With this revision, we've got a 'short version' and a 'long version'. If you're old hat at writing for SSBB, read the short version first and see if anything's new information to you; if something looks odd or you want clarification, find the same section in the long version and read the fuller explanation. If you're new to this or it's been a while, definitely read both sections in their entirety, but start with the short answers and then fill in the information gaps with the longer ones.
As always, if you have questions or want clarification on any matter, please ask.
The short verson of the guideliens contains the most basic information you need to know if you're planning on contributing a text submission to Shousetsu Bang*Bang. For more clarification, see each answer's longer, more detailed counterpart in the second half. PLEASE NOTE: Not sticking to these guidelines is a near-guaranteed way to get your story bounced back to you to fix it.
1. Original fiction only.
2. Previously published stories are not accepted. Authors can submit up to two stories per issue: one written alone, and one co-written.
3. Stories should be between 1500 and ~23,000 words long. If your story is more than around 11,500 words, indicate where we should break it into two entries.
4 & 5. Stories should contain explicit erotic content appropriate to the parameters of the specific issue.
6. Stories must be complete and self-contained.
7. While they are not strictly required, happy endings are strongly encouraged.
8. Anyone can participate, including people without LiveJournal accounts. Most authors have project-specific pseudonyms, though this is not a requirement.
9. Deadlines are important. Text deadlines are always the Tuesday before the issue's publication date. If you forsee any difficulty meeting a specific deadline, tell us as soon as possible.
10. Themes are not mandatory.
11. While it's always a good idea to sign up, signups are neither necessary nor binding.
1. Use Google Docs if at all possible.
2. If it's not possible, submissions must be in .doc or .docx, .rtf, or .txt format.
3. Make sure the filename is sufficently descriptive and includes: story title, your pseudonym, and your LJ name/email handle.
Stories should be formatted for publication on both LiveJournal and WordPress (the platform we use for our website). This means:
- The following HTML tags are necesssary if you want special formatting: <I>, <em>, <B>, <strong>, and <U>. We will not add them for you.
- Skip one full blank line between each paragraph.
- Indicate section breaks with text of your choice, but do not use hard returns or multiple blank lines.
- <BLOCKQUOTE> will render your text in italics whether you want it to or not.
- Smilies become emoticons in WordPress.
If your story includes images, clearly mark their intended locations in the document and make sure they conform to the guidelines for art. If your story has author's notes/commentary/glossaries/thank-yous, they go at the end.
Stories are expected to arrive in near-publication-ready condition. Too many errors in grammar, mechanics, and formatting make the story unacceptable for publication. In general, the technical errors should take the editor no more than half an hour to fix. If the story needs technical attention greater than we editors have time to give, the story will be bounced back to the author to fix before resubmission.
We do our level best to run every story we get as close to the way the author intended it to run as we can. Authors should still expect to receive constructive criticism from the editors.
And here are the more comprehensive guidelines.
1. Original fiction only. Significantly altered versions of other peoples' characters, thinly veiled real people, and retellings of well-known stories in the public domain are all acceptable so long as the differences are substantial enough to render a significant part of the creative process your own.
It is acceptable to base your SSBB story on someone else's copyrighted characters, so long as all names and enough worldbuilding details are changed, to the point where someone completely unfamiliar with the copyrighted source material would not feel like anything was missing. Please, no direct reappropriation of text or plot points from a different work, unless permission is given and the original source is credited.
In short, the words you should be keeping in mind are 'plausible' and 'deniability'.
2. Stories should first appear in the SSBB issue to which they belong. Stories may be posted friends-locked for editing purposes prior to the issue date, but they should have their public debut in the s2b2 journal. After the issue goes live, you may repost the story publically wherever you wish — but only after.
Each author may have up to two total contributions (as an author) in an issue. You may submit up to one story where you are the sole author; you may submit up to two stories where you are credited as a co-writer. Stories may have a maximum of two authors.
