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How to Read Manhua on Bilibili: Legal, Free, and in English

This is a repost of a tutorial I wrote for a fandom art side blog I run on Tumblr. As it’s fairly fandom-general and goes into a lot of detail on ways that readers can access original queer manhua (Chinese comic) titles for free, we feel that it’s of wide enough interest to be relevant to the Duck Prints Press blogs, too. It includes information on accessing Bilibili and some specific titles I’ve enjoyed that I thought might be a good starting place for someone interested in reading manhua this way.


In my posts on this blog, I keep sharing screen caps from manhua I’ve read on Bilibili, along with the link to read it yourself, but I know:

This blog doesn’t have all that many followers.

It’s one thing for me to post the link and quite another for people to realize just how easy this is to do.

Considering how often I see English-speaking MXTX/c-novel/c-drama/donghua fandom peeps screaming and begging for more content, I’m now begging you in return:

STOP SLEEPING ON THE BILIBILI APP!

If you want more danmei content, fully legal, entirely free, already translated, you literally c.a.n.n.o.t. do better than using the Bilibili app to read manhua. That’s not to say this is a perfect method – their translations are…um…wanting sometimes? (Shout out to the four pages in a row I recently read where someone broke in to a residence and every time the breaker-inner was mentioned they were called “the intrud”) But it’s still ALL THERE, FOR US, ANYTIME, and the more eyes the manhua in the apps gets, the more content we’ll get, so please, PLEASE, if you’re out there thirsting for danmei content, DO THIS.

Wondering how?

Well, I’ve got you covered.

WAY 1: The Bilibili Manhua Website

I know I said “get the app” but honestly you don’t even need an app to do this! You can read on Bilibili using any web browser.

The website is Bilibilicomics.com.

It looks like this: 

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Yes, you’re reading that right: there’s an entire section of BL.

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There’s also an entire section of GL!

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There are 38 titles in GL and 121 titles, yes ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY ONE titles, in BL.

AND there’s het stuff, and non-romance stuff too!

New episodes general come out weekly or biweekly, though a few things are daily. The website is often a few chapters ahead of the app (which I actually didn’t realize until just now – Chapter 55 of Legend of Exorcism, for example, came out today on the app, but it lists 60 episodes as available on the website. Which, considering the cliffhanger I just read… *eyes emoji*…though apparently in other cases there are more chapters on the app than on the website, so ymmv.)

The best-known title available (again: FOR FREE. OFFICIALLY. LEGALLY. IN ENGLISH) is Tian Guan Ci Fu. When you go to a specific title’s page, you get this…

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…and reading it is as simple as selecting the chapter you want, clicking it, and et voila! Just scroll down and read to your heart’s content!!

NOTE: SOME CHAPTERS WILL HAVE WAIT TIMES. More on this shortly.

WAY 2: The Bilibili App for Android

I personally have been reading primarily from the Android app, since I have a Samsung Galaxy phone and a lot of time sprawled on my couch while my kids watch cartoons.

You can download the app from the Play store – here’s a link, for what that’s worth.

It looks, essentially, like this (I’m logged in so mine looks a little different than non-logged-in, I made an account even tho you don’t actually need one):

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If you don’t want to make an account, you don’t have to. If you choose to, as you see it’ll try to guess what other titles you might like. tbh I have no idea how good these recommendations may be; I’m still reading/catching up on the specific titles I wanted to read so I haven’t had to try their recommendations yet. But, there’s definitely some stuff that looks interesting (that top middle one definitely looks up my alley…)

You can also “favorite” things (again: EVEN WITHOUT AN ACCOUNT) and it’ll store them in your library and make a red dot (like you can see on the above screen cap) when something has an update you haven’t read yet. For example, here’s my Favorite list, which helps me keep track of what I’m reading and enjoying (or, well, in one case I’m more “wtfing” than “enjoying” but hey that still counts).

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There’s even a weird, like, “dress up” side game??? So like, every chapter you read there’s a chance the app will drop a “card” and you can use the cards to dress your avatar up, and there’s a whole crafting system built in? It’s. A little odd. But, considering I recently quit my Love Nikki addiction after 3+ years, it’s nice to get a small hit of pointless dress up.

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Yes, my avatar is currently wearing San Lang’s shirt.

The point is, again: this app is free to download, and incredibly easy to use, and even has a fun pointless side game.

BUT. There is one “but” here. See the Coins: 0 Top Up right below my randomly assigned username?

There is an optional pay system. What does it do? It reduces wait times.

Some titles, but not ALL, have a “built in delay” that kicks in at some point. On some, it seems to start when you’re “within 5 chapters of the most recent” (that’s what’s happened with Global Examination and TGCF, for example). For others, it seems to be arbitrary – for A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost, it kicked in at chapter 40 even tho there are, like, 80 something chapters up. Regardless, it always works the same.

The system functions using wait times, and it has 5 tiers that are always the same.

Tier 1: You must wait one minute before you can read the next chapter. This tier is rarely an issue; the count down sometimes (but not always??? it’s weird) starts when you start a new chapter, and it almost always takes more than one minute to read a full chapter, so this tier is often “satisfied” before you even get to the next chapter.

Tier 2: You must wait six minutes before you can read the next chapter.

Tier 3: You must wait one hour before you can read the next chapter.

Tier 4: You must wait six hours before you can read the next chapter.

Tier 5: You must wait twenty-four hours before you can read the next chapter.

I initially thought this system functioned as “once you reach Tier 5, you’re just stuck there and can only read a chapter a day” but it’s turned out that’s not the case – A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost having 40+ semi-locked chapters has given me the chance to actually test this a bit. In fact, what happens is:

The first time you hit a “wait delay” chapter, it puts you at Tier 1 and you have to wait a minute. The next chapter, you up to Tier 2, the next to Tier 3, then Tier 4, then Tier 5…and then it cycles back to Tier 1. So, with a little care and planning (which I almost always fail at) I can time reading something with many wait-delayed chapters such that I can read 5 chapters in one day, then I have to wait a full day, then I can read 5 more chapters.

Here’s how it looks when you’ve done your waiting in purgatory and can now read on…

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…and here’s how it looks when the sad trombones play…

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Now, I mentioned I’d circle back to the coins? THE TIME HAS COME! Because, look – for 17 coins, you can read on instantly!! Alternatively, if you’re willing to share on social media, you can also skip (I have no if that’s something you can do over and over, or just once, cause I haven’t tried – you can skip the wait time once for free). This begs the question, then…is 17 coins a lot?

And the answer is…

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…eh not really, no. Ten bucks will get you the ability to pay 17 coins many, many times (58, to be precise), but honestly? I haven’t spent a penny yet and I’ve caught up on 7 different titles and am steadily reading through two more (one of which hasn’t had wait times kick in yet, I just can only read so fast).

All of which is to say: yes, there’s a pay system, and tbh, I’m probably going to throw them a few bucks not because I care about the wait times but because I’m getting so much enjoyment out of reading these titles and I want to support them a little (I also bought the print version of the TGCF vol. 1 and will likely buy the other volumes, and I once-upon-a-time paid to watch TGCF s. 1 streaming as they came out). With a little patience there is absolutely zero call for spending even one penny to read as much of this cornucopia as you want.

