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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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Solicited Brilliance

Hey everyone! This is Aria, one of the resident fandom olds here to bring you a guest blog post this week. The topic is near and dear to my heart, so let’s dive straight into talking about that ever-ominous thundercloud – Writing Advice! 

Writing advice is a tricky subject for many authors – what works for one clearly doesn’t work for another, and what’s essential for one genre might not even apply to another genre . (Certain authors can pry adverbs from my cold, dead hands.) It doesn’t matter who is offering it, where, or when: it is an industry truism that writing advice is as varied as writers themselves. 

With that in mind, I asked ten different authors for writing advice, in the hope to highlight just how different we all are, even when approaching the same question.

The question I posed to everyone individually (so no one would get worried if they gave the same answer), was as follows: What is one piece of writing/writerly advice you hold as a Universal Constant? That no matter what you are writing or what you are working on still holds true?

As I hoped, the advice is as varied as the authors are!


@nottesilhouette:

Hmm I think for me, the Universal Constant is that [my writing has] got to make me feel good. Not necessarily happy, because I’ve definitely written through tears before, but it’s got to make me feel…satisfied, or give me catharsis, or lead me towards a goal I’m passionate about (looking at you, med school essays!). 

Even if [my writing is] for school, getting things done feels good, and for creative writing, I want to feel like I’ve stretched my writing brain or accomplished something cool — if I’m not getting that feeling, it’s time for a break and maybe a new plan of attack.


Hermit:

“You can’t think your way out of a writer’s block. Most of the time you need to write yourself out of a thinking block.” – John Rogers

When a story is fighting me this is often the solution. Either the scene is going against the characterization, the characters are lacking agency/being too passive, or I went wrong three sentences back; the answer to getting the story flowing is to write it differently and see how that feels. Rather than try to force an existing scene by coming up with better justification for an OOC (Out of Character) passage or diving into a new research rabbit hole.


Shadaras:

I don’t know where this advice first came from (it’s one of those things that just gets passed around until it’s from the general writer mindscape, especially in fandom spaces), but this is the advice I tend to ground myself in: “Write what you want to read.” What that means can vary depending on context, of course, but it gives a guiding point to return to when I’m stuck. 

The thing I want to read could be a specific character dynamic, or leaning into descriptions of the environment, or a plot beat I really want to hit, or even (in a nonfiction context) just the clearest explanation of an event/rule I know how to give. Writing what I want to read means that I’m going to enjoy myself more, and that means that I’m going to be able to write much more easily, and that makes it more likely I’ll finish stories and be able to share them with other people – and then I can find people who like the same things in stories I do, and we all win!


Annabeth Lynch:

The most constant advice that I really try to keep in mind is that sure, someone else may have written it, but not you. Everyone has unique experiences, and that makes your writing unique. No one can write something the exact way you would. It’s my favorite advice I’ve ever gotten, and I feel that it’s always relevant.


@ts-knight:

Writing by habit is often easier than waiting for the muse. When I feel out of practice in my writing, I find that starting again is an uphill climb, but setting a daily goal helps me get back into the flow. That goal could be just writing at all or a certain (achievable) number of words. That way, I know I’ve reached the goal not when I’ve hit a certain quality of writing, but when I sat down at the keys. Exercising my writing muscles (even when I’m afraid to) makes the creativity flow so much better than avoiding the ominous blank page!


@mad-madam-m:

[My writing advice is] that you have to finish. And I don’t mean that you have to finish everything that you write; I’ve got easily a dozen stories or more that are either unfinished or never made it past the first draft. But if you’re writing with the goal of sharing your stories with an audience, be that via fanfic or original fiction or what have you, I really think one of the best things you can do is learn to finish them. This quote about it in particular is one that I’ve held close to my heart for years:

“Finish. The difference between being a writer and being a person of talent is the discipline it takes to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and finish. Don’t talk about doing it. Do it. Finish.” — E. L. Konigsburg 


Sanne Burg:

I think my universal constant is that I write because I want to write, and I create for myself. That means not caring what other people think of the topics I write [about], as long as I’m behind whatever it is I’m writing. (It also means that I know when I’m forcing it and that I need to stop when writing becomes a chore rather than something for fun or a hobby.)


@theleakypen:

I think the one [piece of writing advice] that has been truest for me, regardless of what I’m working on, is that if something isn’t working [I should] step away from it for a bit and go work on something else. Usually if there’s a problem, I need to let it percolate in the back of my head instead of banging my head against a wall.


