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welcome to inscribe.

Welcome to Inscribe, a guide to being published in the Neopian Times. I'm Laura, your host for this page. I'm an NT writer, and I've been published sixteen times so far: ten short stories, three articles, and one three-part series. I never pretend to be an expert; these are just methods that have worked for me. I think they'll work for you, too.

You're probably here because you want one of three things. You want 1- those pretty avatars, 2- those shiny trophies, or 3- the simple pride of being published. I want to help you achieve these goals. This guide--and it's not really a guide, more like a list of tips--is focused on being accepted into the Neopian Times. If you're looking for an all-around guide, Talia's Guide to Becoming an NT Star! should answer all of your questions.

Updates
3.28.14 - It's been a while. A long, long while. But having people link to this site on the boards was the kick in the butt I needed to make sure it's up to date.
6.28.13 - Finally put a new button from The Button Club.




what you want

Originality

You want your submission to stand out from the crowd. How do you accomplish this? Simple--don't write a story that has been done before. People say that there are only ten plots in the world, but there are thousands of subplots. Make your characters and your plot/subplot as original as possible.

For example, how many stories about band geeks have been published in the Neopian Times? Very few, before I started my Band Geeks series. I chose an original topic I was familiar with, used my own life to enrich the stories, and it paid off. Seven of my twelve stories (one's a three-part series) are about music and band.

NOTE: Something to avoid here. You may think that your "here's how I found my pet and she came home with me happy ending yay" story is original, but it's probably not. Mine only got in because I made the pet an amnesiac:

You are different than me. You have a memory, a past. You also have a future. Me? I have nothing. I start from scratch every day, scrambling to recover what I have lost. You? You have no such problems. I still remember nothing before this occurrence. I find it odd that you, all of you, can remember so much. I can't even remember my name.
(No Choice, laurapet131)


Believability

There are some weird things in Neopia that are generally taken as believable. I'm guilty of this; I have pets playing all sorts of instruments! What I'm talking about is, are the motives correct?

Taking a story I read recently for an example, I was a bit surprised when I finished one part. In it, a boy leaves his life--which is not portrayed as horrible, just mildly bad--behind to leave with someone who was prepared to kill him, saying, "You're my heroes!" What are the boy's motives, and would that really happen if that situation occurred?

If it wouldn't happen, readers are left with dissatisfaction. While most readers will believe ridiculous events like Neopets playing the trumpet (it's called suspension of disbelief), if the motives seem unbelievable, chances are your story won't make sense or be good.

You're not singing high enough," he chided softly, paws skimming over the piano beautifully. He was helping me with my scales, trying to determine my range.

I craned my neck upward a bit, in preparation for higher notes. I began to sing, but he quickly stopped me.

(Confessions of a Musically Inclined Hissi: Part One, pandora)


Creativity & Plot

You'd think this would be a no-brainer, but really it needs to be said. Nobody likes reading about a character they just met in another story...and another story...and another story. Be creative with your plot; and on that note, have a plot. If your entire story is a steam-of-consciousness ramble about how guilty your Neopet feels about something, it's boring. Quite frankly, you need a plot.

Stuck for plot? Make something happen. Is your character stuck taking a boring test? Make his pencil break. He gets up to sharpen it and trips over the school bully. Bully pulls out a ray gun and zaps him into an alternate dimension. I'm exaggerating, but that's what you need to do.

Make sure you're not just writing a story for the glory of saying you've written a story. You want to take your readers on a journey, and the journey must make the readers learn a little more about themselves. They're not reading for an insight into your brilliant mind; they want an insight into their own. (Not my words--from an issue of TheWriter magazine, 2006.)

Whitney did another scan of the crowd as the trial went on. He actually saw something interesting. In the box, the same box that Whitney had previously been sitting in, sat someone else. And he was holding a knife. It all came crashing down on Whitney in that instant. The poisoned gavel (which Whitney was actually holding at that very moment) was a decoy. A distraction. The purpose? To get Whitney Tungsten, the very best agent of the opera, on stage, alone and unprotected. Whitney was the real target.
(Whitney Tungsten: The Agent of the Opera, yoyti)


Conflict

Stemming from PLOT, we have CONFLICT. You need conflict. Let me tell you a little story...

I had a story I was trying to submit called "Temporary Endings." It was a neat little story, but the only conflict came from inside the main character's head. She felt like her friends were leaving her, and she was very lonely.