WAY 3: Download the Bilibili App on Apple

I don’t have access to an iPhone and don’t feel like grabbing my tablet rn and I’ve hit the Tumblr image limit anyway, but the Apple app looks about the same as the Android app, and you can download it HERE.

Basically: use the website, or download the app for whichever platform you’re using, and READ, READ, READ!

So, what is there to read?

I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED!

I’ve been reading on the app pretty regularly for like two months (prior to that I was only reading TGCF, and only when I remembered, which was rarely), but I’m juggling a lot AND reading other stuff too so I am far from having explored the wide range of options. I can, however, highlight a few I think are likely to be of interest to a danmei-reading audience. Note that of these, I’ve only read the novels for TGCF, TYQHM, and Daomu Biji, which means that I only know as far as the manhuas have covered for the rest – I haven’t read farther than that yet. 

A. Tian Guan Ci Fu by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. The one, the only – this is the official manhua with art by Starember. It tells the story of newly ascended god Xie Lian trying to navigate the intricacies of the heavenly bureaucracy, figure out his place in the world, and understand why a sexy guy in red keeps showing up in his life. (Worst synopsis ever award goes to: ME!). The English translation is currently on episode 77, which has Xie Lian and Hua Cheng in the gambler’s den. A volume just ended, which means it’s on hiatus temporarily – there’s usually a month or two break between volumes – so it’ll be back soon!

B. Global Examination by Mu Su Li. Based on the book Global University Entrance Examination, featuring art by E Zi. Global Examination is a story set in a dystopian near-future about a world where groups of people are randomly selected (read: kidnapped and forced) to participate in an “exam” where they have to answer extremely complex puzzles. If they succeed, they get to live and become one of the people who administer the exam. If they fail, they die. Despite the premise sounding dark, it’s really not been so bad and I’m reassured it won’t become so. The story itself focuses on You Huo, a recently selected examinee with amnesia, the other people in his examinee group, and Examiner 001, who clearly has some kind of history with You Huo. If only he didn’t also have amnesia, we might even know what that history is…

C. Dinghai Fusheng Records and Legend of Exorcism, both based on the books of the same names written by Fei Tian Ye Xiang. The art for Dinghai Fusheng Records is by Qianerbai (who has also done a lot of work for the Mo Dao Zu Shi audio drama) and Legend of Exorcism, it’s by Warp. These stories are set in the same ‘verse, at least several hundred years apart; it’s a xianxia high-fantasy setting, and the main enemies are demons (…or are they? dun dun duuuun). Dinghai Fusheng Records takes place, chronologically, first, and occurs a couple hundred years after a calamity caused all qi to fade from the world – there are only mortals, and no one can cultivate. It follows Chen Xing, a young man born with a gift, as he seeks his protector – Xiang Shu – and others, and they encounter (surprise!) unspeakable evil. Legend of Exorcism takes place in the “future” of Dinghai Fusheng Records, and focuses on Kong Hongjun, a half-demon boy who has received a summons to join the Exorcism Department, as he explores the mortal world for the first time and gets to know the others who have summoned to join the Department, especially the mortal leader Li Jinglong.

D. Daomu Biji titles, originally by Nanpai Sanshu. There are two DMBJ titles on Bilibili right now, though both only have a few chapters, and the website lists them as “on hiatus.” I’ve read them both, and am not entirely sure what’s up with one especially, but… Grave Robbers’ Chronicles starts where Book 1 starts, with changes of course but it’s quite recognizable as the initial “Wu Xie is brought a silk scroll and gets curious” plot line. The Grave Robbers’ Chronicles Seven Dreams is…odder…and as far as I can tell is an alternate canon/AU which starts with a “what if” of “what if the Zhang’s were incredibly abusive, raised child!Zhang Qiling themselves, and Wu Xie and he met as kids.” It’s. Um. Extremely weird. But I’m still hoping they’ll release more than 9 chapters, if only because I’m curious.

E. A Single Strike of Shimmering Frost, based on the novel A Sword of Frost by Yu Xiao Lanshan. This one opens with the Prince Ji Yanran approaching Sect Master Yun Yifeng, who runs a sect of spies and information collectors, to ask for help finding an item that has been stolen from the palace. In exchange, he promises to give Yun Yifeng the cure to an ailment that plagues him. Problem 1: he doesn’t actually have this cure. Problem 2: everywhere they go people start dying. Problem 3: catching feels for the pretty Sect Master. Despite having the trappings of xianxia, this story has actually thus far been a sequence of murder mysteries with politics-related causes.

F. Saved the Public Enemy By Mistake by Liu Muqiao. If this is based on a novel, I haven’t been able to track it down. It’s xianxia; demon immortal cultivator Liu Jianghe shows up, nearly dead, on the doorstep of Lu Jiu. Not knowing who he is, Lu Jiu saves him, and finds a mess of politics on his doorstep…but nothing is actually how it seems, there’s amnesia and hidden back stories galore, there’s a heavy side plot of sword lesbians, and honestly I’ve read like 50 chapters I’m still a little lost but the art is pretty and I really need to read the reveal on the the two MCs history together so I’m sticking with it. Warning that it’s got a fair amount of blood and gore.

G. Those Years in Quest of Honor Mine by Man Man He Qi Duo. A historical (non-cultivation) setting focused on politics, machinations, and the long history and deep love between Zhong Wan – former top-scorer on the national exam who lost his position when his adopted father was accused of treason – and Yu She, of dubious parentage and believed by most people to be the bastard son of the Emperor. I loved the book for this, and finding out that the manhua was on Bilibili is a lot of what drove me to download the app.

So – that’s everything I’m currently reading: 6 titles inspired by explicitly BL danmei titles, 2 based on other books I like that aren’t BL, and 1 BL that just looked interesting and my taste.

There’s SO MUCH MORE, seriously. I’m going to be reading on this app for months and still finding more, I’m positive of it.

But unforth, I hear you say, there’s some other manhua I want to read! What about Mo Dao Zu Shi? What about Erha? Are those on Bilibili? Can I read them? And the answer, sadly, is no. Those two are published by Kuaikan, which does not offer free legal English translations at this time. But! I am holding out hope that if the audience for Bilibili grows, other manhua publishers will see the profitability in emulating them. I cannot guarantee that anything we do will result in this happening, but I do feel pretty confident that if we don’t read with the options currently available, we sure ain’t likely to get more options.

SO. GO FORTH. READ THE THINGS I’VE MENTIONED. READ OTHER THINGS. COME BACK AND TELL ME WHAT YOU LOVED SO I HAVE SOME IDEA WHAT TO READ NEXT.

PLEASE.

I’m begging. GO READ MANHUA!!!

RIGHT NOW.

ON BILIBILI.

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How to Spot Art Reposts

Note: this is a post I wrote last year for a side blog I run from my personal Tumblr account. You can see the original post here. Given the popularity of the post I did about the Wayback Machine, I thought perhaps x-posting more of my fandom-general posts written outside of my ownership of Duck Prints Press might be useful/of interest to people. This post was originally written in March, 2021.

Umpteen months ago I asked if followers of this blog would like my take on art reposting, how to recognize reposts, and what to do when you find them, and today, I finally wrote it.

I am deliberately NOT putting this behind a read more. It’s long, but it’s important. If you want to support creators and avoid reposts, please, please read it!

What is an art repost?

