So you’re a new Episode writer? Awesome! Episode is a great platform to start writing on. You have the chance to build your audience and show them your story in a fun, visual way that could hook anyone. But there are many things you need to know as an Episode writer. You seem it’s not all fun and games. Well, it’s mostly fun and games, but it’s going to take you a lot of hard work. Writing for Episode is a challenge! You’re going to have to develop a whole range of skills to do well on the app.
So I’ve put together a list of things I wish I had known when I chose to become an Episode writer. They might seem quite scary at first, but don’t worry! You don’t need to learn all of these off by heart before you so much as type a word on the portal. Of course not! It’s just a good idea to have some of the big things in your mind so that you don’t spend a lot of very confused months wondering how you’re even supposed to do this Episode thing. So just keep these things in mind when you start. Keep coming back to this list if it will help you! Bookmark it! Just make sure that you have a good idea of what it means to be an Episode author and you’ll be off to a great start!
Focus on Basic Directing First
As a new writer, you should know that coding on Episode is hard. That’s the first thing that needs to be on your mind. It’s going to be hard for you for quite a while! That is, unless you’re some sort of coding genius and you get it all from the start. The first time I tried to write a story, I ended up deleting 8 whole stories because the portal kept giving me errors I didn’t know how to fix. It made me want to pull my hair out! But the good news is that it does get better. You just need to take the time to mull over the basics before you try anything fancy.
No one learns how to run before they can walk. I know that you might want to jump straight in and do that cool thing you saw in another story, but it’s going to set you back way more than it helps. You might get stuck on that complex bit of coding you tried and have to delete all that time and effort. You might get the hard stuff quickly but struggle on the easy stuff you need to make the story look good. Hard coding is never a good way to get to grips with how Episode writing works, so don’t even try.
And I don’t mean that you should never try some complex directing. Of course not! The problem is that a lot of new writers bite off more than they can chew. That means it takes them more time to write their story and they end up angry and confused. Think about what I said in my post on starting to write for Episode. Make a practice script and try out stuff on there first!
Get to Grips With Social Media
You should know that Insta is your best friend as an Episode writer. That’s where most of the community is and that’s where you can learn, share and make friends. The big draw to Insta is how visual it is. It fits Episode so well because you can take screenshots and share them with your fans. Of course, most young people know how to use social media in this day and age. But do you know how to use it to make a brand for yourself and promote your story? That’s where things get a little tough.
I’m not the best for this. I used to have lots of followers when The Queen of Freaks started. Then I went silent and most of the people that follow me now are the accounts that don’t log on enough to unfollow me. Great start! It does mean I have a great list of things that you shouldn’t do. That way, you can choose not to make the same mistakes I did.
- Stay active and post often.
- Post things you want to see.
- Post sneak peeks.
- Like and reply to other users.
- Follow useful accounts.
- Get your followers involved.
- Reply to messages from fans.
- Promote other people’s stories.
Do these and you’re well on track to promoting both your story and your brand! This will make getting loyal readers that much easier.
Plan Those Stories
There are so many reasons why you need to plan your stories. I know that it can seem like a bore, but all the best writers on Episode have a clear idea of where their story is heading. If you don’t, your story can go off on a tangent and you can forget all those lovely little details you added in at the start. It will look like you don’t have a clear point and the story might go on and on with readers dropping off each chapter. This is no good!
To be honest, I’m guilty of it, too. When I started writing The Queen of Freaks, I had no clue where it was heading. I had a vague, broad idea of the start and end with very little going on in the middle. Since then, I’ve decided to write a whole revamp of the story. I looked back at the first chapters to see what I wanted to keep and saw that I had all of these loose plot threads that I forgot to tie up! That could have all been avoided if I just spent a little bit of extra time on the plan. Of course, I didn’t know about Notebook.ai back then. If I had, I think things would have been different.
If you want to write a good story, take the time to plan it. This is going to help you make choices that matter! And most readers adore it when they get different endings depending on what they chose to do in the story. If you try to wing the story from start to finish, you’re going to find it a lot easier to keep people’s attention. So slow down and take a moment to think of where you want the story to go.
Learn the Basics of Copyright
Ah, this is a big one. A lot of Episode writers don’t know the first thing about copyright and how it can screw them over. Trust me: you’re going to want to get to grips with it as soon as you can! You don’t want your story to be taken down, after all! And Episode will have to do that. You see, if you mess around with someone else’s copyright, they can (in the worst case) sue you or Episode! Maybe both! And we don’t want to get to that point, do we? So make sure you get to grips with what you can and can’t do with copyright.
So here are the main things you need to think about when you’re writing to keep you on the safe side.
Of course, all good stories need a cover! That means getting some pics together. If you’re like me and you can’t draw to save your life, you’re going to have to ask someone else to do a cover for you or you might take some pictures off the internet and edit them with a great, easy editor like Fotor.