Well, this doesn't make for a very entertaining story. So I scrapped that story out of the series arc entirely and wrote "Marching - A Band Geek Story" instead. This, too, had its problems. The main antagonist randomly turned nice near the end. But I cleared that up, made more conflict, and resubmitted--and it was accepted.

It just goes to show: a little conflict can do a lot for a story.

They were laughing to make me trip over the notes.

Because I wasn't focusing on the music, I messed up. Big time. I couldn't get started again, and Ellen wouldn't let me try again from the beginning. I was sent back to my seat in disgrace.

I was the only one who wasn't able to finish the song.

(Marching - A Band Geek Story, laurapet131)


Grammar/Spelling

Oh boy. I can't believe I haven't added this until now! (And this site has been open for how many months?!) Anyway, correct grammar and spelling is EXTREMELY important. (Note: It's spelled GRAMMAR, not GRAMMER.)

I understand typos happen. I also understand breaking some of the grammar guidelines to have a more casual feel, such as using "and," "but," or "or" at the beginning of a sentence. However, you need good grammar and spelling to keep the reader.

I know a lot of people (and I happen to be one of these people) who will stop reading if the story involved has a lot of typos. I absolutely hate typos, especially if the writer seems like he didn't care enough to fix them.

So, at the risk of alienating picky readers like me, use good grammar. Spell-check is there for a reason, but even that won't catch everything.


Diction

Due to the prevalent quandary of elocution in the fields of chirography and stenography, some bibliophiles are eschewing works by certain writers. Their preeminent concern is that writers are employing the use of diction far superior or inferior to their audience's.

Say what?

I said, cuz of peoples writin' a way that the readers don't like readin', people ain't gon' read their stuff no mores. They doin' this becuz the writers be talkin' high-an'-mighty or way down like trash speakers.

Was that any easier to read? Maybe, maybe not. The point is, if you use a diction (way of speaking/writing) far above (first paragraph) or far below (second) what your reader's diction is, they won't understand a word you're saying. Make sure you direct your diction to your specific audience, which, on Neopets, is probably younger than we'd like to think. If you're aiming for the Times, here's my advice to you: use more sophisticated words, but use them sparingly. If your writing starts to look like the first paragraph of this section, it's time to step back and cut out some of the inflated diction.


Conciseness & Comedy

As fun as rambling is, keep your story/article as concise as possible. Don't confuse this with super-short; nobody likes a paragraph being passed off as a story. However, don't use too many big words, and take us on a tightly controlled trip. We want to see a definite introduction, middle, and conclusion, and we want to be taken smoothly from one to the next. Remember users of all ages enjoy the NT. Most people won't look up unfamiliar words, so by using too many you risk obscuring your meaning.

Humor is something most people like to see in a story, but with some topics it just doesn't fit. If you're writing a story about loss and depression, don't try to force humor into it. If you have a happier topic, however, go for it! It'll make readers want to keep reading. Articles in the Neopian Times are often based on comedy or satire:

Christmas can be a fun, joyous season, and in the weeks leading up to the big day there is much celebrating and a lot of festivities. Everyone seems a lot kinder and more sharing over the Month of Celebrating in Neopia. However, our job here at the Neopian Bureau of Holiday Health and Safety (NBHHS) is to warn everyone of the true dangers behind these Christmas festivities.
(A Christmas Health and Safety Message, popolopolis_the_3rd_ )


Adherence to the Guidelines

TNT has already set up some Handy Tips to inform you of what they will and won't accept into the Times. If those confuse you somehow, a good law is: if you can't talk about it on the Neoboards, you can't publish it in a story. Don't know what you can talk about on the boards? Read the T&C (Terms and Conditions) and the Chat Guidelines. Anything against the Neopian laws will never be published; that's just common sense.

TNT also references "real world technology" in those Handy Tips. Neopets don't have cell phones, computers, or buses; you have to come up with a creative way to communicate, research, or transport. "Virtupets technology" is all right, as seen here. However, if your go-to excuse for breaking these guidelines is "It's Virtupets technology!" you may be less than successful in being published.

I'm sorry, Ness," the boy mumbled. "But you and Kylee have to get on the train that will take you to my friend NV's account. The new technology from Virtupets... it's so undependable, the steam train... I don't want to use it, but it's the only way. It's the only way. Izzy... gone..."
(No Choice, laurapet131)


what you don't want

Stereotypes

A story full of clichés and stereotypes is no fun to read. The innocent, cute little girl who loves plushies and dress-up? We've met her billions of times before. The evil ruler who loves to monologue? Please, spare us the torture.