An art repost is any instance where a piece of art is re-uploaded from the platform where it was originally posted to any other platform (such as Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Discord, etc.). This is not the same as reblogging/retweeting/sharing posts. Any instance where the social media account of the creator is still the originating source for the post is not a repost, and in general creators strongly encourage people to interact with their own work that they’ve posted – that’s why they’ve posted it!Please, we’re begging you, reblog artwork from creators! By contrast, a repost is a brand-new post made by any other account owner. 

Reposts can be authorized or unauthorized.

What is an authorized repost?

Many artists allow reposting provided they’re informed first. Others have blanket statements in their profiles that allow reposting. No matter what, an authorized repost should always include the artist’s name and, ideally, link(s) to platforms where they regularly post.

What is an unauthorized repost?

An unauthorized repost is any instance where an artist has not been explicitly given, and is especially inappropriate if the artist has asked that people not repost their work. The majority of artists do not allow reposts, and it’s usually stated in their bios, in their pinned posts, in their caption, or in their watermark, or sometimes all four and then some. Unauthorized reposts can also include remixing existing gifs into new sets, making photo montages with images you don’t own, creating tiktok or youtube videos with artwork you don’t have the rights to use, and much much more. Basically, if you are taking someone’s work, and posting it or modifying it without their permission…don’t.

What about instances where it’s not clear if explicit permission has been given for a repost?

This is a gray area, one on which even well-meaning netizens disagree. For me, personally? If I’m not positive the repost was created with permission, I don’t reblog it, even if the artist is named and linked on the post. I don’t have time to track down if permission has been granted or if the person has given blanket permission in their bio, and I’d rather be sure than risk reblogging something they’ve forbidden. However, many others feel that as long as an artist is thoroughly credited, it’s okay to post or reblog a piece in the absence of explicit indications that the artist would disapprove of that usage of their work. Which approach you take is ultimately up to you. None of us have the time to investigate every single piece of art we see on Tumblr. To some extent, we have to trust that people have the permission they say they have, or that when they’ve reposted and linked to other platforms, they’ve done so either with the artist’s knowledge or after having checked that the author’s bio on that platform allows for such reposting. 

My own uncertainty that I trust people to do that appropriately is why I, personally, only reblog works that have either been posted by the artist or that explicitly indicate that permission was obtained for the repost.

What if someone lies about having permission?

None of us can control what other people do on the internet. All we can control is our own behavior. It’s totally okay for us to assume that others who say they have permission are acting in good faith – but it’s also our responsibility that, if we find out that we’ve been mistaken, we remove the reblog and spread the word that someone has violated that good faith trust. That’s the best we can do.

Why is reposting bad?

Artists own the copyright to their own work. Yes, even fanartists. Just because something is posted on the internet doesn’t mean it’s fair game for anyone to download, upload, and use as they will. Many artists need the money they earn from selling prints, commissions, merch, etc., to supplement their income or earn a living. Everytime their work is reposted without their permission, you’re potentially taking money out of their pockets. This goes double if the work is posted without even their name attached to it. Many artists also find this intensely disheartening: they’ve slaved over an image, whether that be a piece of artwork or a gif they’ve edited or a photograph they’ve taken. When people just come along and act entitled to take that work and behave as if there’s no one behind the computer screen on the other end, it leaves artists deflated. I know multiple artists who have literally left fandom because having their work stolen and reposted was that upsetting to them. Even if you (generic you, who is not a creator) thinks that reposts don’t hurt anyone…artists almost universally say reposting DOES hurt them, so don’t fucking do it.

What kind of works can be reposted?

All types of artwork and graphic work can be reposted, with or without permission. Don’t assume photographs that are on Google can just be taken and reposted! Someone took that photograph, and someone owns the rights, and unless the image is in the Creative Commons, it’s not for free use. The same goes for all forms of artwork, animated gifs, even fonts. Behind every single graphic you see is a real live human who put effort into creating it, and reposting that work without permission or without identifying the creator is at minimum highly disrespectful and at the extreme can literally endanger people’s livelihoods. It’s theft, flat out. If you wouldn’t rob from a mom-and-pop store, don’t repost the work of an artist without permission!

…but (insert excuse of choice here).

Honestly, I could put in a list of excuses I’ve heard, but I’m not going to, because I don’t want to fucking bother dignifying all that bullshit. There is no excuse. Either reblog from the original creator, or get permission from a creator to repost, or DON’T POST IT. You (person making excuses!) are not entitled. You are an asshole. Stop.

*

Alright – now that I’ve gone through the basics of what a repost is – and isn’t – and why reposting is often bad – now for the main part. How can you, as a random person on this hellsite, know if a work is a repost, and what should you do if you find one?

The first thing to remember is that if a post is a permitted repost, it should be obvious. Most people who are making a good-faith effort to share artworks from other websites will include text that makes it clear that the work is a repost, that it’s been shared with permission, and provide the name of the artist and links for where to find them. People who do those kinds of posts are not doing anything wrong (unless they’re found to be lying…but I personally have yet to hear of an instance where they were). 

This is a post about the other kind of repost – those cases where, due to ignorance or malicious intent, people intentionally post artworks that they haven’t created themselves while providing no credit to the original creator, or inadequate credit.

Signs that a Post May be an Unauthorized Repost:

1. There’s no caption. Most, but not all, artists write something to go with their posts. The lack of a caption is absolutely not an instant “gotcha,” but it’s a warning bell. Also, a lot of people on Tumblr intentionally or accidentally remove captions, so it’s not uncommon to go back to an original post and discover there actually was a caption when it was first posted. If you find that, make sure you reblog a version that includes the caption! The artist put that information there for a reason!

2. Alternatively, the caption says something like, “credit to the artist.” Credit to the artist isn’t credit, and is basically instant proof that something is a repost. The artist has a name, and their own social media, and at the barest minimum a repost (even if it’s unauthorized) should include their name and link. To do any less than that is to be a huge asshole and if you do that, I’m judging you.

3. You think you recognize the art style but it doesn’t match the username. Anyone around fandom long enough who likes art learns the style of some popular artists. If you see a piece you recognize the style of, and the username of the person who posted it is unfamiliar to you, that can be a sign. Then again, people change their usernames a lot, so if you’re not sure it’s better to keep poking than assume.

4. The dimensions are wonky, the resolution seems very low, or parts of the image are distorted in ways that aren’t part of the artwork. Obviously, this is subjective to some extent, and we all know that Tumblr can mess with image resolutions, especially on mobile, but if the dimensions of the image seem unusual or if parts of the image are distorted that can be a sign that the image has been cropped to remove a signature or watermark. Likewise, very low resolution can be a sign that people couldn’t download a high-res image and so posted a thumbnail, or that they cropped an image so much that it looks like crap. As yet another way this may show, if a part of the background or even of a character seems very detailed – like the artist devoted a lot of time to it – but it’s cut off and/or only part of it is visible, that’s another sign that the image may have been cropped. If you see something like this, and the image seems off, that would be a reason to keep digging.

