Before and after success | | Philippine News
Home  » News » SCU » Before and after success

Before and after success

Fan fiction writer turned published author shares how her love for books and boy bands started her career in publishing

Instagram, the hugely popular photo sharing app, is not exactly the medium one thinks of when wanting to write a story. It does, after all, focuses on photos and is purely visual. But writer Anna Todd started writing on the app.

‘If you sit down and write a story, you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re trained or not. I think that’s the thing that stops most people, thinking that they can’t be writers because they don’t know how to be. I didn’t know how to be, either.’

‘If you sit down
and write a story, you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re trained
or not. I think that’s the thing that stops most people, thinking that they can’t be writers because they don’t know how
to be. I didn’t know
how to be, either.’

“I was just writing  ‘imagine.’ It was these things called ‘imagines’ that are like mini/fan fictions on Instagram,” explains the 27-year-old author.

Of course, what she wrote were mini-fan fictions of her favorite boy band, One Direction, more specifically, Harry Styles. But it was after learning about Wattpad, a storytelling social site, that she really put her fingers to work, writing full fan fictions about her favorite celebrity, racking up millions of words, writing stories.

She was discovered by a publishing house through Wattpad, and they offered her a publishing deal. And in 2013, she published her first book, After, the first book of the bestselling romance novel series. Because of her thousands of followers and readers on Wattpad, the series became an instant success, putting her on the same level as the likes of fan fiction writer turned bestselling author E.L. James, who wrote the popular erotic novel series, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Although popular, fan fiction authors like Anna and E.L. James, get a bad rap because of the misconception that fan fiction works are “bad” because “are not written by trained writers.” Anna still believes that fan fiction writers are one of the best there is because they create stories out of something they love without getting anything in return.

As she launches new book, Before, a prequel novel to the After series, she talks with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle,to share her story and her views of the publishing world today and what does it take to be a published author.


When did you get the idea to write Before?

The idea came when I was still writing  After on Wattpad. I was on the second [book] and people kept asking every day, “I want to know what he [Hardin, the male character in the After series] was thinking in the beginning.” Because if I would have had his point of view in the first book, it would’ve spoiled the entire thing. And I love writing his point of view so much, of course. The time went by so crazy because I had a publishing deal and all these things are happening.

I talked to my publisher and I was like, I had this thing planned and I think I want to write it, so I started writing it. It ended up being sort of a prequel but not really because there are  some parts that were ‘before’ and there are some parts that are ‘during’ and there are things that are ‘after. ‘ Because most of After is back and forth and unhappy, I want to have some cute little stories.


Before writing the After series, were you already writing fan fiction?

I wrote fan fiction but I didn’t realize it was fan fiction because I was writing it on Instagram. It was still about One Direction, though.


Was it still about Harry Styles?

Yeah, it was more about Harry but that one was about him being in a band. It was more  realistic in a way, although it wasn’t realistic because it was a made up personality. I wrote that and I lovee writing it but I didn’t realize I was writing it, if you know what I mean.


Were you surprised with the response of the readers on Wattpad with your After series?

Yes, definitely! I’m still surprised by it. It was crazy because when I started, I had no followers, I didn’t even have a Twitter account, I just had this fan account for One Direction on Instagram, that was it. At the beginning no one was reading it, and then I was slowly getting readers and then it just exploded. I’m like, “What in the world. How did this happen?”


Do any of these celebrities read what fans write about them?

I know some do but I don’t know if One Direction ever read mine, specifically.


How long did it take you to write the entire series?

It took me a year and two months, which was very fast because the Wattpad version has over a million words. It was a lot. But I didn’t realize how much I was writing because it didn’t know how long actual books were like—word length or anything like that. It was interesting for me that I wrote so much and I had no idea I was writing that much.


Was being a published author something you dreamed about when you were younger?

No. I loved books, I have always been a reader. So I used to tell my husband, I wish I could find a way to get paid to read. But I didn’t know anything about blogging, or things like that. I didn’t even realize that I can actually do that. Even with After in the beginning, I never thought about being published. I was just like, “Oh, this is so much fun to write.” but I didn’t think I would make money off of it and being able to travel the world.


Growing up, what kinds of books did you read? Who is your favorite author?

My favorite author is Cassandra Clare, by a million times! But I didn’t read her until I was about 21, maybe. Before that, I read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, it’s a war story. I didn’t know why I loved it so much. I love classics like Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and I read things like The Babysitter’s Club, I loved all those books but it was mostly like tame things until I found Fifty Shades of Grey, and then I was like, “Oh okay, there’s a whole other world of books I didn’t know existed.”


Are you considering writing

other genres?

I have a book called The Spring Girls that’s coming out next fall. It has romance but it’s a modern rewrite of The Little Women, so it’s really totally different. But I love reading romance, I love writing romance. I think love is such a huge part of who we are as people. I’m just drawn to that. Even if I write something completely different, it’ll have some kind of romance.


There’s a negative perception about fan fiction-turned-published books, especially after Fifty Shades. People would just dismiss it and label them as badly written books. What can you say about that?

I just don’t really care. For one, I think, I feel that it’s weird to judge what other people are writing. It just seems weird to me especially for other authors to do it. For someone who’s supposed to love books and love the idea of people reading. It’s so weird to think like, “Oh this is not good as something else.” That is such a weird idea. It only happens with a certain type of group.

I think that it’s also crazy because I read fan fiction that are way better than any published book and they are written by all kinds of people. I feel like fan fiction has this certain power that’s only being written because of their love for something. They’re not getting anything from it besides the enjoyment of writing. So I just think it’s so weird to judge what people are writing and reading.

I’m just happy that people are writing and reading and luckily for those people, there are millions of other books they can read. I’m not one of those people that focus on something I don’t like. I don’t understand why people do, but I personally don’t really care at all. If you don’t like my book, just don’t read it, I’m just excited that I have one.


Wattpad has become a launching pad for new and young writers. Do some of the writers there ask for any advice from you, especially now that you’re a published author?

I tell them to use Wattpad, although most who approach me are already using Wattpad. I say, just forget whatever idea you have of what a writer is supposed to be, don’t think that. I used to think, even when I was getting published, I’m not a real writer because I’m not trained and I didn’t finish college and I have not taken workshops and all these things. That’s not true. If you sit down and write a story, you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re trained or not. I think that’s the thing that stops most people, thinking that they can’t be writers because they don’t know how to be. I didn’t know how to be, either.

Use the internet, because that’s where all the publishers are starting to shift to, to find new writers. Because for so long it was the same names in every single book shop. Now can we get fresh new faces and fresh content and that’s finally happening, thanks to things like Wattpad.


And writers can published independently even by Amazon?

Amazon has been amazing for that. I love my publisher and I’ve been very lucky having such a good relationship with them but I think self-publishing is also amazing. The idea of one random person sitting in an office in New York deciding what we read is mindblowing to me. It’s so weird to me. I have an amazing editor but I’ve had people tell me, “My editor told me to change this and this.” I’m like, who the hell are they to tell you to change your story? It’s your story. I feel lucky in a million ways because my editor is not like that at all. He is so supportive and he trusts his writers, not only me but other writers he has. He’s like, “Why would I want to change your story, you’re the writer.” He improves it, of course, and helps with my grammar because I have horrible grammar. I love the idea of self-publishing, I think it’s really cool and amazing way to get people to be able to make money out of writing.


Anna Todd’s Before and After series are available at National Book Store;