I've been right where you're sitting. In fact, I got a rejection notice that covered just about everything
a few hours ago. I also know how to find help to fix the problem.
One thing to bear in mind when you have a rejection notice is that one person reads these stories every single night. The sheer amount of reading has a way of compounding human error. The editor tries her best to make sure everything is as fair and as accurate as possible, but mistakes do happen. If you think you were rejected in error or if someone else was approved in error, then by all means, send a professionally worded PM, email, or resumission of the story to Laurel. You'll get results no matter how you word it, but being professional about things is always a good way to go.
Did I follow the Writer's Guidelines for submission? These can be found by clicking here
Most writers will see this rejection notice with another reason that's a little more specific. Laurel (whom I affectionately refer to as the "Big L") says that this is usually there to give a writer a little more reference.
Could the story be developed more fully? That is, is it too short to do the plot justice? Is it under 750 words?
Literotica does not publish flash fiction and since they set the bar at 750 words, anything under that is considered flash fiction here. Sometimes you'll have more than 750 words, but you still get a rejection notice! Any author's notes, things like "the end" or "to be continued" do not count toward the total number of words in the story.
How does Lit count the words? Literotica uses the word processor count to count the words, not the publishing industry's method of counting.
The only fix is to make sure that your story is more than 750 words.
Did I check to make sure everything was spelled correctly?
Yes, Literotica rejects people for spelling errors. Yes, you can click open just about any category and find dozens of stories with spelling errors. How come some people make misspellings and others can't? Are you being singled out?
The answer is that Literotica rejects when the spelling errors are noticable. If the editor notices a pattern of bad spelling or the spelling detracts from the story significantly, the story will be rejected. If you've written using chat shorthand, such as "u" for "you", then your story will be rejected. Some bad spelling comes from trouble with homonyms. "Wont" and "won't" are both spelled correctly, but they mean very different things. Your word processor won't pick it up. If you have spelling issues, find someone else to do a quick proofread for you.
Make sure that you don't have any short-hand in your story, make sure you have swapped homonyms, and look for easily confused words such as its and its. A few commonly misspelled words: tongue, ecstasy, hers.
Were there any serious errors in punctuation or formatting (i.e. submitted in all capital letters, capitalization errors, etc.)?
Most formatting errors are of three types, according to the Big L.
The first is the lack of proper capitalization. The only place where capitalization should be relaxed is in the BDSM category where submissives are referred to in the lower case and dominants in the upper case. All other stories should follow proper sentence capitalization conventions. That means that the first word of all sentences should be capitalized. Proper names should be capitalized. The pronoun "I" should be capitalized. Nothing else in the sentence should be capitalized.
The second is the lack of spacing between punctuation or that words don't have spacing between them. The culprit is usually a copy and paste from the word processor to the form. Words bleed together and punctuation bleeds together. If you get this rejection, make sure that there is at least one space after commas, periods, question marks, exclamation points, and closing quotation marks. There should be no space between the punctuation and the word preceding it, nor should you space after an opening quotation mark.
The third is all-caps. Stories will never be posted in all caps or in all lowercase. You should follow structural convention when you write. Save your flamboyance and personality for your prose.
Make sure that your punctuation and capitalization is correct in the story that's in the webform, not in the story on your computer to fix the problem.
Was the story not broken into appropriately sized paragraphs?
What is an appropriately sized paragraph? You know for a fact that your pargraphs are grammatically fine, so what is the problem?
Literotica's take on paragraphs has more to do with the ease of reading a story on a computer screen and less to do with grammar. I have a 17" monitor that runs at a comfy 1280x1024 pixels. Huge paragraphs will fit into my computer screen. Not everyone has that. A significant portion of the readership uses a 15" monitor set at 800x600. The paragraphs they fit into the screen are much smaller than what fits on mine. You should also consider that some readers have accessibility issues and fit less text on screen than anyone else.
So what size of a paragraph? Small to medium sized. What does that look like? A good rule of thumb is to keep them smaller than 300 words. Even a 300 word (by word processor count) is a huge paragraph on a small screen.
Small paragraphs with plenty of white space in the text go a long way toward reducing reader eye-strain and raising both comfort and comprehension. Your goal is to get the reader aroused, not cause him or her difficulties.
Make sure that your paragraphs have enough white space so that the reader can comfortably read your story on smaller monitors to fix the problem.
Was there an underage (under 18 years old) sexual relationship in my story?
This is non-negotiable and has more to do with site policy than an unrealistic view that teenagers don't have sex. A character can refer sex at an early age (eg I lost my cherry at 14), but cannot describe it.
If your story comes across as pedophilia, it will probably be rejected.
Make sure that your characters are over 18 or at least a senior in high school to fix the problem.
Were there URL links, site addresses, or other advertisements within the story?
Quite simply, you may not link off-site. You may not put email address in the body of the story--yours or anyone elses. Literotica has email forms in place for your audience to reach you.
Strip out all sites, newsgroups, and email addresses to fix the problem.
The file is not one we can open, came through garbled, or the text field is blank.
Usually, it's that the file is blank. Often, it's that the uploaded file will not open. Sometimes, it's that file or text field contained garbled text or has been cut off at some point.
Make sure your original is complete and then copy and paste it again. Then click preview to review the story. Please note that preview will not always show more than two Lit pages though they are all present. Do not copy and paste pictures into the webform. If you uploaded the story, make sure your original is intact and upload it again.
The file you've sent is password protected. Please resubmit the file without a password.
Obviously, just submit the file without a password.
Please break up your dialogue. The convention is one speaker per paragraph, so whenever someone new says something, just add a paragraph. The essay "How to Make Characters Talk" in our Writer's Resources section has more information on the paragraph formatting of dialogue if you have further questions.