5. The artwork has a watermark or signature that bears no resemblance to the URL of the poster. If you see a work with a signature that says, for example, “by daisydoesart” (disclaimer I just made that up and if someone actually has that username I’m sorry I don’t mean you) and the URL of the poster you’ve seen is rando1211, that’s a pretty bad sign. It’s not a 100% guarantee – some people use different usernames on different websites, and it’s not unheard of for those urls to be pretty different – but the more generic the reposter’s username is, and the more different it is from the signature, the more suspicious you should be. If “daisydoes” posts something signed “daisydoesart,” that’s probably fine. Heck, even if “ddeesartblog” does, that’s promising, but probably still worth double checking. But if there’s zero resemblance…look into it, and don’t assume. Yes, I have literally seen reposts where the correct Tumblr username was in the watermark, and it didn’t match, and people still reblogged it…but I’ve also seen posts where the correct Tumblr username was in the watermark…and the person had since changed their username. So. That’s why all of these are warning signs, not proof.

6. When you check the post’s notes, there are other people who have said it’s a repost. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, and there are people (like me) who will call out other people if we see a repost. While there’s a chance that those people will be wrong…honestly? I’ve never personally known them to be. So it’s a fairly reliable indication.

7. When you go to the original post, the tags are generic. Again, most, but not all, artists will use tags to make it easier for people to find their works. They’ll often have a personal tag – “my art” is a common one – and other signs that an actual caring person is behind the account. At the extreme, I’ve seen reposters use tags like “not mine” or “from (platform)” – those can be a good hint that you’re looking at a repost. Yes, there are reposters who feel so entitled that they literally say, “I’m reposting this” or “credit to artist” in their post. No, that’s not credit, and yes, they should be stopped.

8. When you go to the account of the original poster, there’s no information there. The vast majority of creators will have a bio that indicates that they make art, or take photos, or create graphics, or do gif sets, etc. Alternatively, some artists will have a pinned post up that makes it clear they’re a creator, even if their bio doesn’t. Yes, there are exceptions – especially when the creator isn’t an English speaker or when they’re using an automated tool to repost from another platform – but those are the minority. If you’re on account that has no bio, or the bio is just a couple generic words, that’s a huge red flag. Here are some examples of bios from reposters I’m aware of in the MDZS fandom:

Image

For contrast, here are some legit creator accounts:

@/candicewright

@/purgatory-jar

@/fengqing

@/cobaltmoony

@/kakinkead

Notice how… a. they talk about themselves; b. they use their own work as their header; c. they have a pinned post with their own work; d. advertise their shops, art side blogs, commissions, and other specific platforms; e. they’ve signed and/or watermarked their own work, and the names match or are traceable to their account; f. never themselves post reposts! Not every creator will hit all of these, but most creators will do at least one of them!

9. Specifically for Chinese fandoms, if there’s a Weibo symbol and then Chinese, Korean or Japanese characters after it, that’s a Weibo watermark and if the work isn’t credited odds are very high it’s a repost. Here’s an example of what the watermark looks like:

10. When you’ve seen the previous signs and you’re getting suspicious, a good next step is to scroll through the poster’s blog. People who don’t do captions, don’t tag thoroughly or at all, and/or don’t have a bio up, still maybe an artist, and the easiest way to tell at that point is to see what else they’ve put up. If they’re an artist, odds are, their blog feed will contain other images done in a similar art style, and no images that are in a radically different art style. Obviously, there are exceptions, and you’re only an outsider coming in and you can only do your best. But if the art all looks similar, and if there’s only original art posts up, odds are decent that the person in question is the original poster. For example, I was suspicious of @elfinfen based on all the previously mentioned signs, but I’m now thoroughly convinced they’re the original artist of their works, and an extremely skilled one whose work I love at that – and part of why I’m convinced is that their art is distinct, stylized, and dominates their blog. If, on the other hand, there’s a lot of random art (especially if each piece has different signatures/watermarks) or a miscellaneous assortment of content, it’s more likely to be a repost.

11. In the end you can rarely be positive. Use your best judgement. If you don’t have time to check and you’ve seen signs that make you suspicious, then it’s better to not reblog. It’s much easier to wait until you get evidence one way or the other and then act accordingly then to clean up after you’ve reblogged something you shouldn’t have and it’s gotten spread around even more.

12. An exemption to all of this! While it might be a little blech, in general it is standard fandom etiquette that reposts of official art (network photoshoots, cover art, merchandise imagery, etc.) are okay. Ideally, these would at least also include credit to the creator, but general attitude is, it’s acceptable to repost these unless the person who reposts them is claiming they’re the creator.

Okay, I found a repost. Now what? 

Choose from the below list, as much or as little as you have the cope for. Don’t stress if you can’t do all of them. No one of us is responsible for fixing this massive, internet-wide problem, but we can do the bare minimum at least, and the bare minimum is number 1 on this list. If you’ve done that much, and you can’t do more, then you’ve done enough. If you CAN do more, though, here are some suggestions.

  1. Don’t reblog the repost.
  2. No, seriously. Don’t reblog the repost. 
  3. Tell the person whose blog you saw it on that it’s a repost; most people care and would want to know, and will delete it if informed. If you tell them and they don’t delete it or don’t understand why they should, feel free to send them this post.
  4. If you can find the original artist and art on Tumblr, reblog that as well.
  5. If you know or can identify the original creator, let them know so they can file a DCMA on the appropriate website.
  6. If you think the person who posted it made a mistake out of ignorance, politely let them know that reposts are generally frowned on and they shouldn’t post artwork without the permission of the original creator.
  7. Spread the word that you’ve found a reposter and ask others to help identify the stolen works.
  8. If you really, really want to reblog the post…ultimately, I can’t stop you, but please don’t do so without at least adding credit…or at ABSOLUTE MINIMUM saying, “this is a repost, can anyone help find the original creator?”
  9. A lot of Discords and other groups have channels for posting art, and people in those will also often have places and people willing to help track down originals, so you can throw the artwork up and say, “this is a repost and I’m trying to find the creator, please help.”
  10. If a Discord you’re in DOES allow reposts (…I’ve left servers over this, literally…) point out to them how inappropriate that is.
  11. Ask someone like me (hi, I’m @unforth​) who has a lot of experience with this stuff, and see if we’ve got time to help.
  12. If you reblog something, and someone comes into your DMs or asks to let you know it’s a repost, don’t get pissy about it. Delete the reblog. Or, if you’re the original poster…learn not to repost ffs and delete the post and apologize.

Want more information? There are a lot of excellent resources on the @dont-repost-art blog.

So, this has been my (again, hi, I’m @unforth​) tutorial on how to recognize reposts and what to do about them.

Please for fuck’s sake DO NOT repost art.

And I swear to god if anything I wrote in here is ever used to harass actual creators I will hunt you down and make your life hell. Just Don’t.

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Capitalization and Em Dashes and Parentheses and Dialog, Oh My!

Two weeks ago when we posted our “Formatting Tweaks to Help Your Typesetter Have a Great Day” post we mentioned that the “Capitalization Quirks” section became so long that we decided to break it out into a separate post. That didn’t get put up last week cause of debuting May Trope Mayhem, but the time is NOW!

Capitalization Quirks, or: How to Get More Capitals and Lowercase Letters Right So Your Editor Has One Fewer Thing To Do!

At the most technical, literal, simplistic level, all sentences in English should start with a capital letter. If you google “should I always start a sentence with a capital letter,” all the top results say yes. But! That’s overly simplistic. For example:

“I was just saying—”

“—That you’re tired.”

That’s wrong, because it’s not a new sentence. The “—t” needs to be lowercase. Thus, this should read:

“I was just saying—”

“—that you’re tired.”

