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The OutsideTheLines Crash (& Burn) Course In Story Formatting
 

  Your posts to the list misaligned? Want to HTML your story for an archive? Here is a bare bones guide to help format your story to be published on the internet.

  Formatting a story to post as an E-Mail/Newsgroup message.

  Formatting a story to post on a web archive.

  Return to Fan Fiction Writers' Resources.
 
Back to Top

The OutsideTheLines Crash (& Burn) Course In
Story Formatting

This guide is for those writers out there who wish to format their stories to post them on a mailing list or newsgroup and/or in HTML.

Jump Down to: Formatting a story to post on a web archive.

Formatting a story to post as an E-Mail/Newsgroup message.

OTL members use about as many different types of mail and news reader software as there are Outsiders, so the spacing and paragraphs will look different.

But if lines to a story
breaks
funny, (like this one
does),
then we have some
tips
on how to avoid them.

(BTW we did the last paragraph like that on purpose!)



Formatting your post in your mail-news readers.

Before you begin typing your story, you may need to tweak your mail/news reader program if possible.

We here at OutsideTheLines recommend that, if possible, you enable your mail/news reader to send, and receive 80 characters, or less, per line (80 and 79 are defaults on many programs). Anything higher tend to have paragraphs like the one above when sent to other readers.



Typing the story

We recommend, that you, first, type your story off-line. (We know that many of you type directly to your mail and/or news reader, but not everyone has full access to internet.)

Second, no matter what word processor you use DO NOT use formatting codes, ie; Bold, Italic, Underlined,or different font sizes.

Note: We have received many recommendations on what font type and size to use, but you can use an Old English, 72-point font if you wish and it still will work (but, why would you?)

For the most part, your posts will show up on most mail readers as Times New Roman or a Courier-type font in the 10-12 point range (depending on the server or web browser's default typeface), so we recommend using the Times New Roman font, 12-point size, as it is the default for Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, and will give you a roundabout idea of just how long your story will be.

While typing your story, please do NOT use any special page formatting (ie, using MS Word's first paragraph indent, double spacing, or space between paragraphs) while typing out your story.

You may use tabs for the first line in a paragraph, but only one. We recommend that you do not 'space over' while typing. (we will tackle this problem again a little latter, so only use one tab for now.)

While you are typing a paragraph, we suggest that you turn the word wrap option OFF (if possible) and not to hit the ENTER/RETURN Key until you come to the end of a paragraph.

For some word processors, the text will move off to the right of the screen, (not much unlike the way this one does.)

This is on purpose for now.



Bold, Italic, and Underlined words

Also while typing your story, please do NOT use any special text Formatting (Bold, Italic, Underlined etc..).

If you want to show that a word should be bold, or underlined, we recommend using the following marks;

BOLD FACED WORDS

It is universally accepted that you place asterisks (*Words*) Around words to mark text as bold. {found over the 8-key} or to use ALL CAPS (accepted under netiquette as shouting at the reader).

But, if your speech is really, REALLY anger-filled, or the character in question IS screaming, use both if you wish.

For Example;

"DAMN IT, JAY!" said Nuff. "Just here them out! I'm sorry, but Jay here doesn't like surprises," he told the X-Men apologetically.

Would look like this when posted;

"*Damn it, Jay!*" said Nuff. "*Just here them out!* I'm sorry, but Jay here doesn't like surprises," he told the X-Men apologetically.

UNDERLINED WORDS

To Underline text place an underscore ( _Words_ ) before and after words and/or phrases that you need to underline.

For Example;

"That's the one," he said as he pointed to the book on the shelf, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Would look like this when posted;

"That's the one," he said as he pointed to the book on the shelf, _Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_.

Note: In a large phrase, you need not place an underscore around every word (_Zen_and_The_Art_of_Motorcycle_Maintenance_), as it is a little hard to read.

ITALIC WORDS

Text marked as italic is a little more 'if-ie;' as everyone has different uses for them, including telepathic speech, aside remarks, and private thoughts.

Although everyone uses their own combination, we have a few listed here, and the only rule is to be consistent in your marks and to list them at the top of your story, so as not to confuse new readers.

Here are a few examples of the different uses of italics and a guide to mark them in plain text.

