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Like most things in life, HTML can be used for good or evil. The definition of 'good' or 'evil' would rest upon the individual and the capacity of their respective computers. This is not a HTML tutorial; there are enough of those out there. This guide will be dealing with what is acceptable in Wyvern's Library, what makes the moderator reach for the Reject button, how to make reading your document a pleasure for your readers (talent not included), and some small, but important details to pay attention to. It can make a world of difference.
Let's run through what you should already know (but what few people actually pay attention to) before you upload your first story. The Rule page contains a comprehensive list of what is allowed, and what isn't.
You need at least 2 stories and/or poems to have a legitimate library. These items are required to fit the theme of the library, which is:
(For) stories and poetry in a medieval, futuristic or even modern setting, as long as elements of fantasy (high, urban/sci-fi or modern) are present. The fantasy may also be combined with, or include, themes like horror, mythology, legend, folklore, gothic, vampires, mystical, angels and demons. Note that poetry/stories about how bad you're feeling at the moment may be a matter of personal horror but they are not appropriate for Wyverns.
Poetry that is truly fantasy, sci-fi or horror is rare. A lot of the poems submitted seem to have been written in the wake of a quarrel with the boyfriend/girlfriend/parents, or about how much life sucks. The word is official - prose and poetry of horror in your personal life is not considered a part of the 'horror' theme accepted in Elfwood. Neither are abstract ones that harp about nothing in general and contain vague references to a sword and a mermaid somewhere in the end.
Fan fiction has never been accepted in the Library. This means that we will never accept your 'original' story about Mulder and Scully (X-Files) getting it on with each other, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) getting it on with Sara Pezzini (Witchblade), or Legolas (Lord of the Rings) getting it on with you. Please note that whatever scenario Mulder, Scully, Lara, Sara, Legolas or any other existing characters appear in (besides the one in my example) is an unauthorised use of another person's intellectual property, and will not be approved.
This fan fiction ruling unfortunately also covers the usage of roleplaying worlds. Your characters may be as original as they come, but if they are still based on existing fictional worlds, it's not acceptable either.
Most of the strictness of the fan fiction and fan art rule in Elfwood is there to prevent Elfwood and its members from getting into any legal problems. Some of our more copyright-savvy members brought up the argument that satires and parodies should be allowed because it is legal. That is correct; it is legal, but where Elfwood is concerned, it'll create two major problems - people who do not know parody/satire from jack will insist that their fan fiction be accepted because they think it is; and a possible influx of parodies and satires that will all but drown the original work, thus making redundant the reason why we have restriction of fan fiction in the first place.
This also goes for quietly stealing characters. Who do you hope to fool by writing about a redhead female named Mully and a brown-haired man named Sculder running around in Arcadia solving a series of strange murders by magical means? The idea has potential, but it's not going to see the light of day in Elfwood. There are other places that will happily accept such stories. Ask around and you'll find them.
And now I need to remind all writers that Elfwood is still an all-ages site. This means the protagonists in your story or poem may not freely and graphically 'do it like they do on the Discovery channel*'. There are also certain words to avoid, words that will surely get your story rejected no matter how good it is; words that I can't mention here because this is an article for Elfwood and it won't be accepted if I say them. Use your common sense. If your sense turns out to be the uncommon variety, it'll just take a little longer and a lot more tries than usual to get your story in.
The Importance of Good Formatting
To those of you who don't know HTML from PMS, correctly formatting a story for the library can be a frustrating experience. For those of you who do know and fall overboard with the special effects, reading a story can be a harrowing experience for the poor library moderators.
A page in Wyvern's Library is one of the places where less is more. From what I've seen, a number of people like injecting colour into their text and playing around with sizes and font faces. Although some have a good reason for doing so, like showing a change in perspective, the powers that be have decided that that fun has to end here. The website interface and page properties (background, link colours, etc.) have been decided from the beginning to give the whole library a uniform look. Our good sense of design revolts against the idea of bright pink on parchment brown.
It is quite acceptable to use a reasonable amount of custom formatting on your library to get your story or poem looking its best. Using rainbow text on that background, or text so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see it, are not examples of good formatting. It makes readers go 'GAH!' and exit the page without reading anything. It makes moderators go 'GAH!' and reach for the reject button without reading anything either. Unfair, you say? Not in the least. The Moderators have to decide if your work is suitable for the library. If they can't even read it without risking eye damage, it is deemed unsuitable. It pays to be a little careful about how the page looks so that it gets in the first time.
Simple Do's and Don'ts
Fonts Rule number one: All Text must be in black. I do not know what people are thinking about when they colour their text pink or purple, especially if they are artists. Hello? Heard of colour coordination? In any case, coloured text is no longer permitted. Thank the colour-blind, HTML-happy people for that.
Coloured text is a no-no. Too many people don't know what
goes with that parchment background!
Most browsers use the default font of Times New Roman (TNR) size 3, although some web-savvy surfers prefer to use another font. If a webpage does not have specified fonts, a viewer will see their personal default in their browser.
I've been told that TNR is an ideal font for marathon reading sessions, but personally, I find San Serifs easier on the eye. If you don't like TNR, you can try Arial, Verdana or Georgia, sizes 2 - 3 (or point 10 - 12). All three fonts can be found in almost every computer, so there is little danger of the text reverting to TNR because the font cannot be found. I do not advise using fancy or unusual fonts for two reasons: Firstly, fancy may look pretty, but try reading a whole story in complicated cursive fonts! Secondly, a font will only display in the browser if it is installed into that computer. If it's an unusual font, your readers are not likely to have it and they see your story in TNR anyway!
It is generally impractical to ask people to go out of the way and download a certain font so that they can view your page the way you want them to. Good webmasters make sure that you never have to adjust something as rudimentary as font face and size.