Carefully read the essay; it will give you the proper punctuation and formatting for dialogue. If you are still unsure, then try to find a volunteer editor to help you. If no one gets back to you in a timely fashion, you can post in the editor's forum or in the author's hangout for someone to help you. It's better if you don't post the whole story, just a few of the paragraphs with dialogue in them.
The paragraph formatting didn't come through. Sometimes this happens when you cut and paste from the word processor to the form. Please go through and format your text into the paragraphs you intended with an additional line between paragraphs so we can post this story. Thanks!
This problem is usually (but not always) generated by three sources.
The first is that a lot of authors from a txt archive will copy and paste the archived txt into the forms. This can cause problems if the division of paragraphs is either unclear or not uniform.
The second is that many writers will not use word wrap or they are using a word processor that mimics a hard return at the end of each line. Do not press the enter key at the end of a line, just at the end of the paragraph.
The third is that the author used the word processor's bells and whistles to format the document. Styles were defined, automatic indentation was used, paragraphs automatically formatted themselves, or any number of extras that a user can have the word processor do for them. These word processor codes do one of two things. They either don't carry across so all of your text will become on long paragraph or chopped up badly, or the word processor codes will make odd characters or ??? in the document.
The Big L can format the text for you quickly and easily if
the paragraphs are all marked in a uniform way. The best way to format paragraphs for posting at Literotica is to justify them all the way to the left (Lit doesn't indent for any reason) and put a space between them (like you see in the post).
Please turn off Smart Quotes (in Word) or whatever auto-formatting tool your word processor uses. Our web forms cannot read the reformatted punctuation and instead of quotation marks or apostrophes, there are question marks or odd characters. Once you've done that, do a find and replace on your quotation marks and apostrophes.
SmartQuotes and other auto-formatting tools are usually switched on by default in your word processor. They make your text look very bad when you cut and paste them into the form. In some instances, even if you upload the document, these word processor codes can change all quotation marks and apostrophes to questions marks or wingdings when the editor transfers your story to the web.
The best thing to do is to just not write your story for Literotica with any of your word processor's bells and whistles turned on.
This story has multiple punctuation and grammar errors which will keep readers from enjoying what you're trying to tell them. We strongly recommend you read the essay "Guide for Amateur Writers of Erotica" in the Writer's Resource section (link below) and apply the rules listed there to your writing.
There's no polite way of putting this. Your story is a technical mess. The editor is not saying your story is bad; the editor is saying that you need some help to make it more readable. There's a difference between bad writing and bad mechanics. The best thing to do in this instance is to find a volunteer editor to help you with the mechanics: grammar, spelling, punctuation, and paragraph formatting.
Please fix the formatting of your punctuation. Generally, the rule is to have no spaces before most punctuation (periods, commas, exclamation points, etc.), and one space after them. Please read the essay "How to Punctuate Like a Pro" in the Writer's Resource section (link below) for more complete instructions.
The problem here is relatively easy to fix, but it's too widespread to be ignored. There appear to be three primary culprits in this instance--though they are by no means the only
problems that will net this rejection notice.
The first is when dialogue is punctuated as follows or partially as follows: " Hello! " This is wrong. There is no space between the open and close quotation marks and the words and punctuation they surround. It's just a question of going through and removing extra spaces. If you're clever about these things, find and replace can do a lot of it for you.
The second is when you've got the quotation marks and the other punctuation mixed up. For example: "Hello", he said. This is also wrong. The other punctuation goes inside of the dialogue. If you have anything there but a comma, you do not add an extra one.
The last is when you've got improper spacing. This can be the fault of a word processor rather than your own. If this is the case for you, make your corrections in the web form. Examples of improper spacing: carrots,tomatoes,and celery or carrots ,tomatoes ,and celery or He waved.She waved back.They smiled. The punctuation has no spacing after the word it follows and one space between the punctuation and the word that follows it.
Please use ending punctuation with all of your dialogue. See the essay "How to Make Characters Talk" or "How to Punctuate Like a Pro" in our Writer's Resources section if you have further questions.
The culprit is usually missing commas. Whenever you have dialogue that does not end the sentence, you must put a comma before the the closing quotation mark. It is not: "Hello" he said. It's "Hello," he said. I understand that people frequently leave out periods, as well. If you have a piece of dialogue that stands alone, always end it with punctuation of some sort. "Hello!" or "Hello?" or "Hello." Don't just leave it hanging.
Was there excessive violence, snuff, or abuse of characters in your story?
Your story was too extreme for our guidelines. These judgments are subjective, and thus we can't give an exact definition of what exactly is "too much". Certain "violence" in a BDSM situation between consenting adults may be allowed, while the same "violence" between strangers in a non-consentual situation will not. Tone and respect for characters, as well as the "violent" scene within the context of the story, are what we make our judgments upon. If your story is rejected for this, feel free to send the story back with a polite request for an explanation and we will tell you why it was rejected. If you disagree with our assessment, you are more than welcome to publish your story elsewhere rather than alter it to our guidelines. We respect your rights as authors to write on whatever you like, however you like.
Added by Laurel for clarification:
While we do accept submissions with graphic violence, we don't accept "snuff" - i.e. death & extreme torture with the aim of sexual titillation. We generally do not accept submissions of nonconsensual sex in which the "victim" gets absolutely no sort of thrill or enjoyment from the acts, or is seriously and /or permanently physically harmed/abused.
Some helpful links.
Volunteer Editor's Program
Frequently Asked Questions
I'm sure that there are more rejections out there. These are the common ones that I've been made aware of and the fixes that go along with them.
If you have any questions or comments, please, feel free to post them or PM me.