Like everyone who writes for the Times, I can count on a steady trickle of questions
about writing, and getting things into the Neopian Times. Starting from that,
I've since decided to expand this FAQ to other areas that... well, read and find
NT Index Site Questions:
Q. How long did it take to create the database?
A. Approximately six to eight weeks to catch up with all of the past issues. Currently I would have to update at least once a week to include new issues as they are published, but I usually do 4 or 5 at once.
Q. If I notice a mistake in the database, should I notify you?
A. By all means! Send me an email giving me the exact details of the problem(s) you notice. There's no guarantee of when I'll get them fixed, but I truly do want to know about any mistakes!
IMPORTANT NOTE: All of the information about submission emails is obsolete. You can go to
the submission form by clicking here
Q. Where do I send in my story?
A. Email all stories and comics to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. What do I need to put in the body of my email?
A. Besides your story, the only information you must include is your username. The best way that I have heard suggested, though, goes as follows: in the subject of your message put "Title", an [type of piece] by [your username]. For example: "Kallisari Cleans Up", a series by Scriptfox. In the body of the message, include a sentence or two describing your main plot and thank them for their time.
Q. Do I paste the text of my story into the body of the email, or should I just do a file attachment?
A. Either way works. I personally prefer file attachments.
Q. What format should it be in?
A.A text only file would be your best guarantee. Since Josh asked users to include the <p> tags between paragraphs, I use the 'save as html' option on my word processor and send him the resulting htm file. I have also submitted both a "rich text format" (.rtf) file and a .doc file created by Wordpad. Most common word processing formats will probably work, but it's best not to press your luck.
Q. How long should an article, short story, or series chapter be, on the average?
A. Personally, I usually do about 2,000 words per piece, but that's long. A better size for most people would be 1,000 to 1,500 words.
Q. I'm working on a series, do I send it in all at once or what?
A. You must send all of the episodes of your series in as a single submission.
Q. Do I put my series episodes in one file or do I have to split them up?
A. Again, either way would most likely work. If you did it all in one file, you would need to make sure that you clearly mark where the chapters begin and end. I personally like to break it up into multiple files. They're going to have to split them up anyway, so if you can do that much work for them, it's just that much time saved. I also zip them into a single file, although attaching them as multiple file attachments will work as well.
Q. Should I send in a Picture with my Article/Story/Series?
A.You can opt to send in a picture, although the Neopian Times will often come up with one of their own that's appropriate to the content of the article should you not have one attached.
Q. What are the comic requirements?
A. Judging by what comic writers have told me and what I observe of actually published comics, the technical specifications are as follows: it should be one file (picture) in either gif or jpg format. Don't go beyond 450 pixels in width, and use as much height as needed. The file size will most likely be anywhere from 30 to 100 kilobytes.
Q. My submission didn't get in. What now?
A. Go back and re-read it. See if you can improve it in any way. Give them two or three weeks- sometimes a current issue will be full and they will save it for a later one. After about three weeks, feel free to resubmit.
Q. If you are writing a submission and you mention one of the neopets team members in it. Do you use their alias name or their real name? e.g Josh Filan, Mr. Shankly.
A.Either way you like! There is no hard and fast rule about this. In general, it depends on the context. If it is a fictional context, then use their alias. If you're writing an article, or other 'non fiction' reference, then using their real name is more plausible, though not required.
Q. What kind of stories does the Neopets team like?
A. First, a lot of it is style. Make sure you don't have any spelling errors, that you use good grammar, etc...
Second, the plot itself can have any number of themes. High points are
awarded to "original" ideas... a lot of the Times submissions are "Action" or "adventure" stuff.
If you can come up with some nice plots that are based more on characters or
things in Neopia that don't need to have "wild life-threatening danger",
then you're more likely to catch the editor's eye. The flip side to it is that plagiarizing someone else's work is sure to NOT get in and maybe get you in trouble.
Third, don't include "adult" material. Sex, suicide, etc... are just plain
no-nos. Even terms such as "death" "kill" "die" etc... should be avoided. It should also go without saying that anything that you can't post on a chat board is unlikely to get into the Neopian Times.
Summary: The only thing you MUST do is send your submission to the right email address, and include your username with your submission. Everything else mentioned and recommended here is said solely to make it easier on the editor. Making it easier for him makes it more likely you will get in!
General Writing and Neopian Times Questions:
Q. Who is Mr. Shankly, and why does everyone keep talking about him?
A. Mr. Shankly is the name given to Josh Filan, who was the editor of the Neopian Times.
Q. What is the best way to write a fan letter to an author/artist?
A. I could probably go on all day about this one! But I'll try to be brief. (ha!)
First, I am assuming you mean neomail. Since that is limited to 1400 characters you must be brief. This is
a good thing since you should anyway! I recommend no more than three to five sentences- enough to get in what you
want to say without taking up too much of your target's time.