TELEPATHIC SPEECH AND PRIVATE THOUGHTS

... are probably the most widely different use of italics. Many symbols are used including, the pound-sign (#Words#), a single colon (:Words:), and one pair of greater-than & less-than symbols ( <words> ) come to represent thoughts.

While the tide (spanish accent symbol) ( ~Words~ ) {found on the key to the right of the 1}, doubles colons (::Words::), and even two pairs of greater-than & less-than symbols (<<words>> ) are widely used for telepathy.

The conclusion we have come to is that because thoughts and telepathy can run into each other (like our example) it is better to make sure that you clearly differentiate between thoughts and telepathy.

For Example;

What are they doing here? thought Nuff.

It's a little far to go just for a recruiting trip, thought Alea.

It's getting close to game-time thought Yoink.

I don't trust them, thought Jason.

Well, we knew you were coming out here for the season opener or else we would have met you in Norwalk. said an unspoken voice in their heads. You can trust us, and besides it is only 6:15 and the game doesn't start until 7 o'clock.

Would look like this when posted;

<What are they doing here?> thought Nuff.

<It's a little far to go just for a recruiting trip,> thought Alea.

<It's getting close to game-time,> thought Yoink.

<*I don't _trust_ them,*> thought Jason.

<<Well, we knew you were coming out here for the season opener or else we would have met you in Norwalk.>> said an unspoken voice in their heads. <<You can trust us, and besides it is only 6:15 and the game doesn't start until 7 o'clock.>>

ASIDE REMARKS:

We recommend using the text-cap character (^Words^) around them. {This is found over the 6-key}

For Example;

I try to keep my expression blank. The old saying really is true. Fame is the worst drug.

Would look like this when posted;

I try to keep my expression blank. The old saying really is true. Fame ^is^ the worst drug.

While there is no 'official' list of marks, feel free to use these ones, or use your own, but to make sure that the reader knows which is which, please use a key at the top of your story, just under the disclaimer;

For Example;

WORDS WITH ~THIS AROUND THEM~ denotes telepathy.

WORDS WITH *THIS AROUND THEM* denotes bold type.

WORDS WITH /THIS AROUND THEM\ denotes thoughts.

WORDS WITH ALL CAPS ...

..sure look good for important stuff, non?

Now that you have finished writing your masterpiece, we impart you with a tidbit of wisdom found in the ACFF Styleguide from our Kielle and our friends over at CFAN and that is;

"Please, I'm begging, for the love'a little fishes,
USE THE SPELL CHECKER!!"
It's such a simple thing...

And one other useful tidbit, when the spell checker red flags commonly used words (like the names of your characters), use the 'add word' command to place them in your programs dictionary.



Placing your story on your mail/news reader.

Now that you are done writing your story, now is the time to place it in the body of a post.

While keeping the window of your word processor active, start up your mail or news reader, (If you use a web-based mail program (such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and Juno) or a Unix-type program (such as Pine-packed ones used by many colleges and Freenets), log-on to your service and start a new message.

The same applies if you are posting to a usenet newsgroup (such as alt.comics.fan.fiction ) Open your news reader and select a new post.

If possible, Tile the two windows so that they are one on top of each other.

If you cannot, and/or you do not have the memory to keep both windows active, select the entire body of text from your word processor.

For some programs, there maybe a command to automatically Select All [Please consult that program's users manual].

If you do not have this option move the curser to the end of the text, and while holding down both the Control and Shift keys, press the Home key once, then let go of all three keys, they should now be highlighted.

When all of the text is highlighted use the program's Copy (Control-C) or Cut (Control-X) commands, then switch to your mail or news reader program and click to activate the curser inside the body frame. When it is active, use the Paste command (Control-V) to place the text.

Now the real work begins.


Checking the spacing

When you place your story in your readers text box, it MAY NOT be ready, we still may need to check the paragraph spacing.

If your tabs do not show, place a number of spaces at the beginning on the first word in a paragraph, (The recommended number is 5 or 6).