Then, there’s sentences that “trail in” with an ellipse. For example: 

“…when did you say that?” 

This one, on a technical level, could go either way. Duck Prints Press goes with lowercase on this, using the same reasoning as the em dash case: it’s not a complete sentence, more of a fragment.

Some other examples where there shouldn’t be a capital (I’ll bold the letters that shouldn’t be capitalized).

Case 1: “In any event”—taking a deep breath, she flopped into her chair—“it is what it is.”

Case 2: After I got to the event (which took way longer than it should have, but that’s a different story!), we went to our seats together.

Case 3: Every time he thought he was finished—every time!!—he realized he’d made a mistake and had to start over.

Those cases are relatively simple and clear cut. Not all sentences will be. Often, when writing dialog, people use many permutations of sentences, not-sentences, ellipses, em dashes, and more. Keeping track of what needs to be capitalized and what doesn’t requires knowing a lot of quirky rules. People especially often end up confused about when text following quotes should have a capital letter and when it shouldn’t. The rule of thumb is, if the text in question is a dialog tag, it should be lowercase, even if the dialog before it ends in a question mark or exclamation mark.

(Again, bolding the lowercase/uppercase letter in spots where people most often get mixed up.)

“This example needs a lower case letter after it,” she explained.

“Does this—?” he started to ask.

“Yes!” she interrupted.

“What about this one?” he said.

“Yes, that one too…” she replied, sighing.

If, on the other hand, the narrative text after the dialog is an action (as in, not a direct dialog tag indicating how the thing was said), then it should be uppercase.

“I’m still confused how this works.” Rubbing his brow, he took a deep breath.

“I promise it’s not that hard.” She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started writing down examples.

To help keep clear when to do this: if what you write can be replaced with say/said and still make sense, then it’s a dialog tag. If it can’t be, then it’s not a dialog tag and it should be capitalized.

“I don’t know when what follows counts as a sentence and when it doesn’t,” he pointed out with a frown.

“It depends how you’re describing what the person said.” Her voice took on a frustrated tinge.

But! That’s not all!

“What about if I, I dunno…” He looked at the examples she’d written down. “What if there’s more dialog after the first thing said and the first batch of narrative description?”

“Then”—she grabbed the pen and started writing more sample sentences—“it depends. For example, if I’m interrupting my own dialog with an action and no dialog tag, then it should probably be between em dashes, and only the first letter of the first sentence is capitalized. But if instead I interrupt myself with a dialog tag,” she continued, “then that uses commas, and again, only the first sentence is capitalized.” She paused, took a deep breath, then added, “But because that’s not confusing enough, if I stop, then use a narrative line that ends with dialog tag and a comma, then keeps going as dialog, then both the narrative sentence and the start of the dialog sentence needs a capital.”

“What about if everything is a sentence?” He grabbed the pen from her hand and scrawled down a few notes. “Then is everything capitalized?”

She threw him a thumbs up, an unspoken “you’re getting it now!” implied by the gesture.

Aghast, he blinked at what she’d just demonstrated. Finally, after working his mouth in silence for at least a minute, he managed:

Does this ever make sense?”

“No,” she allowed, “but when you do it enough you start to get used to it.”

Yeah, I’m sorry. It’s the worst. I probably forgot at least two permutations, too, but I tried. Fixing capitalization on all of the above is a constant effort. Good luck?

All of these more-or-less follow the established rules of dialog capitalization, but there are some cases that simply don’t have a standard. For these, it will often depend on which style guide is being used, what editor is doing the work, what each individual publisher has decided, etc. Here’s some examples, with explanation of what they show.

“I don’t— Like, what am I supposed to do if there’s no standard?” Frustration was clearly starting to get the better of him. (This is: self-interruption to start a new sentence—we use: em dash + space + capital letter.)

“Hmm…probably your best bet is to just pick a way to handle each case and make sure you’re consistent.” (This is: self ellipse-marked pause/trail off that continues as the same thought—we use: ellipse + hair space + lowercase.)

“So if I…I don’t even know… What if I can’t remember what I did before?” (this is: trailing off, then continuing with a new sentence—we use: ellipse + space + capital.)

“Just—just—just figure it out! How am I—just a person trying to give a tutorial!—supposed to predict every kind of dialog you’re going to want to write?” she spluttered. (First part is: stutter/self-interruption, incomplete/continuing thoughts—we use: em dash + lowercase (no space). Second part is: em dash interjection in dialog, which uses the same rules as em dash interjections in narrative—we use: em dash + lowercase (no spaces).)

“Wh-wh-wh-what, that’s all you have to offer?” (This is: stuttering incomplete words—we use hyphen + lowercase (no spaces).)

Damn it… Do you really expect me to make all the decisions for you? she thought…but then she realized she should be kinder—this was hard stuff! “I guess I’d just suggest…make yourself a ‘personal formatting’ doc and write down how you did…whatever you did…when it came up?—that way, when it happens again, you’ll at least have a paper trail so you don’t have to scroll back to check what you did.” (This is: the same approaches as described above before, applied to thoughts and narrative text.)

And, that’s basically that! Did I miss any? Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

In conclusion…

“I hate English,” he grumbled, taking up a lighter and burning the paper on which she’d written her examples.

“Me too,” she agreed fervently.

Uh…happy writing? Or at least good luck!!!

*

Have a writing question? Send us an ask!

Love what we do? Consider supporting us! You can tip us on Tumblr, back us on Ko-fi or Patreon, or visit our shop!

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Love Our Blog Posts? Give Us a Tip!

Just a note y’all – we’ve turned on Tipping for the Duck Prints Press Tumblr Blog (here) and for our original posts (EXCEPT those written by guest bloggers, because US getting tips for a post written by a guest blogger just feels super awkward and not-quite-right).

So, if you want to support us, and you don’t want to become a ko-fi member, back us on Patreon, or shop at our store…now you have yet another option!

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Announcing: The Contributors to “He Bears the Cape of Stars” and “She Wears the Midnight Crown”!

36 remarkable authors—18 for He Bears the Cape of Stars, 18 for She Wears the Midnight Crown—have come together for this project. These authors have been toiling away on their stories since February 1st, 2022, and we’re currently work with them on edits to get them publication-ready. We’re delighted to share their work with you!

Contributors to He Bears the Cape of Stars:

Contributors to She Wears the Midnight Crown:

You can read about them—in their own words!—see select author portraits, and more, by clicking this link:

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WELCOME TO MAY TROPE MAYHEM!

May Trope Mayhem is a multi-fandom/original creation event open to writers, artists, and content creators of all kinds! We’ve put together a list of 31 of our favorite tropes, one per day through the month of May, and we encourage creators to join us for this month of fun tropey mayhem.

Our goal is to promote motivation and help with habit building, so we’re encouraging people to keep their ficlets under 1,000 words, or if you make art or a gif or some such, to stick to a sketch or a single image.

This event is primarily held on Tumblr, but you’re welcome to participate on anywhere Duck Prints Press has an account (you can see all our current platforms here) and we’ll keep our eyes on our tag everywhere!

