Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Admin Essay: Pimpin' Yo Fic: Eljay Style

Pimpin' Yo Fic: ElJay Style

LiveJournal – the frightening alternative to fic archiving. Of the many authors I’ve spoken to in chat over the months regarding this topic, I usually receive the same responses when inquiring if they plan to expand by posting on LJ.

1.)  “It’s too much bullshit and I’m too busy to learn.”
2.) “FF is easier. Why reinvent the wheel?”
3.) “One day, I really, really want to,”
4.) “Are you offering to do it for me?”
5.)  “Why are you always asking me weird, random questions?”
6.) “Yes, of course koalas are adorable.”
7.) “When are you updating WA?”

And okay, I’ll admit. It is a bunch of bullshit to post on LJ and takes a pretty hefty time investment. Even chatting about it makes people nervous, and inevitably, a tangent on the cuteness of koala bears and Jackson’s sex-smirk will emerge and all will be forgotten. Or… maybe that’s just when I chat with Angel. Anyways, the real question is, why bother?

Well, places like LJ that offer various customization opportunities can give your audience something that other archiving sites can’t: an interactive reading experience.

You can post pictures in the chapter instead of simply linking them on your profile. You can have playlists linked directly into the page. You can control what fonts and background colors fit best with your theme. And for the love of all that is pure and holy in this world [Jackson], it can be motherfucking pretty. FF? White background, black text, simplistic, streamlined, and BORING. Some readers prefer FF because it is safe and sometimes, less is more. That’s fine. There’s also another, larger niche of readers who aren’t opposed to having a little visual/auditory stimulation.

So, I’m going to walk you through the new posting of a fic on LiveJournal. Fellow author araeo has agreed to be my willing guinea pig for this project with her totally awesome fic, Work In Progress.

Now, I’m no expert at LiveJournal or anything. I still need to ask for help at times with all of the weird settings and lingo. What I am an expert at is formatting and graphics and applying it to the “New Post” page inside of LJ. Recently, I’ve been inundated with tutorial requests from readers and authors alike. This unforgivably epic post will serve as a permanent link for me to send around. Yay for me!

We’ll start with…

Headers and POV Separators: The Bastard Children of Banners


Some may think this a little excessive for just posting a fic, but I respectfully disagree. You only need to make them once and they grant your entire chapter a certain something that set it’s apart and makes it aesthetically pleasing. There are so many possibilities here, and I honestly haven’t even personally delved fully into their full potential. I’ve gotten a hugely positive response from my use of graphic POV separators for Wide Awake and G&G. It’s such an easy thing to create, honestly. I’m going to walk you through a very simplistic method of making a chapter header. Click links for full sized images...

Step 1: Install Graphics Program

For this tutorial, I’ll be using Gimp, which is a FREE graphics program and relatively small in byte size. I doubt it will be one of those obscure programs that you install, use once, and then later decide to uninstall to make room for all those new HQ "New Moon" stills. I mean, you can use it to cut bitchface out of all the frames [and replace them with your own]. You’ll get use out of it, and I’ll be using this same program for my later tutorials as well.

Step 2: Open it and Freak Out

 I’ll give you a moment to panic… Be sure to maximize the window, which will probably be small by default. Bastards...

Step 3: Channel Your Inner Brave Geek and “Create New”

 File >> New, or CTRL+N on your keyboard.

Step 4: Settings

Use these settings for your new file
And then CTRL+S to save (Do this often). Name it and hit Enter.

Step 5: Background

I’m using this background, but a good place to find all kinds of good textures is We’re going to open it in Gimp [CTRL+O and browse].

Step 6: Copy and Paste

CTRL+C while your background is open to copy it, and then go back to your blank image and CTRL+V. Your background should now be on the once checker-boarded canvas. If you’re like me, it's too big to fit the canvas, but we'll fix that.

Whispers, "Take a deep breath, Smellyia."

