New milestone: my writing got me banned permanently on a site.
The reaction to a fictional drabble (100-words) was swift and disproportionate.
I was writing for FREE for a site which publishes a drabble a day (or none if they don’t have any they like). The reason: because, if they included your drabble on their newsletter, they would, by way of payment for your work, put up a link to your books.
Writers shouldn’t write for free, should they?
IF they choose to, and have a reason which makes business sense to them, now.
It’s fair enough: I write something you can choose to use, you give me a tiny bit of promotion by
1) letting me publish a sample of my work (NOT my book, just my writing), and
2) providing a link a newsletter reader can choose to click on to my Product Page on Amazon, where, as it happens, I have one single book up – 167,000 words of fiction (see that – I can write at more than one length!)
Drabbles? Is that like a haiku for prose?
Drabbles are an interesting story form. You get exactly 100 words and are supposed to tell a complete story, beginning, middle, and end, in that space. Obviously, you get little room for backstory or description, and editing a short story down to an even hundred word is an art in itself. I have written a few fiction ones before, and a whole book of non-fictional drabbles on Wattpad (64 at last count, I believe, mostly about the process of writing, editing, and publishing a novel).
Back to being banned, please!
I submitted some drabbles to the site as time permitted; the first five were, in due course, published.
Then I realized I had two available there which had not been published, and that the daily newsletter had been appearing for a while with no drabble in it, either.
So I thought it reasonable to go investigate; sometimes software somewhere between the site and your home computer resets, and the defaults need to be changed.
I was totally surprised when I attempted to log into the site and received the message:
Totally barred for unprofessional behavior
or was it?
Permanently banned for unprofessional behavior
(didn’t get screen shot; can’t now)
Excuse me? Huh? I hadn’t done any behavior at the site for a while, much less anything I considered unprofessional – all I did was post a few drabbles a while back for their consideration (no obligation – they warn you at the beginning that your drabbles may not be posted – I was fine with that when I started submitting a few, after noticing what other writers had created with their 100 words). These drabbles were in the site’s SUBMISSION queue, posted to my account while waiting to see if they would be published or used.
Pause: If I had been informed at this stage that something was unsuitable, I would have removed or changed it. You can hardly afford, when sending work anywhere, even for free, to get upset if it isn’t published.
What do you do when something like that happens out of the blue?
Through a back channel, and assuming something technical had gone wrong somewhere along the line with them, and expecting an apology!, I cautiously sent the email:
I went to the site this morning intending to post another drabble, to find that I have been permanently barred for ‘unprofessional behavior.’
This mystifies me – the only behavior I’ve committed at the site has been to post a few drabbles, some of which have been published in the daily newsletter.
Would you please tell me what my next step should be? I would at least like to retrieve the unpublished ones – or see a list of them.
I’m assuming this is a mistake. If not, could you please let me know what I’ve done, so I don’t do it again?
No answer came over a several day period; I assumed the person I had written to was busy (it had happened before that I didn’t get a response, prompt or otherwise).
Before I do this next bit, PLEASE NOTICE I AM NOT NAMING NAMES! I’m making the information vague ON PURPOSE: I believe this site and every other has the right to control what they publish, to remove contents and comments they find objectionable (as I have at my site), and to not be publicly indicted for their behavior because of it. In fact, I consider TROLLING and FLAME WARS very unprofessional, and do not participate.
In addition, brain fog and extremely limited energy and awake time due to CFS, make it really not worth my while. I actually assumed I had missed something important in this whole event simply because I didn’t read something or understand it right.
So why post at all?
BECAUSE it is MY first banning anywhere for writing FICTION, and I choose to write about the experience on my own blog. That’s what writer’s blogs are for. It may even serve as a cautionary tale for other newbies.
If someone I know very well wants the information, I will be happy to supply it; I have warned some writers already. PRIVATELY.
When you got no response, what did you do next?
Next step, try the front channel. I sent the following email to the site directly:
Dear XXX site:
I had been happily supplying drabbles; you published four or five of mine for the daily newsletter.
