re looking to read more books based on Harry Styles like “After,” consider “Knocked Up,” “Roommates,” “Piano Lessons” and “Darkness Meets Light.”

Despite all the hype around this particular genre of Wattpad stories, the website is not all about Harry Styles. If anything, those books aren’t as popular. Fan fiction will always have a place in my heart, but there are so many mind-bending books that you can enjoy on Wattpad. While Anna Todd’s work may not be everyone’s cup of tea, her writing journey has created a roadmap to success for aspiring writers like me. Even if you’re not a Directioner, the stories are free and definitely worth taking a look at. You might even end up supporting the next Anna Todd.

Kayla Johnson, Bradley University

Writer Profile

Kayla Johnson

Bradley University

I am currently a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in sociology. I want to be a published author and a sports photographer one day.

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