How can you participate? It’s easy! There’s just a few simple rules:

  • to participate, write a ficlet, a poem, create art, make a gif, or create any other content that you want, aligned with the prompt for the day!
  • post your correctly tagged fills to Tumblr, and we’ll reblog them!
  • you must tag warnings such as gore, MCD, sexual content, etc., so that people can avoid triggering material!
  • please also tag fandom and ship, so people can find what interests them!
  • we ask that you put the tags at the top of your post, so they’re easy to find.
  • if you write more than 1k words, please use a read more,
  • if you write something with NSFW content or potentially triggering material, please put the entire story under a read more.

Ping us (@duckprintspress) or tag your creations “#may trope mayhem” and so we can find them! We’ll reblog all fills that follow the above rules and are posted between May 1st and June 8th, 2022.

If you post to AO3, you can also add them to our collection there!

You don’t have to sign up, just post your fills. You don’t have to be a member of the Press, or following us. You don’t have to be part of a specific fandom. We’re open to all ships, genres, formats, etc.! You don’t have to post fills on the corresponding day, though we ask that if you’re creating for a day that hasn’t happened yet, please wait for that day to post.

This is a low-pressure event, held all in good fun, and we look forward to seeing what you create!

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New Backer Free Short Story: “Not So Trivial Matters” by Nickel J. Keep

All monthly backers on our Patreon and our Ko-fi get access to one free short-story per month (fluff, rated gen or teen, up to 2,500 words). We’re actually playing catch-up right now – we fell behind on fulfilling this reward while I was dealing with health issues, but all the stories are now written and in various stages of being editing for posting to our account, and we’ll be sharing them over the next few weeks! So, if you want to read a whole bunch of wonderful short stories, full of fluff and good feels and queerness, and all written by authors transitioning from writing fanfiction to original fiction, why not back us and check them out? Backers can also access all the past backer-stories – that’s ten short stories you can read right now, just by backing us!

This month’s story is:

Title: Not So Trivial Matters

Author: Nickel J. Keep

Genre: Modern

Rating: General Audiences

Relationship: enlm

Character Features: non-binary character

Tags: anxiety, coming out, emotional hurt/comfort (mild), fluff (domestic), internalized transphobia, past tense, pov third person limited, slice of life

Copyright © 2022 Nickel J. Keep

Teaser:

“Sky? Are you almost done in there?” Matthew’s calm, reassuring voice rang from the other side of the door, not settling Sky’s nerves in the least bit. “We need to get going.”

“Yeah,” Sky replied after a moment. They took a look in the mirror. Matt had told them it would be okay, that they could dress how they felt most comfortable. Standing in the bathroom and regarding their reflection in the mirror, the knots in their stomach drew tighter. Where there had once been long brown hair now rested a short mop of green, styled into a quiff. Their lack of chest, hidden by the binder that had arrived that morning, was startling. But it felt right. Paired with a slightly baggy T-shirt and boot-leg jeans, they almost didn’t recognize their body.

It was perfect.

Want to read more? Become a monthly Duck Prints Press supporter on Patreon or Ko-fi and this and lots of other great stuff can be yours!

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Coming Soon: May Trope Mayhem!

Get your mental engines in gear and your keyboards ready, because Duck Prints Press will be hosting our second annual May Trope Mayhem starting on May 1st, 2022!

May Trope Mayhem is a multi-fandom/original creation event open to writers, artists, and content creators of all kinds! We’ve put together a list of 31 of our favorite tropes, one per day through the month of May, and we encourage creators to join us for this month of fun tropey mayhem.

Our goal is to promote motivation and help with habit building, so we’re encouraging people to keep their ficlets under 1,000 words, or if you make art or a gif or some such, to stick to a sketch or a single image.

This event is primarily held on Tumblr, but you’re welcome to participate on anywhere Duck Prints Press has an account (you can see all our current platforms here) and we’ll keep our eyes on our tag everywhere!

How can you participate? It’s easy! There’s just a few simple rules:

  • to participate, write a ficlet, a poem, create art, make a gif, or create any other content that you want, aligned with the prompt for the day!
  • post your correctly tagged fills to Tumblr, and we’ll reblog them!
  • you must tag warnings such as gore, MCD, sexual content, etc., so that people can avoid triggering material!
  • please also tag fandom and ship, so people can find what interests them!
  • we ask that you put the tags at the top of your post, so they’re easy to find.
  • if you write more than 1k words, please use a read more,
  • if you write something with NSFW content or potentially triggering material, please put the entire story under a read more.

Ping us (@duckprintspress) or tag your creations “#may trope mayhem” and so we can find them! We’ll reblog all fills that follow the above rules and are posted between May 1st and June 8th, 2022.

If you post to AO3, you can also add them to our collection there!

You don’t have to sign up, just post your fills. You don’t have to be a member of the Press, or following us. You don’t have to be part of a specific fandom. We’re open to all ships, genres, formats, etc.! You don’t have to post fills on the corresponding day, though we ask that if you’re creating for a day that hasn’t happened yet, please wait for that day to post.

This is a low-pressure event, held all in good fun, and we look forward to seeing what you create! You can see last year’s list here, and read fills from 2021 by going to #may trope mayhem or by visiting our AO3 collection.

The official 2022 May Trope Mayhem List will be released on May 1st, 2022!

(though, Patreon and ko-fi backers get a sneak peek today…)

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Formatting Tweaks to Help Your Typesetter Have a Great Day

The last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of editing, which also means I’ve been doing a lot of small changes to ensure that the documents are print and e-book ready. Preparing manuscripts involves doing a lot of tiny, fiddly tweaks to make sure that spelling, grammar, and formatting are uniform across all the stories in an anthology, are accurate to the authors’ intentions, and look nice in all the formats we’ll be offering (print, PDF, ePub, and Mobi). None of the changes are complicated, but making them all is surprisingly time consuming—I usually spend about 30 minutes “cleaning up” each story with modifications that are largely invisible to a writer and reader, but still essential to produce a polished finished book.

Each Press and Publisher will handle these formatting things in slightly different ways—while some of these (such as “when do I use a hyphen vs. an en dash vs. an em dash?”) others are publisher-discretion. If you are submitting a manuscript and want to look like you’ve really, really paid attention, consider making some of these changes yourself—but make sure you check if the place you’re submitting to has a public style guide first, and if they do, anything they say in their style guide takes precedence! (Duck Prints Press doesn’t have a guide yet—we’ve been working on one, but it keeps getting back-burnered in favor completing more timely tasks). 

This post is written from our point of view—which is to say, I wrote it specifically for how we at DPP handle these formatting matters—but it can provide some general guidelines, especially if you are submitting to a publication that hasn’t provided a style guide. Even if what you do based on this guide doesn’t match what they do, at least by being consistent in your own submission, you demonstrate that you were paying attention! (But: NEVER do any of the below if it contradicts the submission information and/or style guide provided by a different publisher!!)

Note that to really do most of these tweaks, you’ll want to use an actual word processor. Google docs doesn’t have the functionality for the most fiddly bits. Despite its downsides, DPP currently uses Microsoft Office 365, and this guide is primarily written with Word in mind. If you also use Microsoft, here’s a couple quick tutorials—you’ll need to know how to do these two things in order to do…all the rest.