3. The lower word count limit is 1500 words. There is no specific upper bound word count, but stories may not be longer than two LJ entries, and each LJ entry is capped at 64,000 characters (counting spaces). If your story is going to be longer than a single LJ entry, please indicate where you would like the story broken into two parts.
The exception to the two-entry limit is our annual December issue, which has no upper limit, but stories in it still need to be divided according to LJ entry length.
4. Stories in regular issues and our Artist Special should have explicit male homoerotic themes and content. Stories in our annual March special should have explicit female homoerotic themes and content, and stories in our annual Yes, And issue can have pretty much every other kind of explicit themes and content. Sex scenes may involve as few or as many participants as the author is comfortable wrangling.
While we have historically been flexible about what constitutes 'male' and 'female', stories with trans* main characters will probably be better-received if they run in the Yes, And issue. Stories with bisexual themes and characters can go wherever is appropriate, but stories with explicit bisexual sexual content should also be saved for the Yes, And issue. What Yes, And issues should not contain, however, is stories containing only content that would make them better fit one of our other issues.
We strongly discourage putting content warnings on stories, and we will not put them there ourselves. However, in certain cases, we will accommodate an author's request to warn for particular strong story content.
5. Stories should be Not Safe For Work. The point of the exercise is to make things dirty, so let's not be coy. If you are not comfortable writing an explicit sex scene between two or more participants, this may not be the venue for you. If you like to think in movie ratings, it should be at least something they wouldn't let teenagers into without a parent or guardian. Don't worry about making it too pornographic; to date, we've never asked someone to dial it back.
6. Stories must be self-contained. Characters/universes/situations from one story may of course reappear elsewhere; however, if a reader has to have read a previous story to understand this one, this story is not self-contained. Each story should be complete and have its own beginning, middle, and ending. Deliberate artistic cliffhangers are acceptable; wandering off in the middle of a story because you've run out of room is not.
If you wish to make a note connecting your story to other SSBB stories or works published elsewhere, please do so at the end of the story (see the section on the placement of author's notes).
7. 7. While it is not required that all SSBB stories end with a big smile and group hug, that's the general spirit of this 'zine. Stories that finish on a down note had better have a strong reason for doing so. On the whole, it's best to go for the happy-for now or the happily-ever-after. As petronia originally put it:
"Shousetsu Bang*Bang is a webzine for original boy's love oneshot stories, intended as an online, English-language text equivalent of one of those All Yomikiri Bimonthly Summer Special 100 Extra Pages!! manga phonebooks where every story is about the torrid romance of an ordinary schoolboy and his soccer club captain – or a teenaged yakuza boss and his faithful lieutenant – or the prince of an exotic desert country and the emerald-eyed winged bishounen he rescues from the sawtoothed sand monsters of G'or, self-contained in 30 pages and heartwarmingly predictable. Our editorial policy is to dispense with meaning and literary merit and concentrate on cracked-out inconsequential fun. There is a formula, it is paint-by-numbers, and by gum our rainbow crayons will stay within the lines."
There remains, of course, a great deal of room for literary merit -- yet while it is greatly appreciated in practice, it is not considered an essential component to the exercise. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.
8. There are no prerequisites for participation. We've had contributions from published authors, first-time writers, and all types of people in-between.
LiveJournal is our traditional homeland, so often our setup has assumed that contributors have LiveJournal accounts. However, you can sign up by commenting anonymously or through a number of OpenID options, and you don't need an LJ account to work Google Docs. We do recommend getting an account, though, if only so you can post stories there (privately, please!) to make sure your formatting works. Many word processors add formatting that doesn't translate to LJ, and posting it in a private entry is a good way for you to see what your story is going to look like when it gets to us.
While it is certainly acceptable to post stories under your own name or more well-known pseudonym, part of the fun here is the chance to let your work stand without your best-known identity to prop it up or drag it down (depending). Because this project was originally 'intended as an online, English-language text equivalent of one of those All Yomikiri Bimonthly Summer Special 100 Extra Pages!! manga phonebooks' (see above), the running joke has been to adopt strange and sometimes nonsensical Japanese mangaka names, often with silly kanji puns. You don't have to have one of those, but if you see other people with them, that's why. Regardless of what you choose to call yourself, once you pick it, please stick with it.
