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ID: 7767


March 18, 2014, 9:04 am

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Cheka Man

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Valadaars First Submission Advice


The author's quips and comments on making the most of your first submission

I have been on a quest to at least vote on all submissions on the Citadel, and while I have not yet completed this quest, and perhaps never will, I have seen patterns. The following are suggestions on what to avoid or at least keep in mind.

First suggestion, not mine, but I whole-heartedly agree with LongSpeaks' comment:

Just Do It!!!!

For some people, making that first submission can be daunting. Having people looking over and judging your work can cause anxiety, which might keep you from posting it.

Just Do It! Ignore the voice that says no, and share your ideas. Don't be afraid of honest criticism. Follow all the other advice to make it the best you can, but remember the old saying "Perfect is the enemy of Good." Do your best and then GET THAT SUB OUT THERE!

- Longspeak


Take some time

There is no need to rush. Take a bit of time to form a coherent idea. Some of the least-best received submissions were the result of too little time taken to complete the sub. If you do not take the effort to write it, how can you expect people to take effort to read it?


I’ve seen subs where lots of text details things which are abundantly clear, covered by virtually all gaming systems, or are obvious consequences for actions. While not that harmful, they cause a sub to drag on, and can seem condescending.

Gandalf’s Staff/Drizzit’s anything, Sting

Google your title. Google your main NPC’s name. Google your main place name. Just check to see how well used the name is, or if it has potential embarrassing connotations you might not want to associate with.

Elric’s Sword/Vampiric Weapons

Essentially any magic weapon that draws power from killing people. This has been quite overdone and really rewards you for using something you would have done anyway.

Keep it Cool

What is the purpose of your sub? Can you see it being used in a game? Would you enjoy it? Others? If not, you may want to think about how you can make it so.


Perhaps it is laziness - killing off ones family keeps you from having to detail them, or to provide a motivation - revenge for killing one’s family/village/nation, or to remove a potential lever for your GM to use. Stop it! These are useful - families provide resources as well as plot hooks. Stop wasting this with ‘They were killed by orc raiders. Now I hate orcs..’ Realistic, perhaps, but oh so overdone. Yes, I know Disney has made a fortune with this formula...

Superman/Mary Sue

Many, many first characters are badass to the point of ridiculous, being superman without the kryptonite. A form of wish fulfilment, and perhaps fun to play - like turning on God Mode in Grand Theft Auto. If your character is a challenge for demigods or better, then it may need to be turned down a notch to be more generally usable.

Unexplained Skill

While there is some debate about how ‘natural’ inborn talent is, outside of fiction your 14 year old is not going to suddenly become an archmage unless he’s possessed by some wizard/demon/god or the like, in which case you are not really a 14 year old any more. Ability is created from talent, drive, training and experience unless you start applying some serious magic to short cut things. Again, this is a form of wish-fulfilment that seems common with anime-inspired submissions.

Magically Naive People of Power

Just as kings and the like have food tasters, so will they have people to test magical ‘gifts’ for them. If cursed items are common past the point of being fairly tales, any ruler with two brain cells will have some level of protection against cursed gifts. I’m not saying that you can’t get them cursed, but it's unlikely they’ll put on some ring or crown handed to them by a stranger.

But its not magic

If you can’t make it using the current laws of physics, it is magic. “The sword is not magic, but ...”. It is magic.

It is magic, but you can’t detect it

Undetectable magic is VERY POWERFUL magic and should be treated accordingly. Items that Joe the mage cooks up over the weekend on a whim should not have this property.

Self-named Characters

Basically when you create a character the same as your strolen’s handle. Personally, I find this rather cheesy, and they are virtually all supermen/Mary Sue's. Think twice at least. I have yet to see this done well.

Zero-effort Origins

If you are going to spend time mentioning an origin at all, don’t waste text on saying the origin is unknown. Joe mage whipping it up over the weekend because someone asked is not worth the text.

Formatting & Structure

One area where I focus a fair amount of attention on my own subs is formatting. I’m not saying that my formats are the best, but that some attention should be given in this area.

A couple of points:


Many other submissions on submissions mention this. They do for a reason. Spellcheck is very easy to do, with most browsers supporting it in place, or a quick copy/paste into google docs otherwise. Very high bang for your buck on getting good scores.

Obvious spelling errors cause readers to slow down and other shortcomings become more noticeable, even if the readers do not deduct scores for the typos themselves. This may be a good thing, but keep this in mind.


Paragraphs help in readability. If you have more than 10 lines without a break, the readability of your sub is reduced and you have a greater chance of your reader just saying ‘naah, too long’ and moving on.


These help organize your submission and break up text - which again helps with readability. Use good names for sections that draw interest. Readability increases the chances of comments and votes!


Keep your subs concise - if you can keep it tight while still providing everything you want, this will help in drawing readers and hopefully votes and comments. One oft repeated quote (paraphrased) is that a work of writing should contain no unnecessary words just like an engine should contain no unnecessary parts. I would shoot for 1000 words - this article is quite close to that word count.


For me, these are a distraction that makes it hard for me to properly read a submission and nudges me away to shorter, easier to read submissions. Rather than attempt a technical breakdown of what is and what is not a run on sentence, Moonhunter’s advice to read aloud one’s submission will greatly assist in showing where your sentences could use rework.

Additional Ideas (1)

A suggestion to put before all others, in my admittedly not very humble opinion:

Just Do It!!!!
For some people, making that first submission can be daunting. Having people looking over and judging your work can cause anxiety, which might keep you from posting it.

Just Do It! Ignore the voice that says no, and share your ideas. Don't be afraid of honest criticism. Follow all the other advice to make it the best you can, but remember the old saying "Perfect is the enemy of Good." Do your best and then GET THAT SUB OUT THERE!