ThePornFairy:

Focus on the feeling. If you can write the feeling so that it’s filling you from the tips of your toes to the hair on your head, then you’re on the right track. People don’t care half as much about the setting and wording as they do about the feeling. 

When people say “step inside your character”, I think what they mean is “let your character feel and feel along with them until feelings come out on your page and stab your reader’s eyeballs until they’re feeling right along with you.” Everything else can be edited later, as long as you capture and express the emotions.


@tryslora:

Fall in love with your characters. If you don’t love them, no one else will. And yes, this includes the antagonists and every single side character. And while you’re doing that, remember that every single character thinks they are the star of their own narrative, so let them tell you what it is, even if it’s not the main storyline. Let them come alive.


Wonderfully said, everyone! I’m going to add my answer to the question as well, because sometimes, I’ve needed this reminder far more than I’ll admit! 

@arialerendeair:

Don’t be afraid to write badly. Or poorly, or lazily. (Take that, Mr. Adverb-Hater.) There is a freedom I never realized before in allowing myself to write “badly:” to overuse certain words, phrases, and even styles as I write my rough draft. When I remember not to focus on the minutiae of a story, I can focus on the bigger problems, and fix the small ones later. Once the words are on the page, they can be fixed, but they have to be put on the page first. Write badly, edit, learn, get better, and write again. 

Writing advice as a topic is a mix of controversial and contradictory; all advice should be applied in moderation rather than treated as an endless stream of syrup being poured over a stack of pancakes. (And now I want pancakes…) It’s always all right if advice doesn’t apply to you – but understanding why the advice is given is important. There are other authors out there who might need the advice that isn’t right for you.

When I set out to write this blog post, I had two goals. The first was I wanted to highlight how varied writing advice and tips can be. The second one was for everyone reading it to walk away with one piece of advice that they could hold to heart because it fit them. I accomplished the first, but the second is entirely up to every author reading this. 

The one consistent theme through all of this advice comes down to two words: Keep Writing. Whether that’s daydreaming about your story or putting the words down on the page, write. 

Keep writing. 

Last, but not least, I’ll leave you all with the same question, because I know there are more answers out there that we all would love to hear:

What is one piece of writing/writerly advice you hold as a Universal Constant? That no matter what you are writing, what you are working on, still holds true.

Stay sassy, everyone!

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24 Hours to Go!

Well, technically there are twenty-five hours left in our Kickstarter, but! TIME IS ALMOST UP!

We’ve reached our first stretch goal, and we’ll be able to commission art for our back cover! Every single e-book will come with the graphic for the front and back cover, every print book will have full-color illustrations on the front and back, and backers at Levels 3, 4, 5, and 6 will get an extra art print featuring the back cover art! Gio Guimarães (Facebook (giovannabcg) | Facebook (giosdoodlesandartworks) | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter) is the artist. Gio and DPP have already signed a contract, and once we have sketches to share we’ll give y’all an update!

We’d love to reach our next stretch goal, at $16,500, so we can give our authors and artists a raise which doubles how much they earn for their contributions to the anthology. You can help! Check out our merch, help spread the word about the campaign on social media, and – if you want a copy – make sure you buy your own!! This is your only chance to get And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired by William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” in print, and we’ve got a host of amazing merchandise for our backers too, so don’t miss out!!

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Our Second Kickstarter, Our Patreon, and More!

We wanted to remind everyone: our second Kickstarter is running for 6 more days. If you want to secure your own copy of And Seek (Not) to Alter Me: Queer Fanworks Inspired By William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” this is your moment – the print book will only be available during the Kickstarter! We’re at 90% of our funding goal as of about an hour ago, and looking forward to the moment when we cross the threshold! (Not “if,” definitely “when” – we’re sure it’ll fund, we’re just eager to start the official “WE DID IT!” celebration!)

Second, we are in the planning stages for our fifth, as-yet-untitled anthology – and you can get a say! Here’s what we know:

  1. Stories will all feature at least one main character who identifies as a gender identity outside/beyond the binary (genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, agender, bigender, omnigender, polygender, etc.)
  2. Stories will be optimistic/fluffy, and will have guaranteed happy endings!
  3. Stories will focus on positive family relationships – taking a loose definition of “family.” Found family? Yes. Platonic relationships? Yes. Extended family? Yes. Fostering? Adoption? Biological family? Family-of-choice? Marriage? Yes, yes, yessity yes. We want all the happy family feels.