Tutorial 1: Inserting Special Characters

1. Go to the “Insert” Menu

2. Go to “Insert Symbol”

3. If, like me, you use the same 4 special characters over and over, the symbol you’re looking for will most likely be in the “recently used” list that pops up. But, if it’s not there, pick “More Symbols.” That opens a screen that looks like this:

image

4. While you could scroll through this list until you find what you want, it’s much easier to go to the bottom boxes I circled in red, where it says “Character Code.” Enter the 4-digit-and-letter code for the character you want. This way, you can be sure you actually get the character you want. Make sure that the “from” field matches the code type you’re using—I pretty much entirely use unicode, and that’s what I reference/include numbers for in this post. (Usually, googling “(name of the character you want) unicode” will get you the number.)

5. Note that not every character is available in every font; if you want to be sure you can access the maximum number of characters, I recommend using Arial or Calibri.

Tutorial 2: Turning on Mark-up

1. Go to the “Home” menu

2. In the “Paragraph” section, find the ¶ option; if your menu is drop-down it might be called “Show/Hide ¶” (in Word, it can also be turned on with ctrl + * )

image

3. Show ¶.

4. Profit. (okay, no, not really.)

Tutorial 2a: Using Mark-Up to Find Weird Formatting

Are there tab indents where there shouldn’t be? Extra spaces? Superfluous paragraph breaks? Turn on “Show ¶” and tada, you can see all the usually “invisible” formatting! This is essential for spotting a lot of problems, so it’s worth taking a peek at for your own work. Here’s an example of what it looks like when you do this (using an early draft/outline of this post!)

image

Dots are regular spaces. Circles are non-breaking spaces. Forward facing arrows are tabs. ¶ is a standard paragraph break. There’s a bunch of other symbols, too, but those are the ones that come up most often. I’ve labeled a couple others on the above image, to help you have an idea what you’re looking for. You’ll need this information to help you trouble-shoot some of the things below. If there’s a symbol on yours and you’re not sure what it is, I recommend Google.

So, you’ve got a handle on the above…on to all the formatting tweaks your editor and/or typesetter does that you may have never even considered as an essential part of publishing!

Getting Rid of Bad/Published-Book-Inappropriate Formatting

Tabs: published manuscripts doesn’t use tabs to make space. They make a huge formatting/spacing mess. Instead, we use paragraph formatting -> first line indentation -> (whatever indent amount the publisher has chosen as standard —we use 0.25”). If I get a manuscript that’s used tabbing—if you’ve used tab indents and want them gone—I get rid of it with a find-and-replace.

Find: ^t

Replace with: (blank)

Tada, all tabs gone!

Paragraphs: people who add lines between their paragraphs by making extra paragraphs used to be the bain of my editorial existence…until I figured out how to remove the extra paragraph breaks with a single button click. There should only be one paragraph break after every paragraph; if there are multiple, then…

Find: ^p^p

Replace with: ^p

Tada, all paragraph-paragraph breaks now only have one paragraph break!

Set Up Base Formatting

At least for editing/manuscript preparation, I start by getting the whole document into one, consistent format. I personally use:

Font: Arial

Size: 11

Paragraph Indentation: 0.25”

Line Spacing: 1.15

Space Before Paragraphs: 0

Space After Paragraphs: 0

Alignment: left

Justification: none (note: when formatting for print, right justification will ultimately be re-added in most cases, though there’s been a bit of a move away from that because justification can make it for people with certain forms of neuro-divergence to read; when formatting for e-book, never use right justification!!)

(If you know you always use the same base, you can also set it up as a “style” so you can do all the above with one click!)

Marking Bold, Italics, Underlining, etc. Text Formatting

Ultimately, even after doing the last three steps, there’s going to come a point where—to be absolutely sure that no janky formatting gets into the manuscript—I take the entire document and nuke all the formatting. When that time comes, any italicization, bolding, or other base-text-type modifications will also be lost. To make sure it’s not actually lost, I mark all words for which special formatting is used with a highlighting color. Which color to use is obviously arbitrary; here’s my preference:

Italics: yellow highlighting

Bold: green highlighting

Bold and Italics: purple highlighting

Strikethrough: blue highlighting

Strikethrough and Italics: red highlighting

(Those are all the ones I’ve had to do, and I add new colors as they actually come up in our printing.)

Epistolary or Other Non-Prose Writing Passages

Every Press is going to handle this differently; your best bet as a writer is to just make sure your intentions are super clear and be open to whatever your chosen publisher has as their “standard” for handling stories that include non-prose sections such as letters, text messages, schedules, poems, bulleted lists, charts, etc. From an “editor/formatter” point of view, I mark weird formatting spots (and special characters, which I discuss next) with comments so that I can find them again.

Special Characters

Cafe or café? Facade or façade? 🙂 or 😀? © or ©? What special characters are available depends on what font is being used, and not all Presses use the same special characters. Your best bet is to use standard English text characters only, and then ask if (for example) an emoji could be inserted in your text. (For us specifically, we use basically all special characters).

Quotation Marks and Apostrophes

Did you know that, depending on which word processor you use, your quotation marks and apostrophes may not format uniformly? For example, if you write in Word (and haven’t turned off auto-formatting), your quotation marks will auto-switch from just two straight lines side-by-side into a pretty curly thing:

On the other hand, if you write on Google Docs from mobile, it will never auto-format your quotation marks. They’re called straight quotes or, sometimes, “dumb” quotes, and they look like this:

” (some viewers are auto-formatting this to a curly quote! google “straight quotes” and you can see the difference)

This is especially stark and frustrating if you do some of your writing in gdocs from mobile and some from desktop; then, you’ll end up with a document where some of the marks are auto-curved and others aren’t. Leaving them this way makes for a disjointed, inelegant look, and should be changed.

Industry standard is curly quotes.

One of the first things I do when I open a new manuscript to format for print-readiness is a find-and-replace to make sure that all of the apostrophes and quotation marks are formatted the same way. If you put an unformatted (“straight quote”) quotation mark in the “find” field and a formatted/curly one in the “replace” field, tada, every quotation mark fixed at once! And the same for apostrophes.

Directional Apostrophes

Speaking of apostrophes—one side effect of the ‘curly’ apostrophes is that they’re directional: an “open quote” curly apostrophe doesn’t look the same as a “close quote” curly apostrophe. Most of the time, this isn’t a problem. If you’re writing dialog, the ‘curly’ quotes will auto-format to the correct directions and the beginning and end of your quote. If you’re writing a contraction, same—the apostrophe will auto-format the correct ‘curl’ direction for your contraction. But, did you know? There are cases where using a lead-in apostrophe is necessary, but if it’s formatted in the ‘lead-in’ direction, it’ll be wrong! These are cases where auto-format will think you “need” a forward facing apostrophe, but you actually are supposed to use a backward facing one. The two most common instances of this are:

  • When using slang formed by dropping the first syllable. For example: ’tis, ’til, and ’cause.
  • When writing shortened years. For example: ’98, ’12, ’45.

(Can’t figure out how to force the right curve? You’ve got two choices: find one pointing the way you need, ctrl-c copy it, then paste it where needed; or you can get it from the Insert Symbol menu, unicode: 2019)

Hyphens vs. En Dashes vs. Em Dashes

Before I was a professional editor, I had the idea that figuring out when to use a hyphen vs. an en dash vs. an em dash was super complicated and inscrutable, but it’s actually easy to know which is appropriate in the majority of cases.

