How To Start Writing Episode Stories
So you’re new to the whole Episode writing thing, huh? Awesome! Writing for Episode can be a great experience if you do it well. It is also really confusing when you first start, though. Despite the hundreds of Google Docs that Episode gives us, knowing where to start can be one of the hardest parts of writing for the app. They really throw you in the deep end, don’t they? You have to learn to code, write a story and build up your own audience. It’s enough to make anyone stop!
But don’t quit yet! We’ve all been there. We all know what it’s like to stress about the coding and get it all wrong. I remember when I started, I couldn’t figure out how to code in dress choices and it stressed me out so much! I ended up abandoning my story for about 6 months — and that’s where it stands right now. My first story is a sad little mess that hasn’t been opened since 2016. It was stressful, but it was a learning curve, too.
So now here I am with 210k reads — a respectable number — and packed with advice that I wish people had given me. Follow these steps and you’ll have a lot better time as a newbie writer than a lot of the people who came before you.
Read Stories on Episode
You cannot — and I mean cannot — ignore this step. If you want to write for Episode, you need to read lots of the stories on the app. Read everything you can: both popular and undiscovered; long and short; romance and horror. The more you engage with the stories on the app, the easier it is going to be for you to become a writer yourself. Here are some reasons why:
- You learn what’s popular. When you know what people like, you can create something like that and make it your own. That’s how you get those sweet, sweet reads.
- You learn Episode short-hand. We don’t have that many animations, so learning what people use to show different emotions is a great way to help tell your story in a way Episode readers will understand.
- You show support for other readers. If you want people to read your story, the best way to do that
isshow that you read stories, too. No one likes it when a creator doesn’t engage with their platform. It makes you seem rude and stuck-up. I don’t mean read for read. I mean choosing stories you like and showingyou like them.
- You can learn a lot! It’s not just about the short-hand. You can learn a lot from writers, like directing tips and ways to promote your story. If you like something that a writer did, you can try it yourself (as long as you’re not copying a story plot). Lots of them would be happy to help if you ask!
This is the most important step if you want to write. For anyone who has just joined the app, take a few weeks to catch up on some good stories before you write yourself.
Don’t Just Read Episode
Reading Episode stories on their own isn’t enough. Read books. Read Wattpad stories. Watch films and TV shows. Watch plays. Listen to lots of music.
There’s a lot that you can learn from other media, so don’t miss out on that! If you only read Episode stories, you’re probably going to get stuck making the same things we’ve read a thousand times before. Get inspired by a TV show you like, or a book you read. Show that you don’t just read Episode. It will do you a lot of good in the long run!
If you’re really cool (or sad, depending on how you look at it), you can read about writing, like I do. It will help you to think about things you never even thought of! It’s good to learn your trade if you want to be a great writer — and you can never learn too much! Get inspired in as many ways as you can. A fantasy writer who only reads fantasy is going to make something cliche. An Episode writer who only reads Episode is going to write another bad boy story about a mean gang leader love interest. Try something new!
Start Learning the Code
Yay! The hardest part! Before you even consider writing an Episode story, you need to first learn how to write one. Why? Well, there’s no point in plotting a great story if you then find out that you can’t do what you wanted to do with it. We’re limited by the code and the overlays on Episode! Figure out how to write first so you know what you can do with the coding we have.
Of course, the Episode Guides are a good place to start. They’re written by the Episode teams and cover most of the basics on how to code. However, they can be quite confusing. If you’re the kind of person who needs to see the code in action, try Joseph Evans.
Take some time to read as much as you can about how to code on Episode and watch Joseph Evans’s videos to your heart’s content. He’s got a great, fun way to make you feel less confused. But don’t worry too much! You will be confused!
Make a Practice Story
Still no writing here! It’s time for the practice story. So you’ve spent hours being confused about how to code. You’ve watched so much Joseph Evans that you’ve adopted his accent. Perfect! Now it’s time to put everything you think you’ve learnt into practice. I actually think this stage goes really well with the learning stage. Split your screen in half and have your tutorials on one side, and open the portal on the other side. When you learn something new, try it in your practice script straight away. If you have two monitors, even better you lucky duck!
Why is this important? Well, coding is stressful and confusing. If you try your new coding skills in your proper story, chances are you’ll end up with a messed up script with loads of errors. Then Episode will keep sending you email after email until you finally find out which bracket you missed out where.
And if you don’t figure it out, you’re stuck! You’ll just have to delete it all and start again. If you don’t, you won’t be able to preview or publish your story!
That’s 100 times worse when you actually care about the script. You won’t mind deleting 50 words of code that mean nothing for your story. Trust me! It will help you so much to create a practice script! Just create a story you have no plans of ever publishing and you’re good to go. Who knows? Maybe you will release it one day to show off all your bloopers!