Step 7: Scale to Fit

 Select your "Scale tool" 

Click on the background and a little dialog box will appear. 
 You can either set the value in the box, or use your mouse to drag the corners of the background inward, making it smaller.

Mine now looks like this.

Step 8: Move and Situate.

Select your "Move Tool"
Click on the background image and move it around. You can also rotate it , and flip it . I did all of the above.

Mine now looks like this.

Step 9: Blending

This is all done assuming that your LJ posting background is white (some are not, depending on their journal theme), so you may need to blend your background into it. We'll do this using a new layer and a nice paint brush.

Click the "New Layer" button in the palette. Click "Okay" for the settings prompt. No changes necessary.

Make a new paintbrush with the following settings.

Begin painting over the portions or outlines to make it seem blended.
Tip: Make sure you get the edges of the image if your background is any color other than white (Or whatever color your LJ page is).

Step 10: Adding Kstew

Well, this fic is from BPOV only, but you can make another with Rob using this same method for EPOV, or Jackson for JPOV, etc. I'm using this picture of Kristen [omg, I cheat with the white background, right?].

Using the same method we used for the background image, open using CTRL+O and browsing. CTRL+C to copy, and then once on our new image, CTRL+V to paste. Once you have pasted it and see the icon of Kstew in your layers palette, click the "new layer" button once.

Mine now looks like this.

Step 11: Cutting out the form

 Select your path tool 
 Zooooom in close. I like 400%.

Start clicking on the outlines of the body. 
 There is no science to cutting things out. Hair is a pain the vaj, ngl. And Rob, well.. he just HAS to have that messy hair that is nearly impossible to extract from a photo. Thanks, Rob. Thanks a lot. Truthfully, just feel it out. Don't spend an hour going insane over one little piece of hair. Just skip it. --->

Once you get around the loop, you should have a closed outline. 

Click on your paths tab in the layers box.

Right click the "Unnamed Path" and choose "Path to Selection."

Click the little eye icon next to Unnamed Path to make it invisible. 
Go back to your Layers Tab
CTRL+I on your keyboard to invert the selection, and then DELETE on keyboard to clear it. Shift+CTRL+A to deselect.
 Your figure should now be entirely cut out.

Step 12: Move, Scale, Flip and Play

Play with the positioning and size to get the image in a nice spot.

Step 13: More Blending

 Using the same method as before, make a new layer and choose the big paintbrush again.
 Paint around the bottom of the image to make it blend in.
 Mine now looks like this.

Step 14: Colors

It looks fine right now as it is. But, since I'm being all thorough and trying to cover bases for you, lets assume this would look better with only one main color.

Make a New Layer.
Choose your paintbucket tool 
Click on the foreground color to open the color dialog.
Drag the lines around to find a nice color. I'm using purple.
Click on the image to fill it with color.

Set Layer Mode to "HUE."

Step 15: Title and Font

 Choose your Text Tool 
Click on the image and a dialog box will appear. Type in the title or text you want, and then "Close."
Play with the text settings until it suits you, and move it into a good position.

Repeat this again if you want to add something like your penname or awkwardly affectionate messages to Jackson beneath it.

Step 16: Crop Excess

There will be some white edges that we won't need and will just waste bandwidth, so we need to crop it out.

Select your crop tool and use it to drag a box around everything you want to keep.
When you're satisfied that the excess has been removed, left click once to apply it.

Step 17: Save

Shift+CTRL+S to "Save AS"
<-- Name your image and choose JPG as the extension type.

Step 18: Do happy dance!!!

And then read on to find out how to use it.

Formatting: The Devil

Think I’m being dramatic? *snorts* Okay. You’ll see.

So here’s the deal with LJ’s posting system. Just like every other WYSIWYG/RTE text editor (for those I just lost, WYSIWYG is “What You See Is What You Get” and RTE is “Rich Text Editor”) there are bugs that just screw everything up. In theory, they are so awesome that we want to marry them and have their little WYSIWYGlets. Unfortunately, they are only ideal for common editing purposes, like bold, italic, underline, insert link, insert image, etc and so on.