You can work out agreements with artists in your own time (and we’ll cover that a little later) so let’s focus on how to find good pics on the internet. You see, there are lots of great pictures out there, but not all of them are going to work for you. Most people who take pictures or make artwork don’t want it to be all over the place if they’re not getting money or credit for it. Most artists want to make sure that they like and trust someone before they let the use their art. And since they are the owners of that work, it’s their choice to make!
This is also true if you’re looking for pictures for a background or overlay you need. Don’t just download any pic you find on Google! Check that it’s ok to use first!
Lots of Episode writers don’t know that you can get in a lot of trouble for using someone’s work without their permission. I’m sure you don’t want that to happen! So you need to look for places that offer royalty-free pics. That means that you can use them because the author has already given permission for them to be used by whoever. Some of these are free and some you have to pay for. Here’s a great list of free ones for you!
Of course, I know that most Episode writers are going to use Google to find an image or two. That’s fine! You just need to know how to look properly to keep you safe when you’re choosing pics. You see, Google has a little tool that you can use to make sure the picture is royalty-free!
Once you go onto the Google, click on Images and type in what you’re looking for, you’ll see a “tools” button come up. From there, you can click on “usage rights”. There are then two things you can click on: if you want to just upload a pic straight onto the Writer’s Portal, choose “labelled for reuse”. If you want to add your own stuff to it like a title or some extra pics, choose “labelled for reuse with modification”. It’s as simple as that!
Just make sure you check the artist’s terms. Sometimes it might say it’s labelled for reuse, but either Google or the artist is a little bit confused. Others, the artist might be fine with you using their work just as long as you make sure to credit it. Make sure you’re 100% clear what the artist wants and you’ll be fine!
What About Adobe Stock?
No! Don’t use it! Abort mission! I spoke to the Episode team and they don’t allow pics from Stock to be used on the Writer’s Portal. They say it’s because of complex licensing stuff. I know that sounds like nonsense. You might even get a pic or two approved for the time being, but would you really want to risk it?
You probably aren’t going to want to pay the £20 a month for it anyway. It might be out of your price bracket. If so, ignore me! If you were thinking about putting the money in to get a few pictures from Stock, I wouldn’t recommend.
I know that this is where a lot of Episode writers are a little confused. Are we allowed to put watermarks on our pics or not? Well, I checked with the team and the answer is quite simple. If you’re the artist and you’re making art for Episode, you are allowed to put a small watermark on your art. If it’s big or it shows that the work is owned by someone else, it will not go through the Writer’s Portal.
You might find a picture that says it’s royalty-free, but it has a watermark on it. If that’s the case, it’s not going to go through the checks that the Episode team does. On pngtree, you’re going to find some pictures with watermarks like that! You might need to buy the premium version to get rid of those. So make sure that you check that there are no watermarks on the images you find on the internet. This will speed up the time it takes to get all of your overlays and backgrounds approved by the team and will make your life much, much easier.
Oh, this is where things get messy. You might not know this, but as an Episode writer, your story will get taken down if it is too much like another story that already exists. Of course, you can take inspiration from all the books you know and love. But it still needs to be your story and it needs to have big differences to the things that are out there at the moment.
That means that you can’t make fanfic on Episode. Why? You’re not earning money from the app, right? Well, Episode is. And since they’re earning, they are breaking the law if they put ads on fanfics. Then there’s the fact that you could earn money in the future! No one is allowed to earn money off someone else’s work (art, writing, music, etc) if they don’t have permission from the owner.
Your character can’t be a clone of someone else’s character. The story can’t be basically the same thing, but it can be inspired by another story. For example, you can’t write a story about a girl named Harriet Porter who goes to Pigspots School for Sorcerers and finds out she needs to defeat a scary dark magician. You can, however, write a story about a kid who goes to a magic school. Rowling doesn’t own that idea!
This is true of other stories on Episode, too! It doesn’t matter if they haven’t been published the old-fashioned way. If a writer can prove that they published the idea first, you can say bye to your story! And all that hard work, too!
Quotes and Music Lyrics
Lots of us love to use song lyrics and quotes from books in our stories. That’s great! But Episode does have some rules for its writers that you need to know. The Content Guidelines stress the fact that you are allowed to use song lyrics and you can make the characters sing them. However, the use of the lyrics needs to be limited. That means you can’t make them sing the whole song. It also can’t be one of the main points of the story. Like, the whole story can’t revolve around the song!
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the same is true of most films, tv shows and modern books. Of course, copyright isn’t a thing for books that came out hundreds of years ago, but it’s a good idea to check with the team before you use things you think were made before copyright was a thing.
Often, you’ll get lucky on Episode. You might find people who are happy to help you with some of the work of putting your story together. This could be for anything! Editing, script templates and art, just to name a few. They usually do this for free! You don’t have to pay, but you will have to obey the rules they set out for using their stuff. This often includes crediting them so that their story and profile get recognition for all of the hard work they put in.