Consistency If you could get a look at some of the formatting used in the stories people submit, I think you'd be surprised.
Inconsistent font face.
Inconsistent font size.
I understand that in certain cases, the inconsistency is unintentional. Most of these cases happen when you save a Microsoft Word document as a web page (or do something similar in a word processor). This function is the most evil thing I've ever encountered where formatting is concerned. Whatever your poison happens to be, it never hurts to check and recheck your document in a browser to make sure everything is in order.
'Anyone who has read an English-language novel knows that paragraphs are always indented from the margin of the page,' said Jeff King. 'Unfortunately for us, HTML doesn't have very good, easily accessible facilities for indenting text. Consequently, a great deal of text at the Library doesn't look its best.'
Indeed, indents are expected sights in printed material and can easily be created on a word processor with either the Tab key or liberal use of the space bar. This is not the case for webpages, as some of you may have already discovered.
Tabs or spaces usually result in missing indents.
I started out not knowing how to create an indent on a webpage, so I used another way to separate my paragraphs.
An answer to a dent-less problem.
There are several methods for inserting indents into a website. I was given suggestions from using stylesheets, to invisible gifs stretched to your requirement. As Elfwood is unfriendly to excessive coding, and a special graphic might be a little inconvenient, the easiest method I've found is the non-breaking space, or ' '. Inserting one of these into the beginning of your paragraph will give you an almost unnoticeable indent. I use about ten of them to get the size of indent I want. When I say 'beginning of your paragraph', I do not mean in text or Words. The code needs to be placed inside the HTML coding that makes up the file you will eventually submit.
Too confusing? Jeff thought it would be. His response was to write a converter that is easy to use, yet powerful enough to convert text, MS Word-generated HTML and Lotus WordPro files into HTML that is suitable for Wyvern's Library.
'The idea for the scripts first entered my mind quite some time ago when I was reading a story in the library. There were no double line breaks or indenting, and some people were complaining that it was difficult to read,' he explained of his inspiration. 'My goal was to have the process automatic so that people need not learn anything to use it -- this would also negate the possibility of human error.'
This converter not only preserves the indents made in Notepad, but puts together a HTML source for your file that you can easily copy over into a new text file. Jeff quickly realised that a text converter alone wasn't enough.
'Microsoft Word gives you the option to save your files as HTML, but due to the manner in which it saves the formatting, most of the text formatting is stripped by the Extranet,' he said. (I told you MS Word is evil.) 'My fixer changes the formatting to a method more agreeable with the Extranet. Please note that the script is intended for HTML files generated by Word, not Word files itself. It is, unfortunately, not perfect since Word uses a dizzying amount of strange codes, many of which I am probably unaware of. It seems to work well for files with relatively simple formatting, though.'
You'd be interested to know that the converter not only solves your indenting problem, but it is great if you don't know enough HTML to save your life. You can try out the tool here.
Other Annoyances So far, I've covered the most common mistakes found in Wyvern's Library. Here are a few less common, but no less annoying, formatting sins.
All bold/italics Bolds and italics should be limited to words or phrases that need to be emphasised . Titles, sub-titles, chapter headings and special words (i.e. elvish words) are some examples of where you can use bolds or italics.
This is technically not a formatting sin, but for goodness sake! What kind of writer doesn't at the very least spell-check their work? I've seen one writer with spellchecked work, and horrible spelling in their story description. I don't know about you, but I probably won't read past the description. Why ruin a perfectly good story with a bunch of careless mistakes?
Stories look best when left-aligned or justified. Do not centre, or worse, right-align your entire story on the page. Do not use all 4 types of alignments in one story if you don't have a good reason to do that. Centring the title or chapter head is fine. Poetry looks pretty with centre alignment, but stories look horrifically amateur. Never centre-align your whole story. For poetry, you can centre or left-align, but don't use both at the same time!
Numbering / Bullets Numbering and bullets should be reserved for lists only. When used, they also should be aligned to the left. The only time I saw this used was when someone submitted a story that was not only centred on the page, but had a bunch of paragraphs starting with bullets.
Tables and Other Strange Formatting Tables can be used to aid formatting, but only when it is necessary and doesn't cause the page to stretch in ways it isn't supposed to. Strange formatting will be dealt with on a case by case basis, but if possible, it's always better to make sure that it is acceptable by Elfwood standards.
Huge Illustrations The size limit for submitted artwork is 700 x 700 pixels max. I'd advise making it smaller if it is meant to be an accompanying illustration; no bigger than 400 pixels in both directions. After all, the focus is on the story, not on the artwork. Large images can also stretch your page out of proportion and cause the words to scroll 'offscreen'.
It Pays To Pay Attention
Each and every story or poem you submit will be read by a moderator, sometimes by the same moderator who did your last ticket. They are usually not pleased if you resubmitted previously-rejected items without correcting the errors they pointed out before. They are also very vexed by people who keep submitting the same thing in the hope that another moderator will accept it. If your work has been rejected before, you will be informed why. If it's fixable, fix it and try again. If it isn't, find another place to put it. Don't waste their time trying to sneak it in.
As library tickets take a long time to look over, be kind and don't submit a dozen chapters at a time. There is presently no limit as to how many updates you can make on a single ticket, but there is still the human factor to consider. Three or four chapters are a much more manageable size and won't hold up the queue. It may be cool to have your whole novel up in one swoop, but won't it be cooler if you keep adding a couple of new chapters up every week or so, and keep your readers coming back?
*A line from the Bloodhound Gang's The Bad Touch; a reference to sex.
I know, that stinks! i wonder how many people have tried contacting the Elfwood management. Well, since the links don’t work, does anybody know where I could find an HTML tutorial elsewhere on the Internet?
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