Unfortunately, the number of submissions, and the number of submissions containing these basic errors, have increased to the point where it is no longer feasible to expect us to contiue to explain to individuals how to punctuate dialogue. Hence this post, which I'm hoping will reduce the number of submissions containing errors and therefore reduce both the number of rejection letters we need to send and the level of detail in those letters. In future, rather than using specific examples from your stories to explain to you individually why it's a problem, we're far more likely to simply point to this post or the minimum quality guidelines.
At the risk of being mean, at the end of the day it is your responsibility, as the author, to ensure that you get the technical basics of writing right, not ours to fix it for you.
There are a number of things you can do to help with this:
i) read professionally published fiction. If you read professionally published novels, you will be able to see how dialogue should be punctuated and hopefully become aware of the issues around punctuation and your own mistakes.
ii) find and use a beta reader. This isn't a foolproof method as we frequently get replies that state that the story has been beta read - often by more than one beta reader - and that the author therefore thinks that there are no problems. A quick application of the first suggestion - reading professionally published novels - will show you that there are. However, some beta readers are worth their weight in gold, and a good one will not only keep you straight but explain exactly why it is an error and how to make sure you don't repeat this error in future. This is what we, as archivists, have been doing to date but what we cannot do in future.
iii) please do not volunteer to beta read other people's stories if your own stories have been rejected from the archive. It isn't fair to the author, it isn't fair to us as archivists and it isn't fair to readers.
iv) invest in a good quality grammar and punctuation guide. There are also some resources online, but be wary of them. We do, however, list some of the better online resources in the minimum quality guidelines and I'm repeating them here for information:
Back to Basics: Punctuating Dialogue
Dialogue Formatting Tutorial: Star Wars Version
Punctuation in Dialogue by Karen Lee Field
A google search of 'dialogue tag punctuation' will pull up many more examples.
v) finally, feel free to ask us if you have any questions or need some pointers. While it's true that we don't have time to give the level of information in rejection letters that we have given previously, all of us are willing to answer questions or provide any help needed, provided this does not involve beta reading your stories for you (unless you bribe us with a lot of chocolate ::g::)
I just wanted to remind everyone that there is a minimum word limit for the archive, which is 100 words.
That was probably the pithiest news item ever. :)
For example, common problems include filing slash stories in ship categories or vice versa, or filing stories featuring both slash and het pairings in either slash or het rather than 'Cross Genre'. This is often because the stories feature a main character and other, e.g. McKay/other where the other is a man but the story has been mistakenly filed in the McKay/other category in 'Ship'.
We've also had problems with stories being filed in 'Crossovers' rather than the correct subcategory. Just like 'Ship' and 'Slash', 'Crossovers' is a header category that doesn't contain stories. Instead they should be filed in the relevant subcategory, i.e. General; Slash; Ship; or Threesomes, Moresomes and Cross Genre, depending on the story's content.
Failing to put your story in the correct category means that at best you miss out on your intended audience and at worst you risk alienating readers when they realise that the story is mislabelled. So it's to your benefit as well as ours to double check that you've got it right before you hit that 'add story' button :)
Please Read the Rules!
Recently, we’ve had a spate—a small spate, but a spate nonetheless—of stories that have been categorized as ‘General’, despite the fact that the stories feature pairings.
Please remember that the story categories specifically refer to the pairings (or lack thereof) in your story. If, therefore, your story has one or more relationships in it, you can’t categorize it under ‘General.’ General is for stories with no pairings. If your story contains ship (het) pairings, it should be in the ‘Ship Pairings’ category, with the particular pairing (or ‘multiple relationships’) as the sub-category. The same with stories with slash (homosexual) pairings. Stories that have both het and slash should be categorized under ‘Cross Genre’.
All the categories are explained in detail in the site Rules, which is the reason for my pleading headline above. Knowing where to slot your story ahead of time will mean we don’t have to send it back to you, asking for it to be placed in the proper category. :)
And while we’re on the subject, lately almost half the stories in the validation queue have had redundant information in the text of their stories, which is contrary to Rule Nine. Such information includes (but is not limited to):
Please note that all of the above is always automatically included on every story page in the archive. In the case of feedback, the reader is invited to leave a comment at the end of every chapter or story.
Including information contrary to Rule Nine in your story ultimately is a waste of both your time and ours—yours for including it, when we’ll either remove it ourselves or ask you to, and ours for having to take the time to remove it and to inform you that we’ve done so, or to request that you do the same. As with category information, everything you shouldn’t include in your story is explained in detail in the Rules.
It has honestly gotten to the point where I’ve been considering rejecting stories on the basis that the writer has apparently not read the Rules, without actually reading the stories to see if they even fit the archive’s minimum standards. Obviously I don’t want to do that, but we’ve been spending far too much time lately on such stories, which could be better spent validating still more fic. :)
Unfortunately, failure to do so means that the site's script assumes that the link is internal to the site and anyone following the link will get a 'page not found' message.