Please make sure to credit. You don’t want to be seen as the person who tries to steal people’s work, trust me. It might not seem like a big deal, but if you don’t, you seem like you can’t be trusted and as though you’re passing someone else’s work off as your own.
This keeps a good, positive atmosphere in the community and helps us all to help each other.
Keep On Track With Tables
Have you moved on to more advanced directing? Do you want to make a story with choices that count? Well, as a writer, it’s important that you know how to keep a note of this the right way because Episode isn’t going to do it for you.
Chances are, you’re going to use the points system. Of course, you might also use gains but these are one-time things to record single choices. If you want lots of choices to count towards what ending the characters get, it might get a little messy or hard to code. So set up some points!
To keep track of that, I suggest setting up a table on Excel or Google Sheets. You can show the max number of points each character can get in a chapter of your story and then use the app to count this at the end to help you decide how the endings go. If you don’t, you’ll get very lost very quickly!
CC Gets More Reads
Let’s be honest: you want reads. I want reads, too! There’s nothing wrong with that! And one of the easiest ways to get reads is to make your story CC. What’s that? Well, loads of reasons. Some people want to see themselves in the story, and Episode gives them the chance to do that. Others use CC as a chance to make up for the fact that their race, or other minorities, don’t get many stories told about them. Of course, CC is not a way to cheat or get around diversity. However, it is a way that lots of people make up for what they’re missing out on.
So with that in mind, it is important to know how much CC appeals to Episode readers so you can make an educated decision as a writer. I’m not going to try to force you to add CC in your story, but it is good to be aware of your options so you can choose what’s right for your story. If you don’t know what would work best with your story, check out my post on what stories suit CC.
Your best bet for all your CC needs is to check out Dara.Amarie’s resources. She’s taken all the hard work out of adding CC into your story. Just make sure that you credit her!
Change the Family Members’ Skin Tones to Match
When you CC your main characters, don’t forget to give their family members the same skin tone! What ends up happening a lot of the time is that the MC’s default skin tone is white, so when anyone chooses to give them a darker tone, they’ll have to pretend the MC is adopted to get over the fact that the writer didn’t code in the family members’ skin tones. People who choose the “original” skin colour (or something that looks like it) don’t have that problem, while the rest of us have to make up non-canon excuses for the story to make sense for us. It would be fine if the character was known to be adopted and that was part of the story! But the colour of the MC’s skin shouldn’t have to affect how we read the story.
That looks really bad! POC get very little representation as it is. They don’t need to feel like they’re not given the same consideration as white readers on top of that! Don’t make it look like you’re favouring white users (I’m yet to see this issue happen the other way around, but please send me an email if you have screenshots)!
It is going to take you a little extra time, but it really is worth it. When you don’t put that little bit of extra time in, you either look like you’re lazy or like you don’t care about your POC readers. Neither of those is going to make people want to read your story.
It’s pretty easy to do it, even if it takes a little extra time.
Make Sure to Match Lip Colours to Skin Colours
But when you CC the MC, there are other problems that come up. You might have heard about the protests for more lip colours for black skin tones. It was so hard to find ones to match characters well! Take a look in the writer’s portal and see if you can make a black character look good with light pink lips. It works with INK, but when you look at LL, things fall apart.
With that in mind, you can bet this causes issues with CC. Sure, you now know any clued in Episode writer is going to add the family’s skin tones to the CC code. Now you need to think about the fact that the skin tones will look bad if you don’t change them, too.
Be careful with this! Not only does it seem like you’re picking a “favourite” or “right” skin colour and punishing anyone who doesn’t use it, but it also looks a lot like those old blackface videos. Eep!
It seems like a lot of hard work, right? You have to come up with matching lip colours for every single skin tone out there! Well, you don’t have to worry too much. We’ve done all the hard work for you. We have a great list of combos that will work great for your story. Just make sure you credit the amazing writer who spent the time looking through the tones for us. All the details are on the post.
It’s Hard to Unlock Writer’s Payments
Finally, I have to be honest with you: if you set out to earn money on Episode, you’re going to be disappointed. It is so hard to get there, especially if you aren’t going to use gem choices in your story. If pay is your main goal, you’re going to end up giving up way before you get there! And even then, there’s still a chance that you might not do it in the end.
I’m not trying to say that you’re not good enough. Of course not! But there are hundreds of amazing authors out there who get thousands of reads, but just not in the right time frame to get them onto the payments. If is a great thing to hope for! Shoot for the stars! But at the same time, you need to be realistic if you’re going to do well on Episode.
And even if you do, don’t put your eggs all in one basket. The payments are low (unless you’re getting millions of reads a month) and Episode can take the payments away at any point. You can’t trust that as a way to earn a good enough wage to survive. Even YouTubers do other stuff on the side in this day and age to make up some money. That’s one of the reasons I have this blog. Use your growing popularity to promote lots of other things you’re doing. Use Episode. Don’t let it use you.