So, if you have your fic posted to FFn already, just go ahead and select all the text, and paste it into the "Rich Text" box in LJ. It will preserve all your formatting and all you'll have to do is add around it.

Have you ever gone to a LJ journal and seen an entry riddled with visibly foreign html code tags? That’s probably because they put trust in the WYSIWYG to not dick them over. The old adage applies: if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Don’t worry. There’s a template at the end of this post for the Lazy Ficster in all of us.

But… allow me to wax nerdy for a moment about how to use this background in a div? Thanks. [Smellyia cringes]

First, let's take a look at the LJ post screen. We want to first set it to private and paste our story text into the "Rich Text" box to retain formatting. Then post. I know, sounds weird, but trust me. Post it, and then edit it. We want private so that we can tweak it and look without others being able to view. After we're certain that our story formatting is there, edit and set it to the HTML tab. Also, always tag your fics, and uncheck the "disable auto-formatting" (refer to diagram).

Now, we will take a look at the div code:

<div style="font-size: 12 px; FONT-FAMILY: tahoma, verdana; line-height: 15px;">
<strong>Story Title:</strong> Work In Progress
<strong>Chapter:</strong> 1
<strong>Genre:</strong> Twilight - Romance/Humor
<strong>Rating:</strong> MA/NC-17
<strong>Details:</strong> AU-AH,OOC
<strong>Summary:</strong> "Bella, Edward and the gang are adults living in Seattle. B & E become close, but what's troubling Edward? Humor and some angst. Rated M for language and future lemons."

<strong>A/N:</strong> Author's Note Here
<lj-cut text="1. The Meat Sweats">
<div style="WIDTH: 900px" align="center"><div style="PADDING-left: 170px; FONT-SIZE: 13px; BACKGROUND: url( no-repeat; WIDTH: 90%; COLOR: black; LINE-HEIGHT: 18px; PADDING-TOP: 150px; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma, Verdana; TEXT-ALIGN: justify" align="left">


<div style="PADDING-LEFT: 200px; FLOAT: left; BACKGROUND-COLOR: gray; with: 50%" align="left"><a href=""><font face="trebuchet ms" color="white" size="1"><< Previous Chapter</font></a></div><div style="PADDING-RIGHT: 200px; FLOAT: right; BACKGROUND-COLOR: gray; with: 50%" align="right"><a href=""><font face="trebuchet ms" color="white" size="1">Next Chapter >></font></a></div>
<div align="left">

<strong>A/N:</strong> Ending Author's Note.

The obvious here is to replaced the highlighted text with your own fic information. But also, you'll have to tweak the padding and width depending on the header you are using. Make them smaller or larger and just post to see what it looks like. This is why we set it to private at first, of course.

Also, don't forget to link the "Next" and "Previous" chapter links to the LJ entries containing them.

Fonts and colors are also editable, so play around with those. Don't be scared. Remember, you only have to iron this out ONCE. After that, it's just cut-and-paste-city, bbs. Everytime you post a chapter, you can just copy, paste, edit the chapter title and "Next"/"Previous" links, and you're good to go. Create a notepad text file with the information in it to keep it handy.

Cool Things: Why the Hale Not?

  • Playlists - I tried to find someone to quote about this, but the truth is, I couldn't find anyone who did it. Most authors have a story playlist, but not chapter specific ones. I once thought they'd be annoying and no one would really give a flying shit that Bright Eyes influenced fifty percent of my WA characterizations, or that Iron & Wine is just perfect for the winding-down chappies, or that Angel thinks my music is emo but secretly downloads them anyways. But I have gotten a HUGE response to my new chapter-specific playlists. HUGE. I try to time the songs to the general speed of my reading, setting them up at the perfect times. This doesn't always work out, but it's nice to try.