Second, put yourself in their shoes. What would you think if you got a letter like this?
Third, make sure you use good spelling and grammar- particularly if you're writing to a good author. These
are people who have the skill to write well, and who are not going to be impressed with "grate stori d00d".
Even assuming you are totally sincere, your letter is more likely to get a laugh than any sort of serious consideration.
Fourth, do you want a response back? If so, the best way is to include a question about what they have written. There
is one very important thing about this: your question MUST show that you have taken time and thought in actually reading
what they wrote. If the answer to your question is- or should be- obvious, or even worse, if the answer is three paragraphs
into the story, you either won't get a response or might get one you don't care for.
Fifth, I am assuming you want to be complimentary. When you compliment them, make sure it comes across as a sincere and considered
judgement, not as obvious flattery or a shallow whim. One thing you have working for you at this point is that
authors and artists are like everyone else- they like to be complimented!
Sixth, if you want to criticize something that they wrote, be sure to leave out inflammatory, emotion-based, words.
Make sure you include the logical substance of your concern, and if possible, bring up an alternative to what you are
criticizing. Simply saying something is wrong doesn't go over nearly as well as saying "this doesn't seem right, why didn't you
do such and such instead?"
Seventh, do not feel obligated to explicitly introduce yourself, or feel the need to pull out some sort of "credentials"
"Hi, my name is Owen, and I've been writing too since seventh grade...." remember, the subject is THEM and not YOU. All
they expect of you is that you act in a responsible and thoughtful (and complimentary!) way. They will make their own judgments
of your possible credentials simply from the way you write, and what you say on other topics- namely, them!
Q. I'm having trouble coming up with names for my characters. What should I do?
A. Two approaches, actually. Do you want it to mean something or not? If you do, then deliberately pick a name that is the same (or similar) to someone (or something) that your character is.
For instance, in Snow Job, I made the villian "Bloriarity". I don't know how many caught it, but that was a pun (or variation) on Sherlock Holmes' arch-villian "Moriarity". (the Bl meaning Blumaroo).
You might try hunting online for naming sites, where they tell what certain names mean. Then use those names- or again, variations on them- for your own works.
Another twist on this is to use foreign languages. "MonoKeras", for instance, has Latin and Greek roots. A foreign language dictionary
or even a translation site on the web could come in handy.
The other option is to make them what I would call "English nonsense". Simply start pronouncing vowels and consonants until you get something that sounds fairly coherent and use it. If you want to automate that process, try writing a lot of syllables "lul" "byl" "cur" "ren" "tre" etc etc on cards, then do a physical mix and match to come up with possible combinations and ideas.
Q. How many times have you given up on an submission?
A. In the past, there were several times I had to send a piece in more than once before it was published. Lately, the last three pieces I sent in were all unpublished, so I'm currently focusing on other projects.
Q. Where do you personally get your inspiration for articles?
A. No big secret about that at all!
You get it from current news and from playing the site. Most articles fall into one
of two categories: explanations of a current event (a new game, or world for example),
or opinions about general life on the Neopets site. If you find yourself passionately
discussing something that's happening on Neopets, you may well have an article idea.
Q. Who was the first person published in the neopian times?
A. The first issue of the Neopian Times is not linked to on the Neopets site,
nor is it in my index. (That holds true for the first 22 issues.) However, it contained three stories:
"Part 1 of Chewsa's Adventures", by Kendra
"Tuskaninny", by Ashileee
"Evil around the Boulder", by Shirley Feeney
As you can see, user names were not always used in the first few issues, so whether the Neopets User "Kendra" wrote Chewsa's adventures is not certain.
General Neopets Questions:
Q. Why are these BIG words like LAB RAY - or MERIDELL - at the start of articles???
A. That's something that Josh started in Issue 42. I suppose it's his wacky sense of humor! It's something that you sometimes see in a regular newspaper article- the bold first word at the beginning is the place the article was filed from. e.g.
Washington D.C.- Congress took up debate today on.... blah blah blah
He apparently decided to have the articles in the Neopian Times "filed" from various places. The idea is for you to have a mental image of the author being in that place as they wrote and sent in the article.
Q. Where is the Lab Ray?
A. First, you have to collect all nine pieces of the secret laboratory map. They're items, bought in the stores, at auction, trading post, etc... After you have all NINE pieces, then go to
http://www.neopets.com/games/treasure.phtml?type=lab to claim your prize and enter the lab. You can go back there again to enter the lab again, or do what I did and once you get into the lab just bookmark it so you can go straight there in the future. The lab map pieces will disappear when you first claim your prize, but you'll always have access to the lab afterwards.