Making Your Stories Postable
by Kate Bolin
You've finished your twenty page epic story, and you're getting ready to post it to the lovely fanfiction lists you're subscribed to. You can't wait to do it, and you're convinced everyone will love it.
So you post it, and, instead of people going "I love it! I love you!," you're getting people replying with "I can't read it -- what's that there? What are you trying to say? What is this?"
What went wrong? How can you make it so that everyone can read your story and see what you've written?
The first step is to make sure that it's readable in English. Run it through spell-check. Run it through grammar-check, if you have it. Get a beta reader to check it out for you. Re-read it yourself to see if there are any glaring errors.
Check your story for smart punctuation. This is the number one cause of problems when copy/pasting stories from Microsoft Word. Looks good in Word, looks terrible in email and in an HTML file. The easiest way to get rid of them is to go up to "Tools", then "Auto-correct" and turn off anything for punctuation. That includes quotes (" "), hyphens (--), ellipses (...), and apostrophes (').
Go through your story and make sure that there's one paragraph space between each paragraph. It should look like this:
He moved towards her. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, really," she replied. "Just...where were you?"
Make sure to have a new paragraph start each time a different person talks.
Identify the breaks in the story. When a new scene begins, include some form of break, either by including several paragraph spaces or some extra characters, like "**" or "--". You don't need to have "Part 2" or "Scene 2" -- it's just more for the archivist to remove when putting the story up.
After all that's done, save your story as text-only. In whatever program you're using, go to "File", then "Save As", and choose the "text only" option. That'll be a good way to strip out any formatting things that won't show up in emails -- like italics, bold, etc. If you want to emphasize something, the standard web styles are * for bold (like "I *told* you not to do that!") and [ ] for italics (like [I wish I could know what he was thinking,] she thought).
Now that the story itself is completely ready to go, work on the header. You can read about the header in the Guide For New Writers article. Stick to it, and you ought to be able to make your header as readable and entertaining as possible.
Once the header is complete and the story is ready to go, copy/paste both into an open email. Make sure that your email program is set for text-only email, and not HTML email (you can check this in your preferences).
Put in the mailing lists you want to send it to. Generally, if you're sending it to a bunch of lists, you want to BCC the lists. This is usually found underneath TO: and CC: in your email program. When you use it, the people who receive your email won't see a large group of lists in the "To:" header, and therefore won't have to scroll down through them all to get to your fic.
Hit "Send", and it's on its way!