Crystal's StorySite storysite.org

Crystal's StorySite

 

Author Tips for Being a Better Poster,

or,

Things that drive me crazy

 

1) Please, please, please, DON'T use an end-of-paragraph format code at the end of every line.

What am I talking about you ask yourself? Simply this. Newbie authors tend to tap the 'Enter' key when they get to the end of a line. It seems to be a hold-over from the days of typewriters. Remember them? You had to hit the carriage return key on electric typewriters, or physically push the carriage control bar on manual typewriters, to raise the paper and reset the platen back to start printing the new line.

With computers and word processing software, this requirement is gone. Text automatically 'word wraps' at the end if a line, without any action required of the author. When you hit the 'Enter' key on your computer, you are actually inserting an end-of-paragraph format code into the document. You can't see it normally, but it's definitely there. Most word processors provide a way to see the 'hidden' formatting codes. With MS Word, my choice in word processors, there's a character on one of the 'tool bar' lines at the top of the screen that allow you to turn the feature on and off. The symbol on the button looks like a backward capital letter 'P' with a second vertical line (). This is a standard 'new paragraph' symbol used for many years by printing editors. When you turn the feature on, you see all the 'invisible' formatting codes in the document.

A story may look okay on your computer, but when it's converted to HTML so that it can be

read on the internet, the end-of-paragraph mark makes the computer insert a blank line

between paragraphs. If you have one on every line, it makes the story look like it's double

spaced. Just like you see with this paragraph.

Another problem is that computer users set different default fonts on their browsers. If you use a font that permits more or less characters per line than the font selected by the reader, then there is an 'overflow' or 'underflow' of characters. The above paragraph could look like this :

A story may look okay on your computer, but when it's converted to HTML so that it can be read on the internet,

the end-of-paragraph mark makes the computer insert a blank line between paragraphs. If you have one on every

line, it makes the story look like it's double spaced. Just like you see with this paragraph.

or this : 

A story may look okay on your computer, but when

it's converted to HTML so that it can be read on the

internet, the end-of-paragraph mark makes the

computer insert a blank line between paragraphs. If

you have one on every line, it makes the story look

like it's double spaced. Just like you see with this

paragraph.

In addition to newbie authors using the end-of-paragraph code accidentally, there are some experienced authors who use the code to 'force' a certain look to their stories, but the variety of browsers employed on the internet often negates the effect. There is an incredible difference between the two main browsers, Internet Explorer and Netscape. For example, some websites, designed to work best with IE, are almost impossible to view with Netscape.

To get rid of the unwanted end-of-paragraph codes, I first convert the file to a text file WITHOUT line breaks. This is successful about fifty percent of the time. The other fifty percent can only be cleaned up by using Microsoft Word's FORMAT command and that causes all kinds of additional problems. It sometimes totally destroys an author's formatting as it rearranges things the way that Microsoft thinks that they should be. But I don't always have a choice, as it's sometimes the only way to get rid of the erroreous codes on a wholesale basis. Also, I still have to go through the story because FORMAT sometimes has trouble recognizing where paragraphs should begin and end. So, I have to go through the story trying to spot disjointed paragraphs, in an effort to reconstruct them. If you ever read a story that doesn't read quite right, it was probably submitted with an end-of-paragraph mark on every line. FORMAT doesn't remove or add words, it just splits up paragraphs, and very often, sentences.    

Fortunately, only about two percent of the submissions have this problem, but it takes ten times as much effort to prepare these stories for posting, as it does for properly submitted stories.

2) Please don't use extra, blank paragraphs to simulate blank lines between paragraphs.

This problem wastes almost as much of my time as the above problem. It is certainly more widely used. At least fifty percent of the stories that I receive have an extra end-of-paragraph code between paragraphs, but these stories only take twice as much time to post as a properly submitted story.

 

If you use MS Word, and want a blank line between paragraphs, use the PARAGRAPH option to set the distance to SIMULATE a blank line. When a story containing extra blank paragraphs is converted into HTML by my page formatting software (FrontPage98), the paragraphs look like they're separated by three or four blank lines, just like this paragraph.

 

To set the PARAGRAPH option in MS Word, click on the FORMAT tab, then click on the Paragraph option on the roll-down menu list. A window opens up with the option settings. In the Spacing - After box, click on the up arrow until it reads 6 pt. That's all there is to it. When you reach the end of the paragraph and press the enter key (once), the word processor will leave extra space that simulates a blank line.