You will, however, be able to link to any in-site links by simply providing the relevant URL. In other words, you do not need to include either http:// or www.wraithbait.com in the address, merely the name of the page.
Just a reminder that automatic validation is given to those authors who have consistently met the minimum required standards of the archive, have complied with the archive rules and who are adept at using the software (i.e. don't submit stories without paragraph breaks, put things consistently in the correct category, don't submit sequels as standalones etc.) over a long enough period of time that it finally dawns on us that 'oh, that person can do it!'
So there will still be some stories to read, hopefully. And those authors who aren't quite ready for automatically validated status can still read and respond to reviews.
Leah is currently on holiday and I'll be leaving for mine this weekend. Both of us will have either no or intermittent internet access, so unfortunately I'm going to have to turn story submissions back off again starting this Saturday. Please submit any stories that you were planning to before then. Unfortunately, the alternative is to have most of them sitting in the queue until we get back.
This means you will not be able to add or edit stories.
Story submissions will be turned back on when either Leah is back, and thinks she can cope, or, at the very latest, when I'm back, which is the 14th of August.
I'm going to try and set the archive up so that those people who are already on automatic validation will still be able to add stories and have them show up, but I may not get a chance to do that or it may not work. We'll see.
I'll make another announcement when I've turned them off, so watch this space.
Point the second: The archive does allow drabbles, which is why we have that as a genre. However, a drabble is a story of exactly 100 words. Recently we've had an upsurge in the number of stories submitted that don't even manage 100 words so we're introducing a cut-off point. Stories with less than 100 words will not be added to the archive. If you want to submit anything shorter than that, please save them up and post several at once.
Please note that this is not a retrospective change, i.e. stuff that's in the archive already stays in the archive, regardless of length.
Point the third: READ THE FRICKIN' RULES, PEOPLE!
Yes, I know, you're all bored now. But it is something that creates unnecessary work for Leah and I. This means please make sure that you put things in the right place (note: it's not gen if two characters have sex half way through the story); please do not include story title, author, rating, summary in the story text box (it's already automatically displayed on the story page so doesn't need to be repeated); please do not request feedback in your author notes - there's a standard link and the rule is there to prevent people from demanding feedback or indulging in emotional blackmail, which means it's unfortunately an all or nothing ban and is not open to negotiation; and, most importantly, be polite. Be polite both when drafting your author notes and be polite when leaving feedback.
That also includes being polite to Leah and I. We let users get away with a hell of a lot worse in respect of their behaviour towards us than we would do if it was aimed towards any other person on the site, but even so there's a limit. Don't push us over it. I have an Army of Flying Monkeys here and I'm not afraid to use them.
I'm also perfectly capable of banning IP addresses and I won't hesitate to do that if you start behaving in an unacceptable manner towards other users of the site. Even though the flying monkeys would be cooler.
Please don't ignore these letters. If we point out that you have particular issues in an area and you continue to submit stories where those weaknesses haven't been addressed - for example, consistent problems with punctuation - there will come a point where your stories are rejected and it may well happen sooner than you expect.
And in the vein of 'beta reading good, unbeta'd stories not so good', I'd like to bring to your attention SGX Beta: The Stargate SG-1 and Atlantis Beta Directory. It's a beta database set up by a couple of the members of the Wraithbeta mailing list, to provide yet another mechanism to help you find a beta reader.
So with this new directory, Wraithbeta and sga_beta on livejournal, you now have lots of places to find beta readers.
We encourage constructive criticism, but flaming other authors will not be tolerated and may result in you losing your account.
While Leah and I are firmly in the camp of believing that constructive criticism can only benefit both writers and readers, we have had some instances recently where the criticism left has skirted close to flaming so I wanted to remind everyone that rule 10 also goes on to say:
'I think your story sucks...' is not a flame, as it is talking about the story not the author, but it is still rude and not constructive, and we're no more fans of rudeness than we are of flaming. Be polite.
Let me re-emphasise that: be polite. In fact, I'd say that the more critical the feedback you are leaving, the more essential it is that you are polite about it. If you're leaving criticism because you want to help the author improve, then the more politely you word such criticism the more likely it is that the author will listen to your points and take them on board.
That's part and parcel of the whole 'constructive' bit of 'constructive criticism'. Being rude isn't constructive. It's behaving like an ass. If you're leaving criticism because you want to behave like an ass in public, feel free but go do it somewhere else.
What I truly find boggling, though, is comparing those who leave constructive criticism to 'nazis'. Yes, because pointing out grammatical mistakes on the internet makes you part of a regime that murdered millions.
Needless to say, that comment's gone bye bye.
