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Wattpad’s 2020 Year in Review: Catharsis Through Creativity, Creating Community, and Changing the World with Stories

Today we released Wattpad's 2020 Year in Review, highlighting the year’s most interesting, innovative, and notable storytelling movements on the platform. This year on Wattpad, readers and writers sought catharsis through creativity, turning to stories to support social justice and create community in a year of quarantine. In 2020, Wattpad’s global community of more than 90 million people supported each other through the COVID-19 pandemic while rallying around Black Lives Matter. Readers and writers on Wattpad also continued breaking down barriers to representation, bringing new voices and perspectives to every genre. 

Looking for ways to connect and cope with this year’s many challenges, people turned to storytelling like never before. Earlier this spring, Wattpad saw a more than 50% increase in sign ups from pre-COVID levels. At the same time, the number of new stories written on Wattpad grew 151% as users who were previously readers converted to writers. At the same time, the number of new writers increased by 125%. Writer activity overall increased by 200% from January through April. 

“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, but across the global Wattpad community, we’ve seen hope, humanity, and connection,” said Jeanne Lam, General Manager, Wattpad. “Wattpad has been a lifeline for people this year, as they’ve used reading and writing to connect like never before. In a year of quarantine and isolation, people have been able to truly express themselves on Wattpad, sharing their experiences, struggles, and hopes with others around the world. Whether it’s creating new opportunities for writers or helping readers discover stories that can change their lives, we’re proud that Wattpad is a safe space where people have been able to find connection and solace.”

Some of the most interesting movements on Wattpad in 2020 include:  

Perseverance and a Global Pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic dominated headlines and changed lives in 2020. This unprecedented time produced an influx of stories inspired by the pandemic, with users spending more than 16 million minutes reading stories tagged #COVID19. Pandemics and dystopian narratives have always been popular on Wattpad, but in 2020, these themes found more fans. Popular stories like C.M. Fritts’ (@cmfritts) The Runners (150k reads) were part of surge in #pandemic tags, which increased by 2104% over 2019. 

#Dystopian stories and tags also gained in popularity this year, increasing by 31% compared to last year. Creatures of the Night (1.1 million reads) by Grace Collins (@cloudedwithstories) was one of the most popular stories in this genre, and it will hit bookstores on July 13, 2021 from Wattpad Books. Kassandra Tate’s (@famouxx) The Famoux was also a fan favourite. With 5.1 million reads, the story will be in stores from Wattpad Books on January 19, 2021. 

In a year when so much human connection has been limited to virtual experiences, the COVID-19 pandemic also inspired creative new ways to imagine people coming together. Wattpad users spent millions of minutes reading romance stories tagged #coronavirus or set in quarantine situations this year. The most exciting example came from quarantine-romance Lockdown on London Lane (406k reads) by Beth Reekles (@Reekles), internationally-renowned Wattpad author of The Kissing Booth. The story is set to be published by Wattpad Books in 2022.  


Mental health on the mind

Amid the stress and anxiety caused by COVID-19, mental health was a prominent theme for Wattpad users throughout 2020. Last year, Wattpad’s Gen Z Census research found that 47% of Gen Z Wattpad users surveyed have experienced mental health challenges, particularly depression and anxiety. 

Mental health challenges have been a growing struggle for Gen Z youth for years, but with fewer in-person social connections, 2020 has been particularly difficult for people. The number of stories tagged #mentalhealth increased by 32% compared to 2019, and users spent 240 million minutes reading stories with this tag. These stories ranged from first-person explorations of anxiety and depression to narratives about supporting a loved one dealing with mental illness. People also spent more than 200 million minutes reading stories tagged #anxiety in 2020 — up 59% from last year. Stories like The Opposite of Falling Apart (23.2k reads) by Micah Good (@titanically-) and Emily Duvall’s (@eduvallauthor) Trust Your Heart (188k reads) capture the wide variety of creativity and sensitivity Wattpad writers brought to these subjects. Daisy H. Black’s (@ScarlettBlackDaisy) Knowing Xavier (1.9 million reads) was another standout story exploring mental health, addiction, and connection in the face of adversity.  

mental health

Black Lives Matter and making the world a more equitable place

2020 will be remembered as the year marginalized voices refused to be silenced. Global protests against racism and police brutality spread awareness in the streets and online, inspiring Wattpad authors to write about the fight for equality. The Wattpad community raised their voices and pens to support the Black Lives Matter movement and elevate Black authors on the platform. Users spent more than 18 million minutes reading stories tagged #blacklivesmatter, like Emani Jasmine’s (@emani_jasmine) Shades Darker (268k reads), which follows protagonist Kendra Lyon as she navigates the fallout from a tragic act of police brutality. 