What we don’t yet know is setting. That’s where you come in! 

You likely know that we have a Patreon that supports our overhead; essentially, Kickstarters/crowdfunding campaigns fund specific projects, while the Patreon keeps the lights on. The funds we get through Patreon enable us to keep our project costs down by covering the cost of software, hardware, supplies, staffing, and other core business functions.

Our Patrons get a lot of exclusive benefits – several of which apply to our crowdfunding campaigns!!

* all Patrons at our $25 level get a free copy of all “flat” merchandise from our crowdfunding campaigns, even if they don’t back the campaign!

* Patrons at the $10 and $25 levels can choose one free e-book from our catalog per month, which includes our crowdfunded works (once they’re officially published) – so, a $25 Patron could get all the flat merchandise AND the e-book from a campaign without even backing!

* Patrons at the $10 and $25 levels who DO choose to back the campaign also get bonus merch! For Add Magic to Taste, they got an exclusive magnet. For And Seek (Not) to Alter Me, they’re getting a sticker just for them! Which sticker? This one! Isn’t it cute? You know you want one…

* and lastly – finally coming back around to our fifth upcoming anthology! Right now, all our backers have the opportunity to have a voice in picking the setting! We’ve given them a choice between aetherpunk settings, solarpunk settings, or tidalpunk settings for our fluffy genderqueer found family stories. Did you love Add Magic to Taste? Well, we think this new project will be right up your alley – and now through tomorrow morning is your last chance to have a major impact on the anthology theme! 

So, take a look at everything we have to offer on Patreon and consider helping Duck Prints Press grow!

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Dialog Prompts: Creature Culture Clash!

Aliens, shifters, and monsters live among us. Perhaps they have since the dawn of time, or perhaps they’ve recently arrived from the stars or found themselves the owner of a shiny new fur coat during the last full moon. However long they’ve been around, and whatever their reason for being here, one thing’s for certain: when human and creature lives become entangled, shenanigans are bound to happen. Here are some fun prompts to inspire stories about the messy, sometimes hilarious, and always intriguing ways alien and creature lives can collide with our own.

  • “So, my grandpa has this story he tells at family gatherings without fail … it goes like this … … so now he’s convinced aliens/monsters really do exist.”

“Well, about that … funny story…”

  • “I thought you knew! I told you at the club on your birthday. I’ve been open about it ever since.”

“I thought you were joking!”

“For four months? All of these conversations and you thought it was a joke and went along with it for four months?!?!”

  • “When you said not to worry, you just had a few legal troubles to sort out, I didn’t expect to end up in a cell on a starship two-thousand light years from Earth.”
  • “All right, I’ve had enough. It’s time you show me what you do out there in the woods every month. No more secrets.”
  • “Why is that person looking at me like I’m a piece of meat. Like, literally, a piece of meat.”

*coughs* “Oh, well, you know, they’re a…”

  • “I’ve always been drawn to the stars.”

“Perhaps there’s a reason. There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, but you might want to sit down first.”

  • “So… this is what you really look like in the morning? I…uh…think I can get used to it.”
  • “Wait, the penalty for doing that is what where you come from?”

“It’s death, obviously!”

“But they hardly did anything wrong!”

“Uhhhhhhh.”

  • “You are going to tell me right now why you stole my identity and…uh…my face.”
  • “Local cryptids need love too, so I made a dating app for them.”
  • “Wait, so humans can hide their extra eyelids too?“

“What do you mean, humans?!!?“

  • “Ugh I hate when I have these dreams where my [alien/monster feature] won’t go away! Wait. This isn’t a dream!”
  • *Growls* “I very carefully planted all those myths and legends to scare folks so they’d leave me alone.
  • “You’re under arrest for breaking interstellar code 327.25 section B subsection 12. You have the right to…”
  • “That is the most ridiculous alien costume I’ve ever seen. Aliens don’t look anything like that!”

“How would you know?”

  • “Why [name] what big ears you have…”

“You know, that joke is getting old.”

*

There’s so much potential in confusion between people of different species. These are just some ideas – we hope you loved them!

Now, go forth and write some things!!

*

Prompts by @owlishintergalactic, @alessariel, @unforth, and @ramblingandpie

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Additions to Our Management Team!