In response to several requests, we've added a Lorne/other category to Slash Pairings. In order to do this, we've also added Major Lorne to the list of characters in all categories, as we will not add a character's name to a pairing category unless the character is also listed as a character within the archive character list.
A show character is added to the list if they meet the following criteria:
--The character is in several episodes (as in, at least five) of Stargate: Atlantis, where they make some kind of significant contribution, rather than just being the same face in the background or with the occasional line.
--The character must have both a first and last name in canon. (An exception was made in the case of Major Lorne, because he has been in several episodes of Stargate: SG1 as well as SGA, and has made significant contributions, despite never being given a first name.)
--The character must have had a number of stories submitted to the archive that feature him or her in a significant role.
I hope that explains the process. As usual, if you have any questions about this or anything else to do with the archive, please don't hesitate to contact the archivists. :)
And given that we're benevolent dictatorial types, we've added another warning to the list of available warnings, so that, if you wish, you can let your potential readers know that there might be something in the story that has them sucking on their teeth and flailing for the back button.
Use it wisely, Padawans. Besides, you know what they say. One fan's squick is another fan's bullet proof kink.
There are only ten Rules, and most of them concern how to categorize fic. It's pretty simple stuff, but can--and does--make the difference between seeing your work on the site right away or getting a rejection letter.
So please, take a few minutes and read the Rules if you haven't. They're interesting, comprehensive, easy to understand, and may well save you (and us) time in the future. Thank you. :)
There was some criticism of the way that the Awards engaged with the Atlantis fandom last year, and they've taken great pains to address it this year. Given this, and the fact that since Wraithbait won last year we cannot be nominated again (no ulterior motives here ::g::), I'd like to take the opportunity to spread the message about the Awards and encourage Atlantis fans to participate. In particular, one of the things I love about our fandom, and one of the issues last year, is the sheer variety of fic out there, and I'd therefore like to encourage people to nominate all sorts of stories. In other words, the Awards Team are trying to make sure that all elements of the fandom are represented, whether you're a McKay/Sheppard fan or whether you only read gen or het or ship a rare pairing like Parrish/Lorne or Weir/Zelenka or like threesomes, cross-genre or other types of fic that we, as a fandom, seem to specialise in :) The more of these sorts of stories are nominated, the more likely it is that they will merit a category of their own and the less likely it will be that rarer pairings will have to compete for votes with the most popular pairings or that stories that don't fit neatly into either het or slash will have to be squished into one or the other.
In other words, the awards are going to be what you make of them :) If you think a story is wonderful, go forth and nominate.
Nominations for the 2006 Stargate Fan Awards are now open and will remain open until April 30, 2006. The nomination form link can be found on their home page here. The rules for nominating can be found here and the FAQs here. Please bear in mind that the number of nominations per author will be limited on the final ballot, so nominating an author's entire body of work will not be of any benefit.
The bandwidth issue mentioned last month was due to one particular individual, who unfortunately was using offline reading software that resulted in them downloading the entire site multiple times a day. I had hoped that this was a temporary glitch - someone being a tad overenthusiastic - and that by redesigning the skins, I'd be able to offset their usage.
Equally unfortunately, it wasn't sufficient to cope with their bandwidth usage and I ended up having to ban them from the site until they've figured out how to fix whatever they were using (which is not, by the way, something that Leah or I would ever do lightly, which is why redesigning the skins was our first step).
So, to make up for having to change the skins, I've implemented a modification that will allow people to change the skins even if they haven't registered with the site.
However, I will be monitoring bandwidth closely, and if it looks like it's going to be an issue, we'll go back to the minimalist skin for everyone not logged in. But I thought it was about time that we gave our many lurkers (and anon feedbackers) something nice.
Don't forget that you can preview the skins here.
This will not change your personal skin. When you log in, you'll still see whatever skin you've personally chosen. All of the other skins are still there so please do not panic.
Unfortunately, it was this or risk the site disappearing for part of the month, as it almost did last month.
It lies, man. It lies like a dawg!
If you're one of the authors who has been having problems with losing line breaks in stories, and you are coding your stories like this:
This is the first paragraph.[br][br]This is the second paragraph.
that might explain the problem. The software removes all the [br] tags and instead puts its own in wherever you've hit return instead. Because the above example doesn't have any hard returns in it, it ends up looking like one paragraph when it's added to the site.
If you're coding them like this:
This is the first paragraph.[br][br]
This is the second paragraph.[br][br]
then it will still look fine, because although it takes out the [br] tags, there are hard returns between paragraphs, where it then puts its own [br] tags. [p] tags will also work fine, but again if you are leaving space between paragraphs as well, you'll end up with extra break lines between paragraphs. Because it's just awkward like that. Apparently.
This is why we suggest that for preference you use text files (with some amends for italics and bold) all the way, baby! And Notetab, because it rocks like a rocking thing.