2014-03-12 01:26 PM » Link: [7767#90696|text]
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Comments ( 20 )
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March 11, 2014, 13:25

It must be said that this has been in my work folder for a very, very long time and is not in response to any recent submissions.

Also, Moonhunter has a wide range of excellent advice columns you can peruse, especially if you are seeking the Golden Standard.

These are also my own Opinions, not hard and fast rules, and come from my observations looking at thousands of submissions.

March 11, 2014, 15:47
"not that harmful, they cause a sub to drag on, and can seem condescending"

Welcome to the dark side buddy!
Voted Dozus
March 11, 2014, 16:10
This is good starter advice. The content suggestions aren't bad, though as you say it's hard to set iron-clad rules for content. A first-time poster would do well to follow this advice.

I'm almost taking the "Self-named Characters" issue as a challenge, since Dozus was one of my first fantasy RP character, but on further review I remember he's a Drizzt clone and better left unspoken of.
March 12, 2014, 13:13
"I'm almost taking the "Self-named Characters" issue as a challenge..."

That's exactly what ran through my head. I've never considered a self-named character before, and now I wanna try making one. :P
Voted Scrasamax
March 11, 2014, 16:16
Solid advice and well presented.
Voted Stork
March 11, 2014, 20:18
This is another that should almost be required reading. These are simple things to do and Valadaar gives excellent reasons behind each one.

Well done!
March 12, 2014, 13:26
Good thoughts. I've added one of my own.
Voted Murometz
March 13, 2014, 11:50
Good, solid points across the board. These tips can only be helpful to first-time posters, even if a few can be debated.
March 13, 2014, 12:03
Update: Fixed some formatting in the section on ....formatting.
June 13, 2016, 17:29
Why does that strike me as hilarious, when you put it that way.

While I never had the chance to read the original text, before you changed it.

Of course, the format is particularly important when you are making a point on it.
March 18, 2014, 9:06
Incorporated Longspeak's addition into the main text - thanks Longspeak!

If anyone else wants to sound off on things to avoid on your first sub, feel free to add em!
March 18, 2014, 11:04
I smell a potential "comment of the year" here, Ls. :)
Voted Kassy
April 11, 2014, 12:26

Brilliant advice, and not just for starters.

April 11, 2014, 12:49

Edit Reposted Orginal comment:

I agree with the basic sentiments "of putting as much or more effort as you would like readers to put into understanding it". And I also think the notes you have made about formatting are really helpful. I also like that you put Longspeak's encouraging not at the beginning. But it makes really sad that you wrote this at all. You state at the beginning that this is what you have learned about the Citadel based on all your readings. What you learned was a list of things not to do and a list of things not to write about. All this time among the Citadel community and the only advice you choose to give is sticks and not carrots. What has the citadel done to you to make you so bitter? Are we that awful? Are we that biased? Do the scores matter that much? The scores shouldn't matter right? Are they a just a bit of social currency to make the Citadel more interactive or they genuine judgement of you as writer or thinker. By saying that these are things you shouldn't write about to achieve success at the citadel you are placing the "game of the citadel" above the voice of the author. Shouldn't we give every author and idea a chance? I am not saying everything is good or everything is worthwhile or we shouldn't be critical. I am saying let us keep an open mind and, once again, it is depressing that you had only negative advice. What is more shocking and sad is that everyone here loves this. People love a list of things they hate.

But I surrender on this point though. It is the internet and we are playing a game with nerfed consequences. If this 'content club' is what you want the Citadel to be then that is what it is. The community can use the scoring system to enforce the norms. I recognize that I may be attacked for voicing descent, and I accept that. Finally, I think the best advice you give somebody who wants to "succeed" at the scores is that they have to play the social game of the Citadel. If you want higher average scores get people to vote for 'you' and not your content.

January 28, 2016, 15:26
As mentioned at the start of the submission, these are quips and comments. If you consider those to be Conclusions, you are going to be disappointed.

If my summary was "Rules for 1st time posters" or something like that, you would be correct in your assessment.

And, I'm happy to debate any of these points :)

January 29, 2016, 1:42

Edit to add: My strong disagreement below was with Axle's ORIGINAL comment, not the... altered version.

I strongly disagree with Axle's opinion. Pretty much every word of it. Except the bit at the end, which I could not parse well enough to agree or disagree with. I thought so at the time, and instead of responding, I just added my vote.

Your advice, which I took to be aimed at inexperienced writers, is all great advice about things new writers should avoid, or at best tread very lightly around. Of course it's *possible* to make an interesting piece using one or more of those cliches, but it's much more difficult.

I voted this a 5/5 at the time, and I stand by that. It's great, useful advice for an inexperienced writer considering his first work. And anyone who says otherwise probably has a sub in-work about an orphan character named after himself with mysterious, unexplained abilities and a cool "not magic" weapon that devours souls. :P

June 13, 2016, 23:35
Using cliché is a chalenge, but probbaly left to the more experienced and knowledged wrighters.

I also enjoy when you stand by your original asseement.
Voted Longspeak
April 11, 2014, 12:57
Only voted
Voted axlerowes
January 29, 2016, 16:07

I changed my vote to a 5 on this to try and placate Longspeak who asserts that anyone that doesn't agree with him is an idiot. I am sorry you got so angry. I hope the 5 makes you feel better or least encourages you to engage in a repsectful back forth instead of insults. But as I revisit this in 2017, am I the only one that sees the attitude of this post as unwelcoming. When I read this it is like reading a formalized version of the critiques this following post got

Voted Cheka Man
June 13, 2016, 19:03
This is very useful for all new writers on this site. 5/5
June 13, 2016, 23:36
I have to agree, this is good advice.

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