Sheezy Literature Submission Tutorial
We've all seen it happen, or maybe we've had it happen to us: blundering through SheezyArt's literature gallery, we run into a piece that looks like one single, monstrous paragraph filled with random letters and numbers, and what words you can make out are poorly spelled. And then somewhere in the middle, the INTERMINABLE UNDERLINE is switched on. And runs through all. The way. To the end. This happens a great deal around here, and it's not entirely the poster's fault--in fact, half the time I think the poster knows about the problem, but out of frustration, gives up on trying to make the system cooperate.
Today I'm going to walk you through some steps that should help people navigate the quirks of SheezyArt's literature posting system so that writers can format and troubleshoot their own work and save them, and all of us, a lot of headaches. And hopefully cleaning up presentation problems will help writers' qualities to shine as well as aid readers in giving more useful comments.
Please bear in mind that I have only checked out these procedures for Windows XP users. Most or all of it may apply to other operating systems as well, but even if it's not an exact fit, I'm hoping this will at least provide some guidelines that help you manage with your own system configuration.
Avoiding the Mega-Paragraph
Your first impulse, when you see one of the mega-paragraphs that stretches the entire length of the submission may be to think the writer has no idea about how to use a paragraph. While that might be the case, that's not always true. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that in over half of these cases, the author's original Word document looks just fine.
This problem--and the next one I'm going to outline--crops up when you try to copy and paste your document from Word into Sheezy. The trouble is that Word has a range of more sophisticated functions and characters that are not typically seen on web forums or literature sites like Sheezy. This means that when you try to copy and paste, some of the information you put into your original document is not going to survive the transfer. One of those items is tabbed paragraphs.
In Word, one of the most common ways to separate paragraphs is to hit Enter once and then Tab, giving you a nice indented paragraph that looks like most books. Unfortunately, the Tab command is not understood by Sheezy, as is common to many websites. Another way I commonly see people indicate paragraphs is by hitting Enter and then pressing the spacebar enough times to get the amount of indention they want. This runs into another quirk of the way the Web is set up--have you ever noticed that contrary to what your English teacher told you, on the Internet only one space appears between sentences? (In fact, as I've typed this in, I've been putting two spaces between sentences--but you won't see them when I hit submit.) The way browsers read the site's source code, any spaces in excess of one are deleted--which kills the "spacebar indent" just as surely as it does the Tab indent.
The end result, when you submit your art, is that any evidence of your having indented the paragraph in Word is gone. The computer does understand that there's a single line break and goes to the next line, but without the indent, any person who is used to a language reading left to right will not notice and thus sees only the dreaded mega-paragraph. This can be frustrating enough to some readers that they will not read what you've written no matter how good it is--or if they do read, it may be too difficult for them to go back and give you quality comments.
There are two ways to deal with this problem. The first is to type your submission directly into Sheezy. If you do that, at the end of each paragraph, you will need to push Enter not just once, but twice. This will put another full line break between your paragraphs and give your writing the same basic appearance as this submission. Try not to get carried away and hit enter MORE than twice unless you're separating sections under different headings in an essay or prose submission--in that case three is quite enough.
Of course, if you've already typed out your submission in Word, there's no sense in wasting the effort to completely re-type it...especially if it's long. In this case, you'll need to take an intermediate step between Word and Sheezy. (Yes, you COULD do what I suggest in the Sheezy "Submit Artwork" window, but trust me, it's much easier to see if you follow these steps.) Open up Notepad, which on Windows XP you can find under Start > Accessories. Copy all of the text from Word that you want to submit and paste it into Notepad. If your text runs off the screen, leave it alone. If it looks normal, that's actually not what you want. Go to Notepad's Format menu and uncheck "Word Wrap." This way, each of your paragraphs will appear as one long line. To put an extra line break between each paragraph, just click before the first character of each line and hit Enter once and repeat until you're done. If in your Word document, you separated sections with an extra line break already, I recommend hitting Enter twice where the section break occurs.
To check your work, go back to the Format menu and check Word Wrap to turn it back on. Take a look at your original Word document, and compare it paragraph by paragraph to the Notepad version. Do all of the gaps occur in the right place, where your Word document shows a new paragraph? Have you missed any in your Notepad document? If so, this is the time to correct it. What you copy onto Sheezy will need to come from the Notepad version. But wait--there are other problems you can use Notepad to fix before you hit "Submit"!
What the %298@ Is That?!