When you get to the end of a paragraph put a line in-between graphs, to make them easier to read;

For Example;

"Thank you," she replied. "I shall return shortly my friends." Storm told the X-Men as they led her towards the ice as the rest of the arena cheered the windrider's good fortune."
"Good luck, ororo," called out Alea.
"Shoot high and wide," said a dejected Jason.
"*Jay!*" admonished Alea as she slapped her boyfriend upside his head.

Will look a lot better like this;

"Thank you," she replied. "i shall return shortly my friends." Storm told the X-Men as they led her towards the ice as the rest of the arena cheered the windrider's good fortune."

"Good luck, ororo," called out Alea.

"Shoot high and wide," said a dejected Jason.

"*Jay!*" admonished Alea as she slapped her boyfriend upside his head.



Too Big or Not

Generally the list software can send files of any size, so the limit is in your readers software, but large files can be a drain on the time of the story's reader, and/or your story may be too big for some software, so please exercise a little courtesy when sending files.

We of course recommend that you break your story into several smaller posts.

Trim the ending text back to the end of the last scene, and save the remaining text for a few minutes. (We will send it a minute.)



Giving credit were credit is due.

OK, at the top many writers take the time to thank the little people that have helped, (beta readers, loved ones, that cousin that fell in the mud, who had inspired your story, ext.) and the disclaimer, then give the title of the story and your name.

For example

The X-Men, Generation X and all related characters are the property of Marvel Comics Group.

The Parkmen Family, Oz, Agents Nichols, Woods, Block, Zigler, and Senator Crane are my original characters and any resemblance to any Washington personalities are not intended.

Elements of this story were formed from the fan fiction work "a friend in need" By Jennifer Sorowitz.

Hope you enjoy!

"First Mutant" part 1 of 30

By David D. Amaya



Now that you have the paragraphs sized right, and the formatting is the way you want it, fill in the subject field with the name of the characters/team/company about which you are writing, the title of the story, how many parts long it is, and whether it's suitable for all readers.

For Example:

X-Men: "First Mutant" Part 22/?? - PG-13

For more info on how to fill in the subject line, please refer to the OutsideTheLines FAQ.

If your story was too big to send in one message, go back to the typed version and select the remaining text and repeat the above process, making sure to note at the top that this (and subsequent posts) continue the story.



Back Up To: Formatting a story to post as an E-Mail/Newsgroup message.

Formatting a story to post on a web archive.

Now, we are not going to tell you how to make a web page or every single trick HTML has to offer, (but we include some of the better HTML primers at the end of this guide). For those writers who wish that *bold faced words* and ~Italic words~ and _Underlined words_ really look like bold faced words and Italic words and Underlined words so if you wish to post your stories on your own web page, or even for some who is willing to archive it (and they will thank you for that).



The first rule is that the OutsideTheLines requests that you DO NOT send stories to the list with HTML tags or as attached HTML stories.

The reason for this is because not everyone on OTL has an HTML capable mail-reader. It is best that you follow the story posting guidelines at the Top of this guide.

The second rule is, believe it or else, HTML is easy, once you get the hang of it.

Now that the intro is over, let's begin!



What the heck is HTML?

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. And despite the funky name, it's nothing more than a way for Web browsers to read your web page or story.

Basically, HTML consists of "tags," which are words combined with brackets (<>) and slashes (/) . Tags instruct the browser on how to display your page. There are a few important things you need to know about tags:

Setting up your story in HTML

Believe it or not if you typed your story out, it is already set up for you (that's why we're here, right). But, when you want to you'll need to know how to format a story like a Web page (that's just fancy talk for putting a few tags here and there, but that is how I learned to do the OTL page), and to give it a title. In essence, here are the tags you need on every page:

OK, these are the necessary tags you need for a page. Here's what a sample story looks like using the tags:

<HTML>
<TITLE> "This is my Story's title"- by ME </TITLE>
Here is the text that I want to include on my story!
</HTML>



Text Me Up

Now we are going to assume that you have already written out your story in some word processor (Windows Notepad, WordPad, MS- Word, WordPerfect, ext,) and even if you have posted it to a list or newsgroup, or not, all you need to do is add a few tags to a pre-existing text file and it will look (almost) like the special formatting (like bold,and italic).

Note:For all examples I will use MY own stories, (that way I will not get in trouble using someone else's with out their permission.)

