DEEP CATACOMBS - I'm not exactly a master at The Neopian Times, but I do have
a lot of experience. I also know what it's like to have a article or story rejected.
So if you think you've got what it takes for the Times, here are ten tips I
suggest if you've had no publications at all, or just want an extra push to
be a better Times writer.
This article is not meant to teach you how to write. If you don't write well
now, aren't willing to make an effort to become a better writer, and only want
a Neopian Times trophy, this one article isn't going to help you. Also, I should
disclaimer now that this help guide is only for writing for the Times.
This guide doesn't include comics, because I haven't had a comic in the Times
yet and any suggestions I give you as to how to make one will probably lead
you into a downward spiral that will have you never wanting to draw ever, ever
again. And you don't want that, do you? So for tips on how to write an awesome
Neopian Times story or article, read on.
1. Ask, "Why Do I Want to Be in the Times?"
I know, that little golden feather trophy awarded to published authors and
artists is tempting, but if you send in a sloppy piece of work just for an award
and not because you enjoy writing or work hard at it, you most likely won't
get in the Times. Try to view getting in the Times as a goal, not just another
trophy to add to your collection. Realize your potential. If you want to write
but need help and practice, there are countless guides for improving your writing;
you can find some online or in a library, and practice as often as you think
you need it.
However, don't think you have to submit a 100% perfect article or story just
to get in. Your first submission will probably be your worst, but it must be
good enough for publication.
If writing's not your thing, try something else on Neopets (There are a lot
of other competitions--just check out the "Pet Central" page!). I've heard some
people say that some writers and artists only get in the Times weekly because
they're popular, but I believe that they constantly get in because they work
hard enough to make it to the top.
If you've got something you really think can get in, send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org,
the official submission address of The Neopian Times. If not--at least not right
away--then continue reading.
2. Write Realistically
Some series and stories I read have a line that goes something like, "If we
fail this mission, all of Neopia will be destroyed!" Boring. Everyone
knows how the story ends--happily ever after, or at least until the next sequel.
Most people want to read The Neopian Times to find something creative, yet
realistic. Although a few quest stories are outstanding, most are simply a repetitive
version of the old-fashioned, unbelievable, saving-the-world genre. Don't think
you need to write a series about an outrageous quest to save Neopia, or an article
that will help every user whom reads it make one million Neopoints in a second
(Though, that would be really neat), to get in the Times. If it's well-written
and Neopets-related, a story with a simple plot or an article with an easily
understood, helpful or informative theme can be, and often is, published.
Even though your story should be realistic, as I said previously: it should
be Neopets-related. Just using Neopets as the characters isn't enough sometimes.
Include some, if not many, names of Neopian places and items--it will give your
story a Neopian feel to it.
3. Be Original
Being original is crucial to Neopian Times stories and articles; if you write
about the Chia-Lupe Debate or Meridell and cover the same old boring material,
your submission probably won't get in the Times. But if you tackle a subject
no one has ever done before for an article (For example, I once wrote an article
on Neomail, which I think even now no one else has written about), show a new
twist on a common belief, or create an entirely new plot for a story, it'll
have a better chance of standing out and getting in the Times.
4. Understand What's Unacceptable
Obviously, Neopets is a kids' site and detailed descriptions of killing and
other gruesome topics just aren't allowed. Also, even writing about religion
and non-Neopian cultures probably isn't going to get in. Why? Well, Neopets
could get in trouble or sued if they publish something on the site (more specifically,
The Neopian Times) that offends or pokes fun at a real-life person, company,
or organization, even vaguely (Remember the stock company NTV that was shut
down?). So try to stay away from that, and instead make up original and acceptable
names and events in your stories. This is really important--even if you have
a great story, including offensive material may cause your story to be rejected
and unpublished. For a complete guideline of what's unacceptable, check out
the Neopets Terms and Conditions.
5. Develop Interesting Characters
For a story, this is a must. Your characters essentially act out your story,
and they need to have distinct personalities.
First, try to describe each main character, and not just physically. Describe
their personality, including their talents, habits, feats, and foibles. Are
they mean, kind, or teetering in the middle? Here's a quick guide to assess
a character. If you can fill it out and have the paragraph read logically, you
have a well-rounded character:
My character, named
, is a/an
. He or she is
toward those whom need help and often
. His or her biggest accomplishment is
. If attacked by someone bigger than him or her, my character would
. My character's most embarrassing characteristic is
Here's how Li, my Desert Aisha and a constant character in my stories, would
be described using the above paragraph:
My character, named Li, is a Desert Aisha. She is generous toward those whom
need help and often writes stories. Her biggest accomplishment is being published
in The Neopian Times. If attacked by someone bigger than her, my character would
run for help, if possible, or try to defend herself. My character's most embarrassing
characteristic is that she lives with her crazy owner, leb388.
Just by reading those few sentences, you gain a pretty good knowledge of Li's
personality. Try it out with some of your characters and see if you can improve
or clarify their personalities.
6. Craft a Creative Title
For some writers, the actual manuscript of something is easy to write, but
when it comes to creating a title for their work, they go blank.