Have you ever seen someone post a story where there's a lot of %274# going on? No, this probably doesn't mean there's a lot of censored swearing, although it can be amusing to imagine in some cases. This problem almost always is traceable to copying a document straight from Word into Sheezy, although there is one way it can occur when you type straight into the Submit Artwork window, which I'll save for the end of this section.
Quotes, apostrophes, dashes, and ellipses
If you've ever gone poking through the guts of MS Word, particularly in the AutoCorrect settings, you might've run into the term "SmartQuotes." This, along with dashes and ellipses, are for English-speaking writers almost always the source of the random symbols and letters that appear in your Sheezy submission. What happens here is, as you type in Word, the program decides which direction the quotes ought to "point," giving you a quotation bracketed by nice, symmetrical left and right quotes. The same thing happens if you type an apostrophe; Word decides whether to put in the standard apostrophe mark or one bending the other direction.
The problem here is that when AutoCorrect makes this decision, it deletes what you typed and puts in a non-standard character--that is, one that not all computer programs can read properly. Sheezy happens to be one of those. Because Sheezy doesn't know what to make of the SmartQuote, it renders the code
for the character, rather than the character itself. This code is the "%2862" junk that winds up all over your submission. There are two other common types of characters that this happens to when converting from Word to Sheezy: the dash (a long hyphen) and the ellipsis (dot dot dot). In both cases, if you type "--" or "...", AutoCorrect looks at that and replaces it with a more "proper"-looking version of each--again, a single character, and a nonstandard one at that. Copy that character into Sheezy and it chews it and spits it out.
As before, if you're typing your submission directly into the "Submit Artwork" box, you won't have to worry about these particular characters causing problems. If you are copying from Word, you have some housecleaning in Notepad to do before you can submit without a pseudo-swearing explosion all over your writing and some very real swearing from you after you hit Submit. Hopefully you still have that document up in Notepad that you put the extra line breaks into.
Open up that document and also the Word document. Before you break into a cold sweat at the thought of replacing each instance of Word's characters one by one, fear not! There is an easy way to do this that should only take a few minutes of your time even with the longest literature submissions. That silver bullet is Notepad's Find/Replace function. If you've used Word's Find/Replace, you'll find Notepad's to be very similar. The only trick is knowing what to put in each field.
To get started, go into your Word document and copy a double quote mark (") that BEGINS a quote. Now in Notepad, open the Edit menu, then click on Replace. Once that's open, paste that quote you just copied into the top field, the one that says "Find What." In the field that says, "Replace With," type
a quote mark. You should see a marked difference between the two--the one you pasted should still point, and the one you typed should be straight. Now hit the "Replace All" button. Notepad will ZOOM through your document and replace every left quote in the whole thing.
Be careful--you're not done! You've only replaced double quotes pointing in one direction. Now you have to do the other. Go back to whatever quotation you grabbed that first quote mark from in Word, and copy the mark that CLOSES the quote. This one should point the opposite direction from the one you just did. Go back to Notepad's Replace function. When you get in, delete the mark that's in the "Find What" field, and paste in the new one you just copied. You should still have a straight quote in the "Replace With" field. If not, type a double quote mark into the "Replace With" field. Hit "Replace All" again. You should find all of your double quotes fixed.
You'll have to go through this procedure again with single quotes ('). Finding an apostrophe in your Word document is usually an easy thing to do. The problem can be finding a single quote pointing the other way. While you may just not have used one, you'll need to give a careful look to your Word document to see if you spot one. If you miss one, you'll probably wind up with some junk characters in your final submission, but there should at least be few enough that manually editing your document to fix them should not be a big problem.
The last two characters that you'll need to fix using this method are dashes and ellipses. The good part for these two is that they only require half the work the quotes and apostrophes did. In your Word document, look for an ellipses (...). You should notice that the "periods" are crammed very close together, and that they act as one character when you go to copy them. Paste this into Notepad's "Find What" field. Then type three periods into the "Replace With" field, and hit Replace All. For dashes--the longer-than-normal hyphen-looking things--copy one and paste it into "Find What." Then type two dashes (--) into the "Replace With" field and hit "Replace All."
Whew! You SHOULD be finished with the hardest parts now! But what if you have foreign-language text in your submission?
Accent marks, foreign-language characters, and mathematical operators
Unfortunately when it comes to accent marks and special characters used in languages other than English, Sheezy's system will only cope with a limited selection of these--for any others, you will get garbage characters and have no way around them. AND you will only have access to these characters in your submission
, not in your comments. Click here
to view a list I've compiled that should show most, if not all, of the acceptable special characters for a Sheezy literature submission.