Now that you’ve finally figured out how to write and what you can do on the writer’s portal, it’s time to start planning your story. Every good story needs a plan! It doesn’t matter what app you’re writing for. If you don’t think about where your story is going at least a little bit, you’ll end up writing 50 chapters of nothing. Not a good start if you want to be taken seriously!
So how do you plan? That’s a great topic for a post I should do in the future! The basics are pretty easy:
- Have a beginning, middle and end.
- Think of some characters.
- Choose your setting.
These are the main things you need to think about when you’re planning. Every story needs these things. They’re not going to work without them! Of course, there are other things that you need to think about, but if you have these, you’ve taken the first step down the path of making a good story.
I recommend getting notebook.ai. It is probably the most helpful planning resource I’ve found so far! Plus, the parts I just mentioned (the plot, the characters and the setting) are completely free to edit. Not convinced? Try reading my blog post about the resource.
Make Your Story Unique
Please do not ignore this step. Once you’ve got your story plot sorted, you need to start thinking about what makes it different to everything you’ve read on the app. There is a lot we can learn from book publishing. They have two terms that are really important and will help you when you’re making a story people want to read.
The Same but Different
If you want readers, you should do what sells. It makes sense! Give people what they like and you’re going to get lots of reads. Most of your readers don’t have all the time in the world, so the chances are that they’re not going to read a story if they’re not sure they’re going to like it. So, the way that you’re going to get those reads is by making your story similar to the stories you’re sure readers are going to like.
The problem is that most of the writers on the app stop there. They make a copy of everything else that’s on the app. That’s it. They don’t make it their own. Readers don’t want to read something they’re not sure they like, but they also don’t want to read two stories that are exactly the same. If they did, they’d just reread their favourites.
So you need to find that perfect balance. Take what you know about the app like “a bad boy” and make it into something new and fresh that people will be drawn to. Make the bored, tired old cliches your own. That sounds stressful, right? Well it’s not so bad! You just need to make sure that you think about the second term that publishers use.
Unique Selling Point
What’s this? Well, it’s what makes your story different. It’s the thing that makes your story yours. Take Warm Bodies, for example. It’s a film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. We’ve seen that hundreds of times before! So, they make it unique by making it about zombies. That’s the unique selling point. The creators of Warm Bodies took a story that’s basically a cliche now and made it different. They gave it a unique selling point (USP).
Here are some examples ways you can make a story unique:
- Make the girl bad.
- Set it in a country that isn’t the US.
- Don’t set it in a school
- Make the MC a minority.
- Make the MC a boy.
- Set the story in space, and make it about aliens.
- Give the MC a disability.
All of these give your story something unique about them, and many of them add to diversity. Perfect!
If you can answer the question “why should I read your story” and not focus on how it’s just like everything else people have read, you’re doing something right. Of course, you need to tell people how your story is like what they’ve read, but you also need to be able to say “but it’s different because”. If you can do that, you’re winning!
This is so, so important. If you want to sell your story, it’s a great idea to be online. Episode authors should have Insta. It’s a great way to connect with your readers and other writers. Making friends who will read your story is a great idea, and will make your Episode life a lot better. So, why choose Insta? Well, it’s visual just like Episode. Most readers use Instagram more than anything else, so setting up your own Insta account will open you up to a huge audience.
I suggest making an Insta account just for Episode. When I’m going through other people’s Insta stories to find out what I want to read next, the worst thing is clicking through stories about homework and random, unrelated stuff. Start yourself an Episode account and engage with the community.
Speaking about the community, try the forums! Don’t make the mistake of promoting your story all the time on there. Instead, just speak to people and make friends! Friends support friends, after all! Go on general chat and just talk!
Follow the Right Accounts
Make sure you don’t just use social media for your story. As I said before, no one likes it when an author does nothing but promote their story. Follow people whose stories you like. Follow people who talk about Episode and what’s going on in the community. Get involved! More importantly, though, is following accounts that are going to give you tips for your stories. That helps so much!
I personally recommend dara.amarie because she codes for the actual team. Her tips are great for anyone starting, and she talks about how to make your story look better, too! I love this post:
View this post on Instagram
PLACING CHARACTERS IN THE FOREGROUND AND BACKGROUND 1. Characters should be lined up by their heads (I like to use the eye line). Think of proportions in real life. 2. Background characters should be SMALLER than foreground characters. Placing characters higher up on the screen doesn’t really put them in the “back” 3. Foreground characters should be BIGGER than background characters. Placing them lower on the screen doesn’t make them in “front” #episodedirectingtips #episodechooseyourstory #episodecommunity
Get Some Good Links
So, now you’re almost ready to start your own story. But how do you get all those backgrounds that aren’t already on the app? Well, it’s all about getting the right links. This is where the forums are important. Make sure you check them out and look for people doing backgrounds and overlays! Plus, have a look at these ones, too:
- Joseph Evans on Patreon — if you’re looking for backgrounds, overlays and tips (paid).
linktr.ee — for all of your guide, template and hidden content needs (free).