The global Wattpad community also mobilized to elevate and celebrate Black writers and experiences across different genres this year. Stories tagged #blacklove and #blackjoy saw a significant increase in reading time compared to last year. Electric Impulse (1.7m reads) by Angel Hilson (@AngeltheAuthor320) and The Many Dates of Indigo (476k reads) by Amber S. (@AmethystAmber87) were standout examples of stories celebrating Black romance and love.

Readers came out in droves to support Black authors on Wattpad, spending more than 45 million minutes reading stories tagged #celebrateblackwriters. The movement was supported by stories like Daven McQueen’s (@keyframed) The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones (14.6k reads), which readers devoured on Wattpad and in bookstores

celebrate Black writers

Stories as a vehicle for activism

A year of intense polarization in the U.S. and around the world, Wattpad users harnessed the power of storytelling to elevate marginalized communities. 2020 saw the rise of activism and political engagement as central themes in popular Wattpad stories, with readers spending millions of minutes reading stories tagged #protests, #voting and #election. The number of stories tagged #activism and touching on political themes increased by 93% compared to 2019, exemplified by stories like Wicked, Wild, Wonderful (174k reads) by Matthew Dawkins (@MatthewD_Writes). 

Storytelling for change isn’t new to the Wattpad community, and people continued to spread positive messages about a variety of causes. Jo Watson’s (@JoWatson_101) Big Boned (265k reads) is part of a wider movement supporting #bodypositivity, #neurodiversity, and #selfesteem. The story will bring those important conversations to bookshelves on September 9, 2021 from Wattpad Books. Similarly, Revenge of the Sluts by Natalie Walton (@Floats) took on #slutshaming and encouraged important conversations about consent. The story currently has more than 443,000 reads on Wattpad and will be available from Wattpad Books on Feb. 2, 2021. Revenge of the Sluts is also part of #projectwomanup, a movement among Wattpad writers to empower women. Reading time for stories tagged #projectwomanup saw a 24% increase compared to 2019. 


LGBTQIAP+ voices in supernatural, paranormal and fantasy

This year, the global Wattpad community continued to increase diversity in genres like supernatural, paranormal, and fantasy. There was a 26% increase in the number of paranormal stories tagged #gay and a 100% increase in paranormal stories tagged #lesbian. Wolf & Witch (394k reads) by Alix Hicks (@HicksScribbles) — which follows a 17-year-old gay witch as he tries to save his failing relationship — was an important story in this movement. 

Fantasy continued to be an important genre for increasing LGBTQIAP+ representation. V.S. Santoni’s (@vssantoni) series I’m a Gay Wizard (670k reads) and the sequel, I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King (66k reads) continued to win fans for its rich, unique fantasy world of magic and wizardy, but featuring a diverse range of protagonists. In 2020, users spent more than 725 million minutes reading tagged #LGBTQ, up 58% from last year.

Writers from across the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum, like Lena Mano (@Lena-Presents), were some of the most exciting storytellers this year on Wattpad. Readers loved her #OwnVoices story This is Not a Tragedy (138k reads), which featured an aromantic and asexual protagonist.

In this challenging year, Wattpad users continued to create and devour a wide variety of exciting new stories and voices in every genre. Jessica Cunsolo’s (@AvaViolet) genre-blending romantic thriller Stay With Me (in bookstores December 1, 2020) continued to grow in popularity, with an incredible 221 million reads across the three-book series, Rebecca Phelps’ (@geminirosey) world-shattering sci-fi story Down World (305k reads, and in bookstores March 30, 2021), and Philline Harms’ (@writing00introvert) coming-of-age lesbian romance Never Kiss Your Roommate (2 million reads and in bookstores June 1, 2021) were all fan and staff favourites this year. 

There’s no doubt 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, but Wattpad readers and writers sought comfort and community through creativity, and the Wattpad community is stronger because of it. 

This article was originally published on Wattpad's corporate site