We just wanted to take a minute to draw some attention to the updates to our management team page as we welcome some new staff to our ranks! First, Adaille, who was a member of our founding team but had to take a step back due to personal reasons, will be returning to help with management and to do editing on our upcoming anthologies She Wears the Midnight Crown and He Bears the Cape of Stars. We also invited five specialists to our team. All are people who have worked with us before as authors, artists, graphic designers, or in other roles. We’re really excited that they each agreed to take on more active roles in the Press!

Transparent Duck Print Divider

Miss Aceriee is our art advisor, merch reviewer, and artist mentor. Biography: Hi! I’m Aceriee and I draw sometimes. I’ve been drawing all my life, but after falling into the Supernatural fandom in 2014 I’ve mostly focused on fanart.

Links: Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter

Willa Blythe is joining us to help with our social media presence, event running, marketing, and communication. Willa made her storytelling debut at age 4 with indie smash, Sam the Stinky Skunk, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her first audience – her grandparents – shared a love of art and craft with her that remains central to Willa’s writing practice over thirty years later. Today, she lives in New York with her family, and primarily writes queer romance and speculative fiction.

Links: Personal Website | Twitter

Adrian Harley works with us as a copy editor. Adrian is an almost-lifelong North Carolinian and a fantasy fiction aficionado who didn’t start delving deep into fandom until adulthood. They are an editor of research by day and an aspiring novelist, also by day. They go to bed early. They have short stories forthcoming in OFIC Magazine and future Duck Prints Press anthologies. They live with their husband and a perfectly reasonable number of cats.

Link: Twitter

Hermit, whose name is Christine, does most of our manuscript text formatting and graphic design. Christine is a Canadian-based writer, fandom enthusiast and cooking afficionado. When she’s not working she offers custom typesetting for various projects because fonts are pretty and all the amazing stories that get created deserve to be made beautiful. She’s handled the typesetting of the previous DDP anthology as well as the press-related title “Commit to the Kick” by Tris Lawrence.

Links: Pillowfort | Tumblr | WordPress

Sunny Powell advises and helps the Press with graphic design. Biography: science and working hard to change the world one act of kindness at a time. I’m a graphic designer by day, a multimedia creator and writer by night, and I’ve been involved with various fandom communities for nearly twenty five years. I live in Portland, OR with my 7 year old son and two cats.

Link: SunnyPowellArt.com

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Cover Reveal for “And Seek (Not) to Alter Me”

Duck Prints Press is thrilled to announce our second anthology, which will be launching on March 15th, 2022!

The incredible Gio Guimarães, @sketching-fox, did the artwork for our front cover – and will be doing a back cover, as well, if we can reach our first Kickstarter stretch goal.

In AndSeek(Not)toAlterMe, 16 authors and 17 artists have come together to create an exquisite, full-color collection of stories and artwork inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing. We encouraged contributors to stretch their imaginations, think outside the box, and put their own unique—and queer—twist on Benedick, Beatrice, Hero, Claudio, Don Pedro, and the whole gang! In true Shakespearean fashion, our creators play with gender, sexuality, romanticism, and a host of costume changes to tell unique stories—some featuring original characters, some characters from the play—that show Shakespeare’s work in a whole new light.

Stories and artworks feature wlw, mlm, poly relationships, trans characters, gender swaps, canon divergent tales, AUs…there’s even a two page comic! This anthology doesn’t have it all, but it does have a wonderful range to help you fall in love with these characters all over again.

(brief note: yes we have concerns about KS and blockchain, but this project was too far along to crowdfund elsewhere, we apologize…)

Learn more about this project right now!

Our Crowdsourcing Campaign Launches on March 15th, 2022! Want to make sure you don’t miss it? Then follow our Project Page!

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Story Ideas: Sappy Spring Emoji Prompts

Long time, no Sunday blog post, but we’re back with a seasonal collection of the sappiest, sweetest, emoji-inspired prompts that we could think of! Just imagine your OTP…

🥀: the flowers in my yard had all wilted and I didn‘t know what to do; luckily, you see me looking sad in my garden and come over to help out with your awesome green thumb.

💐: you saw me buy a bunch of flowers and were sad because you thought they were for someone else—surprise, they‘re for you!

🌸: I had a bad day, but then you invite me to see the cherry blossoms together and I realize just how much I love you…so I spontaneously propose.

🌈: it‘s our wedding day and it‘s raining, this is the worst! But then you hold the umbrella over me and point out the rainbow arcing across the sky, and now I think this may be the best day of my life.

🌻: my sunflowers grew so tall that they leaned into your yard; I was worried you’d be upset but instead you say, “I like them there because they remind me of you.”