The big 8 (or the tags you are going to need the most)

<p></p>
<br>
<dd>
<b></b>
<i></i>
<u></u>
<hr>
<center></center>

Making paragraphs and separate lines
Browsers ignore any paragraphs or blank lines that you type in your source text (the text with all those tag things). You will need to tell the browser where you want your paragraphs and line spaces.

To create a paragraph, simply use the PARAGRAPH TAGS <P> & </P> . This will space your paragraphs out.

For Example, Typing:

<p>Meanwhile, just across the New York state line in Westchester, others were enjoying the fresh, cold autumn morning. </p>
<p>Ororo Monroe, the mutant called Storm creates a small gust to open the windows to the attic loft, letting in the cool sunshine. </p>
<p>Soaking in the beautiful morning, Storm quickly dressed and bounded down to the mansion's kitchen for her morning meal. </p>

Would look like this;

Meanwhile, just across the New York state line in Westchester, others were enjoying the fresh, cold autumn morning.

Ororo Monroe, the mutant called Storm creates a small gust to open the windows to the attic loft, letting in the cool sunshine.

Soaking in the beautiful morning, Storm quickly dressed and bounded down to the mansion's kitchen for her morning meal.



Single line breaks

If you are writing things that need to be on separate lines, but you do not wish to start a whole new paragraph (like a poem), you can also use a line break. Using the BREAK TAG <BR> will cause the current line to end and a new one to start.

For Example, Typing:

I shall be telling this with a sigh<br> Somewhere ages and ages hence;<br> Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--<br> I took the one less traveled by,<br> And that has made all the difference.<br>

Would look like this;

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.



Tabs and how to cheat to get them.

You will no doubt notice that the first line in all my paragraphs are indented, but most, if not all other pages do not.

The reason is that HTML does not allow a tab to be used in an HTML document (like your story), but I found an easy way around it and it will makes your paragraphs easier to read, too.

I use a tag that is used for definition lists <DD>, You do not need to really know what it is really for, but it does indent a paragraph.

NOTE: You do not close this tag (meaning there is no </dd> tag), but it is best to use the </p> tag to close your paragraphs

For Example, Typing:

<dd>Calmly crossing the main exhibit floor that is playing host to the International Brotherhood of Peace Officers annual United States convention, Jubilee was pushing a large covered meal cart toward the west facing wall, disguised in a servers uniform.</p>
<dd>Agent Nichols, having just completed the fastest disguise job in the history of modern espionage, walked up to the cart, himself now under the guise of Major Nathaniel Green, Massachusetts State Police.</p>

Would look like this;

Calmly crossing the main exhibit floor that is playing host to the International Brotherhood of Peace Officers annual United States convention, Jubilee was pushing a large covered meal cart toward the west facing wall, disguised in a servers uniform.

Agent Nichols, having just completed the fastest disguise job in the history of modern espionage, walked up to the cart, himself now under the guise of Major Nathaniel Green, Massachusetts State Police.



While you do not HAVE to use this tag in your story, I like it and use it all the time.



Bolding and italicizing text

Now, here is the good stuff! You can put some life in your stories by *bolding*, ~italicizing~ and _underlining_ the words that need bolding, italicizing and underlining.

To bold your text, use the BOLD TAGS <B> </B>.

Typing:

<B> make this bold </B>

Would look like this;

make this bold

To italicize text, use the ITALICIZE TAGS <I> </I>.

Typing:

<I> make this italicized </I>

Would look like this;

make this italicized

To underline text, use the UNDERLINE TAGS <I> </I>.

Typing:

<U> make this underlined </U>

Would look like this;

make this underlined

And, of course, you can combine the three in a story that needs bold italic words.

Typing:

<dd>"Like, okay Secret Agent Dude. You ainít gonna tell me that the Prez is, like, in this dinky hole-in-the-wall," asked Jubilee. "Like, Frostieís leather lingerie closet is bigger."</p>
<dd><b><i>"WHAT???"</b></i> Kordel and Cyrus replied.</p>
<dd>"That question thing, guys?"</p>
<dd> <i>Why do I <b>not </b>want to here the rest of that,</i> they both thought as well. </p>

Would look like this;

"Like, okay Secret Agent Dude. You ainít gonna tell me that the Prez is, like, in this dinky hole-in-the-wall," asked Jubilee. "Like, Frostieís leather lingerie closet is bigger."