Then drabbles didn’t appear for a while, when I knew I had two left that hadn’t been used.
I went to your site to find I’ve been ‘permanently banned for unprofessional behavior.’
Since I’ve done nothing on the site, much less anything that might be considered unprofessional in my book, I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look.
If I did do something you objected to, would you please let me know what it was? So I don’t do it again?
Really clueless here – no idea of what I did. They had even actually published a somewhat similar drabble of mine before.
The response was swift and abrupt:
[Short pause here: because the sender of a letter/email owns the copyright to the words, while I could show a friend the actual email, I may not publish it exactly as is, and it doesn’t come under the concept of Fair Use. So I’m going to paraphrase it, and try to be accurate, but you’ll have to trust me on the content. Of course, the owner of the copyright – the sender – would have to own up to it and make a big deal of it if I did publish exactly what I received – but I’m well read in copyright law, and not about to give that a chance, since I’m trying not to identify the person, but only write as to how this affected me, okay? Also, too bad, because there was a lovely typo.]
It’s not professional to request help, dislike the help offered, and write about murdering the person who offered the advice.
[I didn’t request the kind of unsolicited advice the drabble was writing about; it was sent by a marketing firm without being asked for or wanted. Especially not wanted. And the number of writers who have use an incident that happened to them to choose their next murder victim in their stories is Legion, to the point where it’s a meme for beginning writers (I did it myself when I started) to get rid of some hostility that way. It’s FICTION, folks. What else do you call The Silence of the Lambs or Misery?]
This is rubbish.
[The opinion of the site owner is valid on their site. It was an intense drabble, and it took me an hour to get it to say exactly what I wanted it to say, with no room to qualify or maneuver. I have the feeling I hit a nerve somewhere, but have no idea WHAT nerve, unless the responder has had unpleasant experiences – and how would I know that?]
It’s a permanent banning so don’t bother me again.
[Not bloody likely. Excuse me for asking when you provided no information at all, and I didn’t think that much of your site anyway, nyah, nyah, nyah!]
I asked a writer friend whose response was, “Banned for fiction? That’s absurd.”
What should the response have been to my original email?
Any one of the following, singly or in sequential emails (if I was insistent), would have been the professional response of a site open to the public. And remember, the drabble was never published by them. It was in their SUBMISSION queue. Something like:
Your drabble does not suit us at the present time.
We don’t think drabble X can be rewritten to be appropriate for our readers, so we have deleted it.
Your drabbles are too dark; please don’t send us any more. We don’t think we are the right publisher for them.
We find your work too disturbing for our site. Please do not send us more. And we don’t think we want to associate with your work. Thank you for your previous submissions. We have closed your account. Please do not open another account.
In other words, just about any formal rejection you’d get from a publisher after submitting, oh, say, Carrie. Or Hannibal. Or Cujo. Or any slasher thriller or novel with Jack the Ripper in it.
Nothing, really. No action is necessary on anyone’s part, least of all mine. I know where I’m not wanted, and would not return even with a very good quality formal apology (which I’m not likely to get). The drabbles are mine (those were the terms – they merely requested you not post them elsewhere until they had been used on the site – IF they were used on the site). I always intended to publish them myself later.
I’ve put them on a new drabbles page; note that the drabble You Do What You Have To Do has a similar punchline and was published on the site (without ‘advice being offered’ by the victim, of course – which should make it worse, not better, as the results were applied without provocation).
I will put these on MY site, under MY control, from now on – it’s easier. I have apparently thin skin, probably too thin for indie, and it bothered me. I have now written the bother out, and it’s a closed matter as far as I’m concerned.
That all said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a writer to consider her words before putting them out into the wide world. Words have power – words can hurt.
Have you any experiences of being banned? With or without provocation? How did you react? (Not talking here to those who make a habit of being deliberately confrontational to get attention – you know who you are.)
Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make images for posts.
And, if you like the non-fiction and/or short fiction, consider purchasing and/or reading the long fiction – see sidebar. They’re written by the same person.