This goes back to your submission needing originality. If your plot, your characters, and your setting all make us yawn, we won't bother to continue reading. And remember, the NT staff are your readers too; they need to be entertained just like any user will.

Another thing to avoid? Clichéd sayings like "cold as death," "easy as pie," "a piece of cake," etc. Using those make your writing feel stilted and unoriginal, which, again, puts readers off.


Overuse of TNT Jokes

This may be more of a personal preference that I and a few others share, but I'll include it here just the same. Please avoid overusing TNT jokes. For example, "Jelly World doesn't exist!" is really annoying as a whole story or article. Basing a submission on Meepits doesn't annoy me, but an article chock-full of Meepit conspiracy theories does.

Remember that a joke ceases to be amusing after being seen so many times. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I think this tip is worth keeping in mind. After all, "overuse of a common joke" turns into "unoriginal" pretty fast.


Stolen Material

If there's anything stolen in your submission, it won't be accepted. Simple as that. Even in this guide, where I've used snippets of published NT articles and stories, I have credited the authors. You need to do the same. Other people's work is, quite frankly, their work. Not yours.

This goes for art, ideas, paragraphs, story-lines, and everything else that goes into a NT comic, story, or article. Credit the rightful owner, because it will come back to bite you if you don't. End of story. (I've had code stolen before, which isn't quite as hurtful, but that was bad enough.)


how to submit your work

What to Do:

(The process is pretty similar for all kinds of submissions, but for this guide, I'll go through both short story submissions and comic submissions.)

DRAG AND DROP IN YOUR ADDRESS BAR.

For short stories:
Go here. Scroll down. Then...

Okay, now for comics:
Again, go here. Scroll down. Then...


a response process timeline

The Mails

One to four weeks after you submit, you'll get your first mail. This mail will either be 1- a rejection (awww) or 2- a "held over" (yay?). If you're rejected, it will be for one of a few reasons. Revise your story according to what they tell you and submit again. If you're held over, congrats! You're probably going to be published soon!

One to four weeks AFTER the "held over" mail, you'll get the acceptance mail, along with a trophy and whatever avatars you may have earned. (I have only ever heard of a handful of stories getting rejected after being held over, so you're pretty much in the clear.) The next NT that comes out--after the acceptance mail, not the held-over--will most likely have your story in it! Yay!

A short note about trophies, prizes, and avatars:
You get a trophy for every time you are published in the NT, and Editorials don't count. Rather than have thousands of trophies cluttering your lookup, you'll have one saying "Neopian Times #x CHAMPION!!!" Mine says 16xCHAMPION!!! because I've been published sixteen times. :P

Avatars are different. The NT Star avvie is awarded with your tenth published work. The NT Writer avvie is awarded if you're published in an issue ending in 50 or 00 (like 200, or the more recent 600).

Some special issues also have prizes given out for being published in them, like the Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine's Day issues. You'll get something good for being published in these, like a paint brush! These issues are highly competitive.

Your prize will be awarded in a separate Neomail.


thoughts on rejection

A Bit of a Rant

Some people seem to think that being rejected is the end of the world. They think that because TNT didn't accept their work, it "isn't good enough," they're a "terrible writer/artist," and they "should never write/draw again." I have something to tell these people.

YOU'RE WRONG.

So YES, TNT didn't accept your story/comic/series/article. Okay. That's going to happen. I've been rejected more times than I can count. Difference between me and those people who want to give up because they were rejected?

I'm going to keep writing.

Bang. There it is. That's the key point to not being bogged down by rejection. Keep writing or drawing!

Not everyone is going to like your work. Sometimes, I don't even like my own work! You can't please everyone all of the time, but you can keep trying to.

You're not a terrible writer or artist because TNT didn't accept that particular submission. Revise it and try again. I'm rooting for you. :)


thanks for reading

Come Back Soon!

Thank you for reading this guide, and I hope it helped you in some way. Good luck with your Neopian Times submissions and your quest for those elusive trophies, avatars, and prizes.

If you have any questions, comments, hate-filled death threats, or suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Especially the death threats. So talk to me! (Note: That link takes you to my lookup, as user-specific NM links don't work anymore. :K)

As far as those two links to the left go, the first one is to the Neopian Writers board. There are some genuinely amazing writers there, and they may sometimes be up for critiquing your work or answering your questions. Alternatively, either Neomail me or try the Help Chat (second link). The HC will try their best to answer your question. If you're up for some writing-related chat, that's when the NW is the board for you, although sometimes it's a little hard to find on there. :P

Good luck!



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