Here's my advice: the way I always write titles is to make them mysterious,
and something users can relate to. If you see something in The Neopian Times
titled "Food in Neopia"--and the next piece down was titled "Pant Devil: Crazy
or Just Misunderstood?"--which would you choose to read? I'd choose the second
one, because it has a slight mystery to it ("Why is he misunderstood?"), and
users can relate to it ("He's crazy because he messes with my items!"). Also,
alliteration and rhyming are good tools to add to your title when you can. But
always remember: make the title fit with the piece. A title should describe
a piece of writing or a major part of the writing.
7. Proofread Your Work
All great authors must revise their work many, many times to have a finished
piece. It's normal to make a few errors while typing, but it's your own fault
if you don't take the time to re-read through your work at least few times before
sending it in. Numerous errors in a submission that the writer didn't take the
time to fix will probably result in it not being published, even if the intentions
or idea behind the submission were excellent.
After you proofread your story and have fixed any spelling, grammatical, or
tense errors, try to strengthen your story. To do this, you have to use strong
words and avoid broad terms. For example:
She opened the door to look in the dark room and screamed.
This sentence is a bit weak, but that can easily be fixed. Look at the following
She nervously opened the creaky door to peer into the shadowy room, and
let out a shriek of terror.
The basic idea is to add very descriptive adjectives and use words that describe
exactly the feeling you want to get across, making your story stronger. Also,
you can strengthen boring dialogue actions like "said," "asked," and "replied"
by substituting them with words such as "interrogated," "shouted," "retorted,"
If you completely dislike your story or article and can't seem to make it better
by proofreading, leave it alone for a few days or weeks so you can ponder how
to improve it, or simply don't think about it at all for awhile and then come
back to it. If you believe that your story or article is fine but could be better,
proofread it a few more times or, if you can, ask someone you know to look it
over and give you suggestions.
8. HTML-ify Your Work
HTML is a helpful tool in online writing, and it consists of tags that each give
a different command. There are start tags and end tags that give an endless array
of functions. You don't need to add in HTML tags when typing up something to print
out; most writing programs automatically record certain text as bold or italicized
and keep track of spacings. Online, however, different programs aren't compatible,
so the universal HTML is used for simple text enhancements. If you use bold text
in a subheading for an article or italicized text to put emphasis on words in
dialogue of a story, you need to add HTML tags to keep those in place, so your
submission looks better and is easier to read. Here are some basic tags:
- Put the first tag at the beginning and the second after the end of each paragraph
so that the text doesn't run together.
- Put the first tag at the beginning and the second after the end of the text
you want make italicized, or you can replace the i's with b's to make bold text
or with, u's to make underlined text.
After you've finished adding HTML and have completely proofread your work,
submit it. You can either paste it completely into the body of your e-mail submission
or attach it in a .txt file (It's the program Notepad on most, if not all, computers).
If you don't know how to attach the submission or your e-mail server doesn't
allow attachments, paste the entire submission into the same e-mail as your
note (more on that in the next section).
For continuing series, I put each parts in a separate .txt file with the number
of what chapter it is, and attach them all to one e-mail using the method above--yes,
that's right; all the parts of a series need to be included into the same e-mail.
9. Send Your Submission
This is a paramount step. What I do for it is use my story/article's title
as the subject of the e-mail in quotation marks, followed by what it is (article/short
story/cont. series, even though continuing series are usually lumped with short
stories when they're referred in articles such as this one). For example, this
was the format I used for the e-mail subject of this submission:
"Tips for Entering the Times" Article
Easy, right? Now, for the send-address, use email@example.com,
as previously stated (This address is also on the front page of every Neopian
Times issue, cleverly hidden in bold text.).
Next is what I call the "Author's Note." It's not part of the story or article,
but in it you give a quick idea of what the submission is, what the title is,
suggestions for its picture and summary, a note saying you attached it in a
.txt document if you did so, and your username. It's also good to include a
polite "Thank-you" or "Thanks" to show that you appreciate the editor reading
your submission. Here's an example:
Dear Neopian Times Editor,
This is an article I wrote, and my username is [username]. The title is [title]
and for its picture, can you use a picture of [picture type]? The summary is
[summary], and I attached the article in a .txt document to this e-mail. Thanks!
This gives the editor a good idea of what your submission is, and what you
want for its summary and picture, though the editor can change them if she chooses
it for publication and she finds something that fits the submission better.
10. Try to Be Patient
I try send in my submission(s) for the week Monday or Tuesday night at the
latest, and I have to wait until later in the week, usually Friday, to see if
it was included in that week's Neopian Times issue. This is a trifle waiting
time compared to sending in other literature to different media, such as sending
an article to a magazine or submitting a novel manuscript to a publisher, but
I still get anxious.
If you've sent something and want to see if it got in the Times, then go to
your userlookup as soon as you can on Friday and check to see if you have a
Neopian Times trophy there or if its number was updated (If it is, you have
something in the Times that week!). And if it's not, don't worry about it. I've
gone through the same experience of rejection many times. Just try again, and
maybe next week you'll get in! But if you find yourself repeatedly being rejected,
I just finished writing an article called "Tips for Entering the Times" that
Well, I hope my suggestions have aided you in your quest for being published!
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to Neomail