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A few tips how to post your story here and make me read it

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  #1  
Old 12-08-2009, 12:36 PM
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Default A few tips how to post your story here and make me read it


I am just a member like you, so this is just my personal pet-peeves and suggestions when it comes to posting your stories.


(For the title):

1. Use a title.

Maybe it's just me, but when I check the Fiction-section and see titles like "First chapter of my new story", "Beginning of my story" and titles like that, I have a hard time taking you seriously. Yes, I know you are inexperienced as a writer. Yes, I know a good title is very hard to find. Yes, I know you are eager to post it here and get much needed advice.

But a temporary title isn't so hard to find. It will make it look a lot more professional, and I will be a lot more willing to read through it.

Yes, I know you have worked hard on the story, and I appreciate it. If you got me reading it, I can give you advice and critique even if the story doesn't appeal to me. I could give you tip on SPaG (that's short for SPelling and Grammar, if you don't know) and how to make it flow better, for instance. The trick is to draw me into your story in the first place.

One way to be sure I advoid it is to ask for critique in the title. It sounds silly, perhaps, but think about it. If we have twenty stories, all with titles like "critique, please", "need advice on a story" and so on, they all blend in and drown in each other. Plus, it makes you look a bit desperate.

My "perfect title formula" would be something like:

"title of story - (genre, word count)"

For example, think about this title:

"Castle Drakenherz - (dark fantasy, 600 words)"

That's it. That's all the information I need, or even want. It doesn't say anything about me. It doesn't say anything about the story, and it doesn't say anything about where it fits into the story. It simply doesn't have to.

"Castle Drakenherz" - This gives you an indication of what it will be about. A castle, logically. And in a german speaking country.

Dark fantasy - the genre, obviously. If you like dark fantasy, check it out. If not, move on to the next.

600 words - so you know it's short and won't take long to read.

I haven't asked about critique at all, don't say what I need advice on or anything like that. I don't have to. This is a forum for writers, and the main reason any of us post here in the writing-sections are because we need advice and help. You don't go to Pizza Hut and ask if they sell pizzas, do you? You don't go the hospital and ask if there are any doctors around, do you? And you don't go here asking if there are any writers around. Granted, not everone here are writers, but most of us are or try to be. But everone here are more than willing to help you with your story. Fiction, non-fiction, poem, lyrics, it doesn't matter. If you post it, we'll help you with it.

2. Give us a word count

One of my worst pet-peeves is clicking on a link to a story and get a looooong document on my screen. I sometimes still read the first part, but hardly ever finish it if it's too long. No offense, but I rather move down to the post below or above yours and hope it's shorter and easier to comment. Then again I can easily quote the entire story and leave my comments right there, in the story. That's hard to do for both of us if your story takes twenty minutes just to read.


(In the beginning of the post):

3. What is this, and why am I reading it?

So you got me to click your thread. Way to go. Now you need to make me read it. There are a few things I would like to know first. Is this a part of a longer story? If so, let me know right away. I would prefer knowing how many parts there are, but that's not necessary. And because you are still working on the story, you probably don't even know how long it will be. But if it is part of a longer story, please tell me where it is (what chapter etc) and a short summary of what have happened up until now. This should not be more than a paragraph or two, no matter how long the story is.

Also, what do you need help with? The story? Structure? SPaG? The characters? No matter what it is, I can help you as best I can, but you need to tell me first. I'm not a mind-reader.

4. What genre is this?

If I see a title like "Dark fantasy", "Romance" or something like that, I don't really care. Fantasy? Sheesh... let's move down to the next post and hope it has a better title. But that said, I do want to know what genre it is when I open the post. You have already gottne me interested, so can you keep me interested? Maybe, maybe not. If I like the genre, I will probably read it. If I don't, chances are I will still read it and comment on other things than the story. (spelling, grammar, character development etc).

5. Take those five minutes to format and spell-check your story before posting

You posted here on the forum, so I assume you used a word processor of some sort. If you did, it (usually) comes with a spell-checker. Please use it. The more spelling errors you have, the less interest I have in reading it. Also keep in mind people are reading it on a computer screen, and it can be hard for the eyes. On top of that, it's the word count that matters the most, not the actual length. Air is your friend here. Don't be shy, use air as often as you need to. After each paragraph, after each sentence in a dialogue and so on. It makes it a lot easier for us to read. Sure it might look silly if printed, but again, we are reading it on a computer screen. You are (hopefully) not posting the entire novel here either, so you need to edit it anyway when it's finished. Then you can delete the extra air and all that.

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Last edited by ChickenViking; 12-10-2009 at 09:28 AM.. Reason: Updated: Dec 10th 2009
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  #2  
Old 12-08-2009, 12:59 PM
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These are very good tips, CV! Many people tend to forget the proper spacing as well, which makes for a huge wall of text that makes the story difficult to read.

But . . . what if I bribed you? Would you read me work then? (Whoops! Arr! I'm a pirate.)

In all seriousness, these are very good tips and would make for better set ups in threads.
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:22 PM
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Thanks, Devon. I was getting a bit annoyed by the random threads that makes no sense, so I hope this guide works. And you know what they say. If you help even just one person, it was worth it.
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:42 PM
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Thanks for the heads up
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:47 PM
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If you help even just one person, it was worth it. :smile:
That's very true.
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Old 12-08-2009, 02:36 PM
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Nice one, CV.

I'll add another one: use Word, but don't copy directly from it.

Transfer your work to Wordpad first and adjust the formatting there first; or simply paste it in, but edit the formatting, as it gets lost straight from Word to post.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:13 PM
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Another way of formatting the paragraphs in word is to leave an empty line between each and then copy + paste them one at a time.

