Formatting for Gossamer & Ephemeral

On this page I'm going to post a few things that have been passed along to me by other writers,
or which I've figured out after hours of smacking my head on the desk. Hopefully you won't have
to go through that step after reading this and can simply move right on to posting your story.

Creating a Text doc without any Smart-Quotes

Ephemeral doesn't deal well with smart quotes. Setting up your wordprocessing program ahead of time will keep you from having to go back and change them line by line when Ephemeral refuses to post. These instructions are specifically for Microsoft Word (I'm running Office 2016, which is most like 2010 in how it's set up). If you're using a different word processing program, you may still be able to follow the same general procedures by looking for similar commands in your own program.

First, open a new document. Go to File --> Options --> Proofing. Click on the Auto Correct Options button, which will open a new box. In the Auto Format, Auto Correct, and Auto Format As You Type tabs, make sure most of the boxes are clear. You can probably leave the fractions and dashes checked if you prefer because those don't seem to cause problems with auto-forwarding interfaces that screw up the formatting. It's best if you always post in text since text programs don't retain special characters so you won't have to worry about how it's going to look on the other end. You can actually write in a text program if you want and then skip all of these long-winded instructions. I create both Word (writing) and text (posting) docs because I find that Arial font is easier on my eyes while writing, but unacceptable for posting, plus it gives me a backup copy. So learning how to format text quickly will be to your benefit in the long run and not using Smart Quotes is a good first step.

The next step is making sure Ephemeral will accept the story formatting.

The biggest thing that aggravates people about Ephemeral is the narrow-column requirement which has been made obsolete by Live Journal and AO3, but it's not that hard to achieve if you still want to post there. This is the way I do it. In the document where you've just reset the smart quotes, find the Layout tab in the top navigation row. Go to Margins and choose the Custom Margins option at the bottom. Set the margins to .7" for top, bottom, and left. Set the right one for 3.5". NOW hit File --> Save As --> and call it "fic template." Save that somewhere that you'll remember and use it for starting new stories so you don't have to go through resetting everything each time. When you want to begin writing, open that template and save a new copy with a different title immediately so you don't accidnetly overwrite the template (been there, done that more than once). Then open that new copy and begin writing. The formatting will be correct and you won't have to worry about whether or not Ephemeral will accept it. By the time I stopped writing fic I had the posting process down to less than five minutes, although I did still make sure it was okay before submitting.

But Ephemeral only wants text copies. How do I do THAT?

If you're like me and you haven't actually written the story in a text editor like WordPad or Notepad, you can still create a good text document from a Word doc. Make sure to use a practice document the first time following these steps so you don't mess up your original copy in case something goes wrong.

Open your practice story in Word and save a new copy as Plain Text or Text Only With Line Breaks depending on what program version you're using. It's going to warn you that you'll lose formatting if you save it that way, but just tell it to bugger off -- click YES. Close both windows, then open the new text copy again in Word. Click your View tab and make sure you're in Print Layout and the Ruler is checked. What you're looking for here is not how it appears to your eye, but where the last letter in each line falls according to the ruler. No matter what centering format you use (align right, align left, center or justify), it's not going to make a difference -- you WILL lose formatting to some degree. Slowly scroll through the entire text document. If nothing extends beyond 5 1/2 inches on the top ruler, you're done. Anything that sticks out past that point needs to be manually returned to the next line of text. I use the arrow scroll on the side bar and just let it slowly move up. When I find something that's too long, I click my cursor in front of the word, hit Enter, then hit End and Delete if there's more of the sentence after that word. It actually doesn't take all that long to do a large document, but it is boring. I did this to Unquiet Grave and that's over 150K. Once you're satisfied with the way the practice piece looks, do the same thing to the story you want to post.

Now that you have a clean text copy, you need to post it somewhere.

Posting Stories Directly to Ephemeral

It's not nearly as intimidating as it looks. First, you need to register using the Ephemeral for Authors link that's down toward the bottom of the main page. Once you're registered, each time you visit you'll need to type in your password and a screen will pop up with your user name and e-mail already on it. That's how your story will show up on the main page -- with that e-mail address under it. So make sure you've registered with the one you want displayed.

Scroll down and type in the title of your story. If it's going to be posted in more than one piece, include 1/4, 7/9, or however many pieces you have, in the title line. (More about multiple parts later.) If you check through a couple pages of listings you'll see the variations people use for titles. You don't need to put "NEW" or "fanfic" in the title, though. Please do begin with "Repost" if it's a story that's been reworked and sent out again.

Next, uncheck the button to automatically submit to Gossamer at the same time. The link doesn't always work and normally you could just email a copy of the story to them, but right now the site isn't updating, so your story will just end up in limbo. The next part is the important one. Click on Browse and find the text copy of your story on your own hard drive. Make sure the Preview Only button is checked! Then hit submit. This won't send your story to the site -- it will allow you to scroll through the whole document and see if there are any mistakes. If there are, you'll have to figure out if it's because of too-long lines or smart quotes, and fix it. Smart Quotes show up as GREEN lines, too-long lines will be BROWN.

If you do it right, you should be able to preview at Ephemeral without finding any mistakes at all. Give it a try on something new, four or five paragraphs, that practice piece you used before, so you can get a feel for checking the line length. It won't go through to the archive until you uncheck the Preview Only button on the submissions page.

If there isn't anything wrong when you get to the bottom of the screen, click Back, then Browse and submit again BUT THIS TIME, uncheck the Preview Only box. Scroll to the bottom of your story page and it should tell you that you've successfully submitted your story. It usually takes ten to fifteen minutes for a new fic to show up on the site, but it has been known to take days as well. You can email Scott if that happens and hopefully find out what's wrong. Or you can resubmit after a few days and take the chance that a second copy will show up five minutes later. (Believe me, it happens all the time.) If it should happen, or if you find that you need to post a new copy right away (or in a year, the way I did), you can delete or replace your own stories. The tools are inside your author interface. In Preferences you can change your email address as well as your display name and password. In My Fiction your most recent stories will be there (mine go back to 2002 so not everything...). The little trashcan to the right of each post allows you to delete that particular story. Then you can upload a new copy if needed.

Remember that Ephemeral allows you to only submit about 65K of text at a time. Don't check your story size until you've saved and tweaked the text copy. Then you can split it into pieces at logical points rather than having Ephem chop it up for you. Be sure to put numbers and short headers on the new pieces and post each one as outlined above.

Once you get the hang of saving text and posting to Ephemeral, it should take all of five minutes to get a new story online. Have fun and bask in the glow!

The X-Files belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and FOX.
No copyright infringement is intended, no monetary profit is made.