The upshot of it is, if you are writing in a Western Romance language--that is, not including the Romance languages of Eastern Europe such as Romanian-- a Germanic language, or math (come on, we all know math is a foreign language!) you should be okay. If you're trying to write in any other language that uses characters not included on the list, you're out of luck trying to get them to display properly and you'll need to come up with some kind of workaround. If you are trying to write in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), your task will be close to impossible on Sheezy; I recommend instead using the Internet phonetics standard of X-SAMPA.
Another thing that can sink an otherwise perfectly-written submission is an error made with HTML. Sheezy does permit some HTML formatting commands, but if you're not careful with them, you can really ruin the appearance of your writing.
One of the most troublesome things that can happen with using HTML is when you turn on some kind of formatting--be it underline, boldface, italic, or whatever--and fail to turn it off, causing it to run all the way down to the bottom of your submission and possibly even all the way to the bottom of the page itself. This problem comes from leaving a slash (/) out of the code when you try to close the formatting code. While this is a fairly easy problem to fix once you notice it, as it's very clear from the output where the faulty code first got turned ON, there's a technique that can help you avoid making this mistake in the first place.
When you know you want to underline or italicize something, I strongly suggest typing the opening and closing code before you type anything in between. If you just open the formatting, start typing text, and then get to the end of that text, it's very easy to forget you had special formatting and to never type the proper closing code. It's far better to check for this before you type anything. Type something like this: < u>< /u> (without the space), and THEN type in between them.
A Few Other Suggestions
Here are a few other closing suggestions; a few of these are more my opinion than anything, but they should hopefully save you from appearance-related faux pas
in your writing so that readers will actually focus on the content of what you've written.
Spellchecking may seem like an easy matter, but not always! For starters, unless you're using a browser like SeaMonkey (the successor to Mozilla), which has a built-in spellchecker to highlight your mistakes as you type on the Web, you'll need to copy and paste your text into Word to check for errors. Believe me, this can be a very important use of your time, as a poorly-spelled submission reflects poorly on its author. I understand English spelling is very tricky, but there is computer assistance out there that can make your life a lot easier.
But! But! That computer brain isn't always as smart as we like to think it is! Be sure to remember that the computer can't tell when you're using a properly-spelled word in an improper way. As I was writing the previous sentence, I almost wrote "world" instead of "word." Had I not caught that as I typed or proofread by hand, the spellchecker would've let that through. This can be even tougher when dealing with easily-confused words like "affect" and "effect," and when in doubt, don't be afraid to consult an online dictionary. For American spelling, my favorite is Merriam-Webster.com
. This may seem laborious, but again, the effort you spend on this stage will reflect very positively on you.
Writing in your second language
This is more a matter of my personal opinion than anything, but if you are writing in your second language, it might be a good idea to say so in the artist comments so people understand and don't make unfounded assumptions and flame you. In general, I find people tend to respect the effort it takes to write in a language that is not your own, so I don't think explaining this should cause too much trouble. You may also want to specify in the artist comments whether you want language advice or not. Some people are very interested in this, whereas others find it intrusive. For readers, if a foreign writer doesn't say whether or not they want help in improving their writing in their second language, I highly recommend asking the person whether they want advice or not first before just plowing ahead and giving them a long comment nitpicking all of their errors. Some people do want the detailed nitpicking, but others may find it discouraging and the best way to know is to just ask.
Truth in preview pics
This last one is a major pet-peeve of mine on Sheezy, but to me there is hardly anything more annoying than a preview picture that has nothing to do with the writing submission in question. I cannot stand it when people on art sites like this use deceptive preview pictures, especially when they did not create that picture. To me, that is no different from the kind of stealing other submissions have recently discussed--it's making inappropriate use of stolen property. Unless you have permission, or it came off of a free stock site that allows you all rights to use that picture for non-commercial purposes, then there is no excuse for this.
The other thing I think people need to be careful with is using certain kinds of pictures (and I think we all know exactly what style of art it falls under most of the time) in order to guarantee page views for an actual art submission that has nothing to do with the preview picture. I'm not necessarily talking about literature submissions where the graphic has been matched to the themes or imagery of the text (though again one must be careful to credit the image properly), but about the very obvious, sometimes outright deceptive "tricks" to get page views.
I think that if you create something and you're pleased enough with it to submit it, it should stand on its own two feet as much as possible. No, not everybody will read writing. But they're especially unlikely to do so if they feel they've been duped into it.
So concludes my two cents...I hope you'll find some of this helpful in your future writing endeavors!