9. Issues always come out on a Monday (usually the third or fourth Monday of the month). Text submissions are due the Tuesday of the previous week.
Deadlines are important. As our turnaround time gives us less than a week between final submission date and publication, there's little time for us to spend editing things that should have been fixed already and even less time for a bounced story to get corrected and re-submitted. Thus, please get your stories in on time. In fact, plan to get them in early; there's no shame in having a story submitted entire months before the deadline, and submissions are always open. Stories that the editors decide have arrived too late for current issue will be saved for the next issue.
If you forsee any difficulty meeting a specific deadline, please tell us as soon as possible so we can agree on a modified schedule.
10. Themes are a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule. They're there for inspiration and a sort of issue-wide uniformity, but they're certainly not mandatory. If you do choose to stick to the theme, you can interpret it as strictly or as loosely as you like; in fact, some of the best stories we've ever gotten have been from people who've taken some very creative interpretations of the issue themes.
Themes for Special issues tend to be a lot more general than themes for regular issues, as we only hold these issues once a year and want to give participants as much room for interpretation as we can before they have to wait a whole 'nother twelve months for their next chance.
11. Signups will generally appear about two months before an issue's scheduled publication date. There are many good reasons to sign up, including that finding artists in the signup posts is probably the best way to get your story illustrated.
Signups are non-binding; we will not come chase you down if you don't have something in by the deadline. Signups are non-mandatory; if you haven't signed up but still submit something on or before the deadline, we'll take it.
1. Google Docs is absolutely the editors' preference for submissions. Create a document, go to 'share', click on 'sharing settings', and give firstname.lastname@example.org permission to edit -- and that's all there is to it. The reasons this is the editors' preference are as follows:
- Having a story in Google Docs makes it infinitely easier to edit. We are two editors, and downloading a story, making changes, re-uploading it somewhere, making sure the other editor gets the new version instead of the old one … well, you can see how that could get complicated. But if all the edits are made to a single file on a server somewhere, we both can see all the changes in real time.
- Having a story in Google Docs also makes communication with authors easier. Each document has a Revision History so that authors can see which specific changes have been made. Authors can modify things like the placement of images up to the last minute and can see changes that confirm the editors have received the file. And as is the case with editing, we can be certain that everyone is looking at the same version.
- Notifications from Google Docs never, ever wind up in our spam folder. Once, a story was sent to us as an attachment to an email with minimal unique text and got caught in our spam folder, such that we didn't see it until the issue was already up. We feel terrible about this and never ever want it to happen again, but there's so much spam out there in the world that it's hard to be sure something hasn't passed us by. Even if, by some bizarre happening, a notification is spam-filtered or deleted, if a document is shared with the SSBB account, it's visible in the master list of editable documents. It just plain can't be lost.
2. If you're not using Google Docs, submissions must be in Word (.doc or .docx), rich text (.rtf), or plain text (.txt). No HTML files. Submissions should be sent as attachments to emails, not downloads.
3. The title of the story, the author's penname, and the author's lj name/email handle should be marked somewhere in the document, whether in the title or on the first line. We want to make sure we're communicating with the right people about the right things.
1. Entries should look exactly as you'd enter them into any LiveJournal client. The best way to check and make sure an entry will look right is to paste it into Semagic or LiveJournal's own update page and hit 'preview', or go ahead and post it (locked, please!) to your own journal. LiveJournal has a lot of formatting quirks, and this is the only way to keep from being surprised by them.
2. These HTML tags are necessary if you want formatted text: <I>, <em>, <B>, <strong>, and <U>. Type them directly into the text. If you use Word, you might want to check out this Tutorial: Placing HTML tags around all similarly Formatted words at once (in Word). We will not do this for you.
3. These HTML tags should not be included: <P> and <BR>. Instead, skip a full line between each paragraph. Very often, word processors will 'smart'-format a document so paragraphs have large spaces between them, but those spaces will disappear when pasted into LiveJournal; inserting full blank lines keeps the text from all running together. As above, we will not do this for you.