    In the event that you do decide to try this out, remember to never set your playlist to "Autoplay." Give them the option to hear it or not. Nothing is worse than reading an update at two A.M. and suddenly having "She Fucking Hates Me" by Puddle of Mudd blaring from the same computer that you'd used earlier in the day to show off videos of your kid's school play. This story is partially based on fact. Sorry again, Rev for introducing your little boy to the word, "fucking." Though it is admittedly hilarious.

  • Archiving - Offer a complete list of all posted chapters somewhere. You can do it in a single, static post, in a link box on the side of your journal, or even on your profile page of FFn.

  • Subscriptions - If your readers ask, they can subscribe to you by going to's LJ Account Name. They can choose to subscribe based on tagged entries.

  • Illustrate Scenes - If a note suddenly appears in a chapter, maybe whip out Gimp and make a real note image to display it. Same with text messages and stained cocktail napkins. Seems interesting...

  • Banhammer and Privacy - Ever had one of those annoying flames on FF, but no way of stopping the harassment? Well, LJ lets you ban people and set things like "friends only." I mean, God, Rob. Stop commenting on my fic already, mkay? All of your sexual advances are starting to get a little uncomfortable.

I'm ending it here before Smellyia puts the smackdown on me for being wordy, but please do comment if you have questions or run into trouble with Gimp. I'll be glad to help when I can!

Thanks to araeo for allowing me to use her fic and... basically forcing her to create an LJ account.


  1. I will definitely be trying this out sometime .... tomorrow. I fucking love that you posted this tut. I was wondering how to do it, but was a bit too intimidated to just ask. You've just made my night.

  2. So, I read the article and thought "What the hell, I might as well give it a try". I downloaded GIMP and now, almost two hours later, I have just given up. I think I'll stick with photoshop, that was all way too confusing, but I think I can apply everything you did in GIMP to photoshop so it helped at least. I loved your article, it was fantastic. I really want to improve my computer skills. What I really need to learn is how to fade things so the layers merge. A task for another day, I guess. Thanks for the article!

  3. first of all props for calling her bitchface...

    second, what were we talking about?

    thanks for the tutorial, of course this is not why i have LJ issues. Yer page is totally accessible and i can find everything and know what is going on but on most others i can not figure out if the story is complete or where the chapters are etc...


  4. just-drifting-6: Here's a fantastic blending tutorial for Photoshop.

    Angel: The the Diversionary Koala works yet again. What's cuter? Koalas or Jackson?


    stolenxsanity: Don't ever be afraid to just ask! Seriously, I usually use the questions I get to decide what article topic I do.


  5. I swear the first free bit of time I have - this is what I'm going to ATTEMPT to do. This is INVALUABLE! Thanks!

  6. No need to thank me, I'm thanking you. In addition to the fact that it's just plain awesome you're using me as a guinea pig, please see reasons 1-4 in the beginning of your article (and of course, reason number 6).
    I love what you've done with it. It's really great. Thank you so much!

  7. Yay!
    I've been wanting to ask you about how you do the pretty in LJ - but haven't wanted to bother you. Now you made this amazing how-to post! Thank you!!

  8. This is awesome. I'm gonna bookmark this one, and when I have the time, try it out.

  9. Thank you sooo much for this! I need to learn how to do POV Seps but I didn't know where to begin. This will help me post my orig. fic on LJ much more professionaly...if I can figure it out. :)

  10. i commented on your facebook, but allow me to say again: I LOVE YOU FOR THIS! i'd kind of given up on pimping my fic through teh el jay but yours is so pretty and makes me so jealous and needy. (kind of like what rob and jackson do to me on the daily.)

    i am so excited to give this a shot! thanks again. :)

  11. three times, yes three times I've tried - it hurts my brain

    I'm getting better each time though so I'm not giving up - yet

    atm I'm stuck on cutting out the image: I cut round it, do ctrl l delete then shift+ctrl A part and do the path bit, click on the eye (is this still making sense?) but it just deletes the image I want and I'm left with the "outside" bit :s - do you know what I'm doing wrong?

