Playing Chicken: How Can You be Sensitive to Wattpad’s Content Guidelines Without Limiting Your Readership?

When I publish new chapters of “The Star and the Ocean” or any other piece of writing I’ve done online, I put it in three different places in three different ways:

First and foremost, a complete and uncensored version of my writing goes here. Being my own author site, I make the rules and control this space’s functionality. I like that.

Secondly, I post excepts on Tumblr with links to the places where you can read the chapter or piece in full. It’s not that I’m trying to be tricky or anything, it’s just that once a post has been reblogged, you lose control of the content.

And, finally, I post on Wattpad. I enjoy using Wattpad as a platform for sharing my work, primarily because it is a community that exists specifically to read and write. Without question, this is the source of most of my reads and I’m grateful for it.

For better or worse, Wattpad is also the platform that has the most restrictions. It makes sense: there are a lot of young users in that community and the site has an obligation to make sure it remains a safe space for everyone. As such, they have some pretty cut-and-dry content guidelines, which go into detail regarding what kind of content would earn a story a “Mature” rating – i.e. something intended for readers 17 and up.

Stories that include sex scenes (not just mentions), scenes or themes of self-harm, or graphic depictions of violence are all considered Mature; a distinction I think makes sense and is fair.

What’s a little less than fair is what happens to stories that get rated as Mature.

Right off the bat, Mature stories are completely invisible to readers that have indicated that they are under the age of 17. Unlike, say, DeviantArt, which will show a placeholder graphic to users under a certain age, these stories simply don’t exist. But for the sake of argument, let’s give them this one and agree not to tempt kidlets with forbidden fruit.

What really gets me about the Mature rating on Wattpad is that stories that get categorized as such, 1) do not appear in general searches,  2) do not get ranked, and 3) cannot be featured in any hot lists.

Call it an overreaction if you want, but suddenly the system established to protect younger users feels like it’s stepping into “punishing  Mature works” territory.

The things is, it’s hard enough gaining readership on Wattpad without having your story’s potential so severely limited right out of the gate. I’m all for keeping impressionable young people away from truly sensitive subject matter, but I also think there’s got to be a better way of doing it.

But anyway.

Why am I bringing it up at all?

As of right now, the only “Mature” thing about “The Star and the Ocean” is Em’s language. Em’s a “fuck, shit, goddamn” kinda gal. Now, as far as I can see in the content guidelines, swearing isn’t against the rules. Still, in the name of being sensitive to younger readers and selfishly allowing myself to stay safely in the realm of the Everyone rating, I censor curse words. I know, I’m a f*****g saint.

I get the occasional comment from people asking if it would just be easier for me to rate the story as Mature, post the uncensored versions and be done with it. And every time this happens, I feel obligated to let them know what a Mature rating does to a story so that they can at least try to appreciate why I’m erring on the side of caution without giving in to changing my rating altogether. I mean, it’s not like I’m writing smut here.

But the truth is, it won’t be much longer before I have to make a judgement call on the self-censorship. The story may have started out cute and fluffy, but it won’t be long before it begins to wade into truly Mature territory, and then what do I do?

Do I keep censoring the story – sometimes to the point of making whole chapters only available here and redirecting Wattpad readers accordingly?

Or, do I bite the bullet and shove the whole damn thing into a Mature rating and hope for the best?

I’m basically just talking to myself here but if you, dear reader, have any insights or advice for me, it would be greatly appreciated!

6 thoughts on “Playing Chicken: How Can You be Sensitive to Wattpad’s Content Guidelines Without Limiting Your Readership?

  1. Akaluv says:

    Honestly, that is why I left Wattpad behind. It’s more of a teen writing site than a true story sharing website. The only stories you can really post there are teen fiction or young adult. The only work around and to edit your story to meet their guidelines.

    Like

    • maggiederrick says:

      Yeah, I don’t want to discourage young people from writing and sharing their work but, dang. I feel like there’s a fine line between gratuitous sex and violence vs. mature content that propels a story yet it all seems to get lumped into one category (and, in turn, punished).

      I think I’m leaning toward sticking with the censored (for Wattpad) and uncensored (for here) versions.

      Did you end up finding another site to post on that you feel works better for you?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Akaluv says:

        I totally agree with you! It’s sad, but a lot of the stories on Wattpad are sex, abuse, vampire and werewolf stories. A lot of the “mature” content doesn’t propel the story along at all.

        I stopped posting my stories to Wattpad and just post them to WordPress. On Wattpad, I posted a link to my blog so readers can find me. I plan to do a blog post about where to post mature stories online.

        Liked by 1 person

    • glennonj says:

      Mature books have become invisible on Wattpad and I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that, seeing as I can’t edit my mature book down to a child’s bedtime story, Wattpad is not a platform for adults.

      Like

      • Akaluv says:

        Thanks for responding to my comment, and yeah, they have. I won’t belittle Wattpad anymore than I already have, but to me it feels like a teen writing site that is trying hard to be family friendly. Although, I find that funny since the books they support for publishing are far from family friendly. “After” is Harry Style’s porn and “The Celler” is about girls getting kidnapped, murdered, and raped. …but I guess if the stories get reads on Wattpad, who cares if they are family friendly. :/

        Like

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