I used to go through the entire story, manually removing the blank paragraphs before I posted it, but it takes forever in a long story. Now, after loading the story into my word processor, I re-save the story as an HTML file. This strips out the extra paragraphs most of the time. Then, after it's converted, I re-save it as a WORD file. I then go to my hard drive and delete the interim HTML file. It requires extra time that I could use better elsewhere, but if authors won't do it before sending me the story, I have no choice.

3) Revised versions of a story. I know that you'll learn of typos after you release your story, even if it was proofread by two or more people. I'm happy to re-post a story after 30 days, because by then you should have learned about most of the typos and necessary corrections. However, if you use end-of-paragraph marks on every line in your re-submission, I won't re-post it. I spent enough extra time when I had to clean up the formatting the first time. You do the extra work, and then I'll re-post it.
4) Using * to denote thoughts, or, highlight words. At least three great authors that I know of, use this technique. From what I've learned, two of them adopted this after seeing it used by the first one. The problem is, HTML converts anything found within asterisks to bold type. Be aware that the enclosed words will automatically be converted to bold. I suggest using a single quote (') instead of an asterisk. Use double quotes for actual speech. Using bold or italicized type for emphasis will reproduce properly, if I don't have to use the FORMAT command to resolve the problems above, so feel free to use them. 
5) All stories MUST contain the title and author's name, even if they are only additional chapters. Readers download stories, or print them out, and may not remember who the author is if the name isn't on the story, so I find myself having to type them in all the time, and I shouldn't have to do that. Also, when you do type them in, DO NOT use all CAPS, please. I post titles as 18 point type and that makes them prominent enough. If you type them as caps, I only have to retype them. 
6) Font selections, colored text, alignment. All stories will be posted in the default type face so that each reader's browser will reproduce it the way they they prefer. I allow title credits at the beginning of each story to be in colored font, but that's all. Using colored fonts throughout a story consumes a great deal of space as HTML code is added to accommodate the feature, and the larger size slows download time.    The same thing with alignment. Publishers can use justified, but it eats up storage space in an online story, and therefore increases download time, so I remove it. 
6) Underlining and section separations. Underlining is removed. Only hyperlink addresses should be underlined on an internet page. Authors use many varied techniques for separations. I've adopted the five asterisk (*****) method for my stories because HTML doesn't remove it as long as the asterisks ARE TOGETHER. If the asterisks have a space in between each, they disappear when I'm forced to use the FORMAT to eliminate end-of-paragraph marks. Microsoft's FORMAT command is death on fancy separators. If you use end-of-paragraph commands at the end of every line, don't waste your time creating fancy separation designs, because they only disappear in the FORMAT step. 
7) Email returned. If you have parental controls on your email account, I won't be able to contact you. StorySite mail is always returned by the AOL parental controls block. If a first time submitter, make SURE that you type your address correctly.     Also, make sure that you empty your email box. If I can't contact you, your stories will NOT be posted.
8) Story Size. I limit posted story size to 140 k. If you submit a story larger than that, it will be broken down into parts smaller than 140 k. This limitation was established to allow people using WebTV to download stories. WebTV equipment was only capable of storing 140 k, and larger stories were truncated. While WebTV use has diminished greatly as the price of computers has fallen, it is still in use.

If you feel that you MUST submit a story greater that 140 k, I suggest you break the stories into chapters, so I can find a logical point to 'break' the story. By the way, in a poll that was conducted a couple of years ago, most respondents said that they preferred to read stories in 100 k chunks.

On the flip side, multi-part stories should be submitted in parts that are at least 25 k in size. It takes almost as much work to post a 5 k story as it does a 50 k story, and I admit to being upset when an author posts two or more parts that are less than 25 K at the same time. More than once I've had to fight to the temptation to combine the parts, and one of these days I might lose that battle. 
9) Email Address. NEVER include an email address in your story unless you KNOW it will never change. I provide fans with easy email access to those authors that desire it, and placing your email address inside a story means that people will have the wrong address if you should ever change. I cannot be changing stories every time someone changes their ISP.
  Another thing that drives me crazy is that some authors apparently never read these tips, or even the instructions on the submission form page.  
   
   
I'm sure that there are other things that needlessly waste a lot of my time, or drive me to drink, when I'm formatting stories. I'll add them to this list as I think of them. These are the ones that came immediately to mind as I set up the new submission form system. I spend way too much time formatting stories that are improperly submitted, and it takes away from other things that I could be doing to make the site better.   

 

Please report any problems to Crystal