    Thanks in advance and thank you for doing this :)

  12. (aka poeticcheese)

    I can never find any good tutorials for GIMP. Thanks, AG! This one's really, really, really helpful.

  13. littlechoo: EDIT: I see now that I'd instructed to make a new layer before pasting the Kstew photo. You should make the new layer AFTER you've pasted. I've changed it, and now the steps should work correctly.

  14. I am going to figure out how to do this sometime. . . probably sooner rather than later now that you've provided this kick ass tutorial. thanks AG!

  15. thanks for the tut! I'll have to try it out sometime.

  16. oh, also, I use playlists for each chapter. Sometimes I have people tell me they follow me just for the playlists.

    Some very... "interesting" reviewers tell me what I should do next and then what songs I should use, but that's a different story.

  17. See, I do NOTHING fancy like the above, but I've been on LJ since 2002 and far, far prefer it to ff-net. In fact, I HATE -- I mean HATE -- ff-net ... for a whole host of reasons. And yes, I've actually had an account there longer than I've had a journal, but I have never liked, it, never regarded it as anything but a tertiary back-up archive. About the only advantage I can see of ff-net is that it has an alert option. But LJ has friends lists, which is just as good in a lot of ways.

    FF-net is ugly. It allows VERY little in the way of formatting options, even if one isn't including images as I typically do in my fiction. If one does ANYthing beyond very simple paragraphs, bold, underlines and italics, it's pretty much *useless*. When I was trying to upload FINDING HIMSELF, which includes letters and quotes from news print that I have attempted to set off so they aren't confused with the narrative text, there was *no fucking way* to make any of that look decent on ff-net. And let's not even talk about the ratings issue -- or the fact the ONLY place one can include URLs is on one's profile (and dear God, do some people's profiles get absurdly long and confusing to the point it's hard to find anything).

    I can't imagine why anybody would want to read a story at ff-net when there are better options with better formatting. I will actively avoid reading anything at ff-net if I can find it elsewhere, nor will I post links to stories at ff-net unless it's not available elsewhere.

    I realize a lot of people can't afford to have a personal website archive like mine, or can't do HTML to create a website. But I am NOT an HTML maven and I've never found live journal that off-putting for archiving stories.

    There is one other thing that Live Journal offers and ff-net doesn't -- the opportunity for dialogue between the writer and multiple readers at once. FF-net allows comments, but replies are private, and signed reviews can't be removed, so if someone posts something in a review that is incorrect, or makes a "correction" on a story that is not, in fact, an error, there is no way for the author to respond publicly without doing so in the author's notes to a story ... and if the story is complete, that's not an option either. (Not to mention, I personally find really extensive author's notes -- especially at the BEGINNING of a story -- to be distracting and annoying. Put long author's notes and acknowledgements *at the end*. Yes, I know some people won't read them, but they won't read them anyway and I don't want notes so long I have to page down to get to the first line of the story.)

    Live journal permits comments that other readers can respond to, not just the author. And, in fact, LJ also has the option for anonymous comments, which can be screened (or not) as the author prefers. I really, REALLY like this option on LJ and I've had some wonderful dialogues with readers in that format, and have enjoyed watching readers interact with each other in that format, too.

    Even archives that do allow/show the author's response to reviews, don't have that option for dialogue. :-)

    Last, LJ offers the option for multi-fandom networking. Twilight fans could participate in metafandom discussions (metafandom) and multi-fandom rec lists (crack_van), meeting people who one might not otherwise meet. For instance, there is no regular reccing for Twilight on Crack_Van, possibly one of the largest multi-fandom rec journals on LJ ... despite the huge SIZE of Twilight fandom. It's not as if there aren't enough stories to rec, or people to do the reccing ... it's the fact that Twilight has isolated itself from the rest of fandom, and I find that unfortunate. A lot of institutional knowledge contained in the larger fandom community isn't known to Twilight writers, nor are some really useful resources (little_details and various other research comms, multi-fandom fic exchanges, etc.).