Case 1: you are writing a compound word. Compound words get hyphens. Now, what words get hyphenated, and when, and which don’t, is a completely separate issue, and not one I’m going to get into here. This post isn’t about grammar, it’s literally about formatting, and for formatting purposes, if you know you need to connect two or more words with little lines, the little lines you want to string those words together with is a hyphen. This is a hyphen: – (unicode: 2010)

Case 2: you are writing a range of numbers, dates, or times. You want an en dash. This is just about the only time when you want an en dash. This is an en dash: – (unicode: 2013)

Case 3: you are writing a sentence interjection—like this one!—or you’re indicating an interruption in dialog. You want an em dash. There are plenty of other cases when you should use an em dash, but those are the most common in fiction writing. This is an em dash: — (unicode: 2014)

Reference a style guide or tailor a google search if you’ve got something quirky going on and you’re not sure which type of dash to use.

Types of Spaces

Believe it or not, not all spaces are created equal. In fact, there are four used often, and some others to boot. The most common ones are:

Hair space: this is teeny tiny. Unicode: 200A

Thin space: this is roughly half the size of a normal space. Unicode: 2009

Normal space: the one we know and love. Unicode: 0020

Non-breaking space: a special kind of space that, when used, indicates to the document software/printer/e-reader, “even if this is at the end of a line of text, do not break the text here to start the next line: this ‘space’ should be treated as a fixed character for line-breaking purposes.” Also called an nbsp. Unicode: 00A0

Usually, you should be using, normal spaces, but depending on how your printer/publisher chooses to format things, others may be used. For example, some places put thin spaces on either side of em dashes. Here at Duck Prints Press, we put hair spaces after ellipses (…in some cases…) and we use nbsps in cases such as “When we’re quoting something ‘and there’s a sub quote that ends the sentence.’ “ (as in, there’d be an nbsp between the ‘ and “.)

Spaces and Formatting

As the existence of the nbsp implies, spaces can play funny with formatting, which is part of why in the age of digital the double space after periods has largely gone away—two space were important when typing on a type-writer, but when working in digital text it’s superfluous and can cause formatting issues. So, for example, I always do a find “  ” (two spaces) and replace it with “ ” (one space) for the entire document.

It’s also necessary to remove extra spaces at the end of paragraphs. Yes, every single one. Why? Because, especially if it’s an nbsp, it can actually make the manuscript longer. Picture it: you’ve got the end of a sentence, then a period, then an nbsp, then a paragraph break. This tells the e-reader that space HAS to be kept with that period and the last word. To do that, e-readers will bump the word onto a new line…solely because the space was there! And, while you might think this doesn’t come up much…if a trailing space is left at the end of a paragraph in gdocs, and that paragraph is copied and pasted in Word, every one of those spaces will be converted into nbsps. I once reduced a twenty-page document by half a page by removing all the trailing nbsps. Cutting them is important! Even if the space inserted isn’t an nbsp, it’s still important to get rid of it, because if that end space is what causes a line on an e-reader to be too long, bumping that extra single space to a new line will result in a blank line between paragraphs. Considering that e-book text size can be increased or decreased depending on device and reader, the only way to prevent extra spaces at the ends of paragraphs from dotting your document with blank lines is to delete every single one. By hand. I have done this t.h.o.u.s.a.n.d.s. of times seriously, you want to make your text formatters day? Please don’t leave spaces at the ends of paragraphs, I’m begging you. (and if you know ANY faster way to get rid of these TELL ME PLEASE!)

Ellipses

Here’s a simple and obvious one. Find all the … and replace them with …

Scene Breaks

Whoever is doing typesetting is probably going to use something pretty and/or fancy for marking scene breaks. The way you can make this easiest for them is to format all scene breaks in the same way, and simpler is better. For example, our default way to mark a scene break is:

…the end of the previous scene, with a paragraph break after it.

#

The start of the next scene.

No extra paragraph breaks, only one symbol that’s unlikely to have been used elsewhere in the document, easy to read and follow. Just using extra paragraph breaks can be confusing, using lots of characters is annoying (and a nightmare for screen readers)—you don’t want your editor to be guessing, so do something straightforward and stick to it.

Capitalization Quirks

Honestly? The section of this post about “times you don’t realize you need a capital letter but actually do” and “times you think you need a capital letter but actually don’t” got so long that I’ve decided to break it out into a separate post; that one will come out next week, so stay tuned.

Remove All Formatting

Once I’ve done all that…changed all the little stuff, marked anything unusual/stylistic (special characters, non-prose, italics, etc.), and gotten everything cleaned up…I go to the “home” menu -> “styles” -> “clear formatting.” This gets read of all formatting, including anything wonky/weird/broken/undesired that I may have missed. The notes and other changes I’ve done make sure that I don’t lose any information I need to format the document correctly, and just to be absolutely positive, there’s a reason I do this now in the process, instead of after the last step, which is…

Actually Finishing Editing

…because if I HAVE made a mistake, when I do my final editing pass and send the document to the author for final approval, they will hopefully notice anything that got lost in the process!

Long story short? Check your own documents for weird formatting stuff before submitting your stories, and save an editor and/or make a typesetter’s day!

Happy writing, everyone!

(Have a writing question? Send us an ask!)

(Love what we do? Support us in our shop, on Patreon, and/or on ko-fi!)

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Did you know…

Did you know that our Patreon backers get a lot of exclusive blog content? We post multiple times a week to our Patreon blog, sharing teasers, art previews, behind-the-scenes glimpses, extra information on our financials and expenses, opportunities to participate in votes that determine the types of content we create, exclusive fluffy short stories, exclusive slightly-longer erotica stories, 24/7 “AMA” for the DPP management team, and more! Further, to make sure that we’re always transparent about how much work we’re doing and how we spend our working time, we also post a Weekly Business Update every Friday, giving a synopsis of all the progress we’ve made in the previous week.

And now, all this and more is available to monthly backers on ko-fi, too!

We know that not everyone uses Patreon, and often people don’t want to have accounts on multiple websites, especially when those websites involve spending money monthly. We never want anyone to feel they have to join Patreon just to get access, so now we’ll be cross-posting all our exclusive backer content to both Patreon and ko-fi! For features such as surveys, which Patreon offers through internal functionality but ko-fi doesn’t, we’ll now list the surveys through a third-party website (probably Google Forms, for now) to make sure that all our supporters, regardless of platform, get a say!

What does backing us get you?

I’m so glad you asked! We offer 4 backer levels, each building on the previous.

Mallard Duck Backers: $3/month on Patreon or ko-fi

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As you can see, we have a whole lot to offer! And, supporting Duck Prints Press monthly helps us maximize the amount we can pay our creators – our monthly crowdfunding supports our software expenses, consulting costs, professional/legal services as need needed, supplies and hardware, and more. Our goal is to have our Patreon + ko-fi support total enough that it covers all our overhead each month! This would enable us to pay authors 90% royalties (we’re currently paying 75%), and we’d be able to afford to pay the authors who do the backer short stories (they get edited for free and the story rights revert to them in six months, so they don’t get nothing, but we’d love to offer cash-in-hand), and produce more merchandise, and raise the hourly pay for our staff, and I (the owner) might be able to take a paycheck someday, and, and, and. There’s so much we’ll be adding as we grow, and we’d love you to contribute to making that happen!

So.

Do you love queer creators? Do you love queer stories and art? Do you want to support fanfiction authors pursuing their dreams of publishing their original stories?

This is your moment!

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