- EpisodeLife — the place where lots of artists advertise their backgrounds (free).
Sort Out Your Grammar
Although not everyone cares about grammar, it is an important thing to get right in your story. It is such an easy thing to fix, so why wouldn’t you spend time fixing it to perfect your script? Yes, some people don’t care. However, what about all the people that do? I can promise that they’re going to notice. Sometimes, all it takes is good grammar to take your story from good to great. So why not get it right to appeal to as many readers as possible and up your reads?
I personally recommend the New Oxford Style Manual* if you’re willing to splash the cash a little. Plus, it’s not only useful for Episode! Getting your grammar sorted can help you at school, university, work and on any other writing app that you use. They also have a free shorter version online if you don’t want to spend the money.
Grammarly is also a really good free way to check your grammar. Yes, there is a paid version, but I think that the free one works better for Episode anway, to be honest. Just run your work through the app before you publish and check that it’s all okay.
Don’t Expect Pay
Getting paid on the app is really hard. If that’s why you’re writing, I don’t know if Episode is a good choice for you. Maybe try writing a book on Amazon or making your own app. It’s a lot more work, but you’re more likely to get money quickly.
The truth is that you need 500,000 reads in 60 days. If you add gem choices in, you need 100,000 reads in 60 days and 300 gem choices selected. Both of those are really hard to achieve as a new writer! Then, you also need to be 18 and have a PayPal account. Plus, you don’t even get paid for the first 500,000 reads! Even if you do get writer’s payments, the chances are that you won’t earn a lot.
Long story short, thinking of Episode as a way to make money will make you very disappointed. Then, you’ll probably get angry and quit before you get the fame to even get there in the first place! There are writers on Episode with 1 million reads who don’t get paid because it took them over 60 days to get 500,000 reads. Start this for fun. If you get money afterwards, then great! You’re one of the lucky ones! But don’t expect it.
Don’t Feel Entitled
Building on the last point, it is important not to feel entitled to reads. No one owes you reads. I understand that you might have put a lot of work into your story and it’s nice when people notice that and give you reads. However, you’re not the only one. In fact, you’re not even 1 in 100. There are thousands of people in the same boat as you. It’s hard to stand out like that.
Yes, Episode should be putting in more effort to promote the authors with fewer reads, but they’re not going to. So, it’s up to you to take a deep breath and put just as much work into getting your story out there the right way as you did making the story in the first place. Use that USP I spoke about earlier. This is your story. No one is going to care about is as much as you do, and you can’t expect them to!
Plus, I’m not gonna lie to you: when I see an author acting like the world owes them reads, I avoid their story on purpose. Claiming that you deserve reads doesn’t make it true! All those people you’re complaining to probably want reads, too. If readers were actually supposed to read every single story on the app, they wouldn’t even get time to eat. Give them a reason to read yours in particular and make them feel special by appreciating every reader. That’s how you get reads.
Learn from Criticism
It can be hard when someone points out things they didn’t like in your story. Trust me: I know. Some of them don’t even know what they’re talking about! But some of them do and ignoring them won’t help you to improve. You see, people who think they know more than everyone else never learn anything. They end up being left behind when all of their friends keep getting better and better. Don’t let that person be you.
Do yourself a favour and ask for reviews. Not only does this help promote you and get you reads, but it also gives you the chance to learn something new from people who have new ideas. Most Episode reviewers have done this for a little while now, and they’ve reviewed enough stories to know what they’re talking about. Listen to them and you have a free way to get better!
The most important thing to remember when you’re writing an Episode story is to have fun. Of course, there’s a lot that you need to do. It’s fair enough if you feel out of your depth! I did! However, there’s no point in writing if you’re not enjoying it. So my last piece of advice to you is to enjoy your work! If you’re not loving Episode, you’re probably not going to put in the effort to improve. In other words, people who love what they do are more likely to get better. That’s so important!
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Even i feel like I could write an episode story now >.<
Some real sound advice!
Of course, you can! I bet you could come up with an amazing idea if you tried!
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Thank you for this! It was great advice. I wish I would of read it before my story putting out lol it was a hot mess!
But thankfully I’ve took a lot of advice & have definitely gotten way better especially at the coding makes a huge difference.
Anyways thank you for your time & advice. Very helpful!
Thank you! It is never too late to learn! There will be other stories! I’m sure you have plenty of ideas left in you!
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