4. Odds and ends: You can use whatever text you want to indicate section breaks, but please do not use hard returns or multiple blank lines. Most special characters present no problem, but if one does, we'll be sure to let you know. <BLOCKQUOTE> has been formatted on LiveJournal so all text inside it is italicized and there is literally nothing we can do about this; it has been formatted on WordPress so it appears in big dumb quotation marks, so we'll convert the text to italics to avoid those. Be warned that unless you take pains to format and/or specify otherwise, any smilies in the text may appear as emoticons when reposted on our website (because of WordPress reasons).
5. Be careful in general if you've done your composing in a word processing program like Word, as programs like that often insert formatting that doesn't transfer over to HTML. Smart quotes and smart ellipses aren't quite the dealbreakers they were once upon a time, but they're still ugly. In Google Docs, look under Tools and Preferences; both 'Use smart quotes' and 'Automatic substitution' should be de-selected.
6. If you plan to have images in your story, please indicate where in the story you would like those images. You can leave placeholder text (like PICTURE #1 GOES HERE) in the body of the story itself, or you can describe in an email where you'd like us to place them. If you want the images to stay on your own server, put the HTML wherever you want them to be. All images will be uploaded to the shousetsubangbang.com server; if you want to use images hosted from your own server, we will still keep the copies on our server only as a backup in case the original images disappear. Any image used in a story must conform to the artist guidelines, especially with regards to file type, dimensions, and deadline.
7. If you have any author's notes/commentary/glossaries/thank-yous, they should be placed at the end of a story. You can finesse this in one of three ways: one, put the text directly in the lj entry, after the main body of the text; two, compose a separate LJ entry or blog post and leave a link to that entry after the main body of the text; or three, leave the information in a comment to the story.
Writers should be proficient in English. The Writing Aids and Standards post has many helpful links. As we edit, if typographical errors are obvious enough, we will correct them; if we are at all unsure as to what your intent was, we will ask.
As far as content goes, SSBB has an 'all skate' policy: if you submit a story and it meets the technical guidelines outlined above, it will be run. As a general rule, we don't edit for content — largely because the second we start doing that, we become responsible for all the content we do approve. The upshot of this for inexperienced writers is that it makes SSBB a very friendly place for authors who haven't had a lot of practice writing original fiction (or fiction at all); the upshot for more experienced writers is that it creates a safe place to indulge in cliché and melodrama gleefully and shamelessly.
The primary point of this exercise is not to write the Great American Short Story, but to have a Good Time writing and reading, and what constitutes a Good Time varies from person to person. However, a writer should always be looking to improve, which is why we will also often provide feedback that involves suggestions that we think will improve both a specific story you've sent us and your writing overall. While you are not required to implement this kind of feedback -- either in that specific story or in general -- we have a lot of experience being both writers and readers, and we've learned a lot in that time about what makes writing successful.
What's most important to us is that the story runs the way you, the author, want it to run! But we also want that decision of yours to be an informed one.
The presence of any of the following will get a story bounced back to you immediately, because we editors do not have the time to fix these:
- formatted text without the appropriate HTML tags
- a lack of blank lines between paragraphs
- unnecessary HTML formatting
- copious obvious errors in spelling/grammar/mechanics
- anything that is going to take more than half an hour of proofreading on our part to fix
In short, if we send it back to you and tell you to get it beta-read, get it beta-read. If you've already had it beta-read, get a better beta.
Having a story sent back to you is never a indication that you are a bad person and should go away forever! Rather, it means there is something about the story we believe prevents it from meeting SSBB standards, and we would like to give you an opportunity to fix that. If you choose to make the changes according to our recommendations and re-submit the piece, that'll be great. Similarly, if you decide not to make the changes and just want to let this one go elsewhere quietly, we won't judge.
Previous posts about the guidelines (some of which contain greater detail about the rationale behind certain decisions): November 2005, May 2007, July 2007, and December 2010.