"WHAT???" Kordel and Cyrus replied.

"That question thing, guys?"

Why do I not want to here the rest of that, they both thought as well.



Putting in a line between graphs.

Sometimes in your writing you will want to separate one scene from another, you need a HORIZONTAL LINE TAG, <hr>

All you do is place the tag on a line between paragraphs.

Typing:

<dd>"Hey cool!</b> It's been some time since I'd soaked some LA rays," says a smiling Jubilee. "I'll pack my Coppertone." </p>
<dd>"I don't know if we'll have the time, Jubilee," said Jean. "We're supposed to meet with them at their hotel and if not we are to meet them at the game they will be in town to attend." </p> <dd>"Like, what game?" asked the young pyrotechnic.</p>
<hr>
<dd>"A hockey game?" Asked Scott reading the four tickets the desk clerk had handed him.</p>

Would look like this;

"Hey cool! It's been some time since I'd soaked some LA rays," says a smiling Jubilee. "I'll pack my Coppertone."

"I don't know if we'll have the time, Jubilee," said Jean. "We're supposed to meet with them at their hotel and if not we are to meet them at the game they will be in town to attend."

"Like, what game?" asked the young pyrotechnic

"A hockey game?" Asked Scott reading the four tickets the desk clerk had handed him.


See, it's that simple!



Centering your text

You can center a headline, word, paragraphs, or your entire document. Just use the CENTER TAGS <CENTER> </CENTER>.

Typing:

<CENTER>
This line of text will now be centered.<br>
And so is this one!<br>
</CENTER>

Would look like this;

This text will now be centered.
And so is this one!



Titles and bylines

To borrow a James Brown line, when it comes to the title of your story, Say it loud. IT's MINE, AND I'M PROUD!" and to do that we need a HEADER TAG.

The header tag creates titles and headlines in your story.

Header tags are written as <H1> </H1> to <H6> </H6>. 1 is the largest font and 6 is the smallest. The size you choose is determined by you and your needs. But for the title of YOUR story, I say go for broke!

Typing:

<h1><i>Opening Night</i></h1> <h2>By David D. Amaya</h2>

Would look like this;

Opening Night

By David D. Amaya

Remember to always close your header tags right after the text you want included. And don't mix the header sizes - ex: never put <H1> </H4> - in order to work, they must be the same size - <H1></H1>.



Linking several chapters of a long story.

If a story is long, you of course broke it in to more that one post, right?

If you are like me and write a novel, you are going to do the same stuff over and over but you do not want to force your reader to hit the back button on the top of the web browser, so it is best to link your chapters.

We now enter the HYPERLINK TAG <a href=" "> </a>

In a nutshell, this is a link that refers to another file, (I am going out on a limb and assume that you now what a hyperlink does, because you would never got here if you didn't).

If you want to post your story to your own website, or are doing the HTML out of the goodness of your heart for an archivist (aren't you the nice person!), you will want to link the next chapter of your story so that when the reader comes to the end of the chapter, they will go straight to the next chapter!

In this example, the links will not go anywhere but shows what it will look like.

Typing:

<CENTER><P>**************End of Part 7*********** </P></CENTER>

<ul>
<li><a href="part8.html">Go to Part 8</a>
<li><a href="stories.html">Back To My Story Index</a>
</ul>
Would look like this;

**************End of Part 7************



For more info on HTML and Web page primers.

OK, now you know how to format your stories and HTML doesn't scare you anymore. But, of course, there are more tags and programs out there in HTML-vill that you can learn to improve your site. And since you're reading this, you most likely want to learn and use all of them.

Here's a list of some other great and more in-depth HTML guides out on the Web.



All characters & publications mentioned in this document are trademarks of their respective owners, and all copyrights are held by them as applicable.

This information is not endorsed in any way or form by; Marvel Comics Group, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics or any other publishing entity.

The OutsideTheLines Home Page, its parent mailing list, Topica, Inc., Tripod Corp., nor those who own or assisted those groups, will be held responsible for any problems caused by information contained within this document.