    So there are a LOT of reasons to make use of live journal or, if one prefers, the new Dreamwidth options, quite apart from posting stories there. :-)

  18. okay so I just spent the last three hours making ONE post of the first chapter of one of my completed stories. I won't lie, it was ridiculously hard. I think I might have screamed more than once, and there was definitely swearing. AG, are you going to give more constructive hints about formatting and/or LJing stuff? I find myself with many, many, MANY questions and wondering if this could be a weekly column?

  19. AG - you are awesome...taking the time to make that post. I'm saving it to come back later & pay close attention to see if I can get the hang of it! I know you get the awesome love quite a bit for your stories...but damn, you have mad skills with this editing. It must be hella cool to do stuff like that for a living!

  20. this post is pretty much the only reason I'm making an LJ account. I'm so excited to use the graphic I just made. Thanks so much for putting this out there, it was very easy to follow.

  21. I'm inspired to try something new... thanks for a great post. I've always wanted to try my hand at something like this.

  22. AG, thank you so much. I've been wanting to try sort out LJ for my fic, (made an account and everything!), but time and having NO knowledge meant I couldn't. I'm still having trouble, but I'm making progress. Thanks :)

  23. MUAHAHA. I used it to promote a fic I'm a BIT embarassed to put on the FF site. I used the same KStew image and a pinker version of the color, but a different texture. Thanks! I'll DEFINITELY use this more in the future...

  24. I don't use LJ, but I had a blast reading this post. I love this place (this is my first comment, I'm a shameful lurker). I've been a blogger for years and am actually afraid to try and learn LJ--it seems like it would be a real exercise of torture for my pea brain. Besides, I'm lazy.

    But I loved reading this! And the comments, too. Thanks for the post. Thanks for all of them, actually.

  25. i did it! and although it's nowhere as awesome as what you can do, i'm pretty effing proud of myself.

    thank you again!

  26. YAY! I'm so glad you guys gave it a shot! [and that i don't fail at instruction-giving]


  28. oo very helpful i love the LJ stuff =x

  29. i tried it and its wonderful!
    thanks alot!

  30. I've been pretty fucking tempted to throw my precious computer out the window on multiple occasions because I couldn't figure out GIMP.
    It now seems so simple.

  31. Thank you for posting this. I have some knowledge of coding, but I have an issue with the layouts I've been using.


    When I have an LJ cut or comments, the page retains my layout style instead of going to the traditional white page. Maybe you can see somewhere in the coding that is changing this?

    Thank you in advance. You're awesomeee. [:

  32. ^^^ disregard. *headdesk*

    It was simply an option on the customize page that I overlooked.

  33. Thanks for this great tutorial, AG! I used it to make a chapter heading for my fic on LJ (I used Photoshop because I was at work and they don't have GIMP but the principles were the same). I also made a banner using GIMP. It's not great by the standards of some of the banners out there, but it's better than nothing, and I certainly couldn't have done it without your tutorial. So thanks so much!

  34. Holy Mother of Death, I did it. I freaking did it!!!! It took for ever but I. DID. IT!

    Thanks AG, I finally understand, and it's all thanks to your great article and for araeo for taking pitty onme and helping me.

    Did I mention I freaking did it?

  35. I've been working on this for a friggin' week and still can't get my text editor to show...I know I'm technologically illiterate.

  36. Thanks this really helped. I have been playing around with it and I think I figured some stuff out! haha! Hopefully I will get better at it with time!

    Thanks again! You are the best!

  37. You. Are. God.

    You've made my night- googling fucking failed me- AG saved the day!

    xx KB

  38. I know this post is old and all, but I do have a question for you AG. So every time I open up my newly downloaded GIMP, it doesn't respond. This may be because I have windows 7, but I really don't know.

    Help, please? *looks hopeful... slightly*


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