🌞: I know you‘re a summer person, so I‘ve been waiting for the first really warm day of the year to take you out on a picnic and watch the emerging leaves with you—and today is the day!

☔️: we meet for the first time at the bus stop when I arrive drenched and you extend your nice umbrella over my head without even looking at me.

🪴: honestly, I didn’t think you knew I existed, but when I got sick, you sent me a plant and a note asking me on a date when I got better. I still don’t feel 100% but the plant on my bed stand cheers me up every day.

🌼: you know I love flowers, but we’re broke and there’s no way you can get them for me…except you came home today with a bouquet of wildflowers you picked from a field and I’m so happy I could cry.

💫: you invited me out to look at the stars through your telescope on the first clear night of spring, and I want to support you and share your enthusiasm but it’s so cold I’m shivering…and so you pull me close, spread you coat wide so we can share it. Huddled wonderfully together, we can stargaze together.

🐚: the winter cold is lingering, but I’m thrilled because you’ve surprised me with plane tickets for a beach vacation!

🌬: the first big storm of spring catches me unprepared and everything on my porch flies away! I don‘t know what to do, but the next day it‘s all back on my porch with a note inviting me to dinner. You didn‘t have to go and hunt it all down just to ask me out for a date, I‘ve been fancying you for ages!

🐛: I’ve worried that you were going to break up with me at the end of the school year, but you just bought me a “watch these caterpillars grow into butterflies” kit and I know you’d never do that unless you planned to stick around to watch their metamorphosis with me.

🐣 : there are strange sounds coming from your apartment so one day I go to investigate and it turns out you? are? hatching? CHICKENS? in your one-bedroom apartment, what, why, OMG they‘re so cute??

🐇: I was kind of meh about this date but then it turns out your idea was to take me to an animal shelter to pet the bunnies. You tell me you love them and want to adopt one once you live in a bigger place, and you give me the most earnest, hopeful, vulnerable expression, and…okay, I think I may be falling for you kinda fast? Like, super fast?

(by @unforth and @alessariel)

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Prompt-a-Duck Masterpost: Feb 22, 2022

(a couple days late this time, sorry!)

Welcome to our latest Prompt-A-Duck masterpost, the weekly low stress prompt event run on the Duck Prints Press server for all of our authors and artists!

As an aside, we’ve made an AO3 collection where, once we get a spare few minutes, we’ll be making sure all the Prompt-A-Duck fills can be accessed.

This week, we had one word prompt and one AU prompt to choose from:

1. sybarite: a person who loves expensive things and pleasure

2. “We had a really bad break-up three hundred years ago, but neither of us realized the other was immortal until we met today while shopping for groceries” AU. Credit: https://dailyau.tumblr.com/post/667209828751572992/we-had-a-really-bad-break-up-three-hundred-years

Results:

Sarnakh: https://archiveofourown.org/works/37418728

Lucy K.R.: https://www.patreon.com/posts/63091773 (CW: a dead vampire victim and mention of hunting pigeons)

Zylaa: https://archiveofourown.org/works/37357432/chapters/93218782 (CW: mild references to past sexual activity)

As always, if you enjoyed their work, please give our authors some love!

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Prompt-a-Duck Masterpost: Feb 19, 2022

Time for the second week of our Prompt-a-Duck, the weekly low stress prompt event run on the Duck Prints Press server for all of our authors and artists!

This week’s prompts:

  1. Hatpin panic (or hatpin peril). All kind of needle craft also welcome, as this prompt was spawned by a discussion about the peril of little old ladies with knitting needles. If you want to read more on this phenomenon, follow this link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/hatpin-peril-terrorized-men-who-couldnt-handle-20th-century-woman-180951219/ (CW: sexual harassment, period typical sexism).
  2. meet-cute or meet-ugly featuring the most awkward gift you can think of. Courtesy of a discussion in our general chat, this didn‘t have to be Valentine Day centered, but this prompt was spawned by an image of Valentine themed toilet paper, so make of that what you will.

And here are our results for this week:

Rebekah: https://rhosyn-du.tumblr.com/post/676497679679946753/by-the-pricking-of-my-thumbs (CW: animal harm, sexual assault, character death, implied murder)

Lucy K. R.: https://www.patreon.com/posts/62755250 (CW: violence, period typical sexism)

Thanks for participating and if you liked what you read, please let our authors know and consider giving us a like or a follow!