However, if you don't want to waste time doing that, I just tried copy and pasting both of these paragraphs from word into the message box. I just find that doing it the long and tedious way helps ensure that the formatting is kept.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:13 PM
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I'm definitely with you on 3 and 5, CV! 1 and 2 aren't as big of a deal to me, although, I do suppose that I may click on a thread that has those two things over one that doesn't . . . so I'd have to agree with those as well, I guess, lol!
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:28 PM
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Well, since we're on a common topic, I'll post something of the sort now.

Things That Detract From The Chance Of Your Post Getting Critiqued

1. Things like the title just above; titles that are extraordinarily long, or boring, or esoteric.
2. Don't post something a hundred pages long. Stick to the word count limit supplied by WB; it's there because that's probably the optimum limit that people will generally read and critique on.
3. Use formatting. Paragraphs, left-aligned; even in poetry, use left-align. It makes things easier for the reader and is not so annoying.
4. Spell check, grammar check... the biggest thing that is detrimental to your writing being critiqued is an immense amount of mistakes. Generally, people don't want to critique SPAG; they want to discuss your style, your writing, your content and plot.
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Old 12-08-2009, 11:50 PM
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A good title always grabs my interest (including long, and especially esoteric ones!). I don't crit much (for which you should generally be thankful) but when I do, it's always because the title has got my attention.

If, however, the great title is followed by "I wrote this quickly last night" or "just a very rough draft" or anything else that suggests the writer doesn't really give a shit about presentation, or hasn't sweated blood and shed tears over it, then I'll move right on.

I tend to skim on first read - a lefyover from editing days, when we had hundreds of subs coming in every day. Read first sentence, skim, pick out phrases, sentences that give a flavour, read last sentence. If there's nothing there to excite me, I'll move on. Life's too short.
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:25 AM
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Don't post something a hundred pages long.
Oh my goodness, yes. If it's a hundred pages of something that's dragged me in without my knowing and has held my attention throughout, then fine. But a hundred pages of SPAG error ridden, angsty stuff? Meh. Only the most dedicated will do anything lengthy with it.

Generally, people don't want to critique SPAG; they want to discuss your style, your writing, your content and plot.
Generally, perhaps. There are some real SPAG addicts out there who need to crit that way.
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Old 12-09-2009, 02:13 AM
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1. Use a title. It's good to, but the title doesn't necessarily tell you much about the story. Use one anyhow.

2. Word count. Yeah, there's a limit on the word count, but some go over it. There are times when you can't write in everything you need to complete your story and stay within the count. I never give a word count. If you scroll down my post and it looks to long-skip it-and move on to something else.

3. Who are you? Are you a personal friend of Gresham, or Irving, or any other well known author? My point is, why does that matter? The story is the thing. Over time people on this forum connect. Ether friendships are formed...or not. If we read based upon who we know and like, or whatever, then we should be asking ourselves why are we here? There's a ton of folks on this forum that I don't know the first thing about, but that in no way influences what I read. I read for the merit of the story. I'm not a fantasy or sci-fi buff, but I will take the time to read those stories. Sometimes I comment and sometimes I don't. I read them, as well as others. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Why does there always have to be a fucking agenda or some other ryder attached to the process? Ridiculous.

4. What genre it this? Read the first paragraph or two of the story. If you can't tell by then, it probably isn't worth reading further...unless you like what you are reading. Surprise.

5. Format and spell check. Absolutely.
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Old 12-09-2009, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Devon
There are some real SPAG addicts out there who need to crit that way.
Now who are those people that you may be referring to????
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Old 12-09-2009, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Gaines View Post
1. Use a title. It's good to, but the title doesn't necessarily tell you much about the story. Use one anyhow.
A title might seem unnecessary at first, but keep in mind you are only one in two dozen people who post stories here - every day. How am I supposed to know which ones are good, and which ones aren't? If you have a title to your story, it shows you have put at least some thought into it, and not, as Mike C said, wrote it quickly last night.

2. Word count. Yeah, there's a limit on the word count, but some go over it. There are times when you can't write in everything you need to complete your story and stay within the count. I never give a word count. If you scroll down my post and it looks to long-skip it-and move on to something else.
Again, as long as you stay within the word count on the forum, it's "legal" to post it. But that said, I always go for the shorter ones for two reasons. First of all, I simply don't have time to read long stories. Second, I would rather go with quality over quantity. Just because a story is longer, it doesn't make it better. Quite the contrary, it can end up being boring. A short story can risk skipping important parts or get confusing, but this is a forum. We only post fragments of the stories here. If your story is confusing, you can change it when you edit, or in the full story.

3. Who are you? Are you a personal friend of Gresham, or Irving, or any other well known author? My point is, why does that matter? The story is the thing. Over time people on this forum connect. Ether friendships are formed...or not. If we read based upon who we know and like, or whatever, then we should be asking ourselves why are we here? There's a ton of folks on this forum that I don't know the first thing about, but that in no way influences what I read. I read for the merit of the story. I'm not a fantasy or sci-fi buff, but I will take the time to read those stories. Sometimes I comment and sometimes I don't. I read them, as well as others. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Why does there always have to be a fucking agenda or some other ryder attached to the process? Ridiculous.
Yes, people who stay on a forum for some time together will start to connect. I have friends here and use the PM's a lot. I haven't had a PM from you, but I do recognize your name, as well as almost everyone else on this thread. If anyone I know posts, I get a lot more interested right away.
But if I don't know you, you could do a lot worse than let me get to know you a bit first. Like Mike C says, don't start with "I wrote this quickly last night" or "just a rough draft". That sounds unprofessional. If you are a new writer, please let us know a bit about yourself in the post. This is mainly for the first few times you post a story, though.


4. What genre it this? Read the first paragraph or two of the story. If you can't tell by then, it probably isn't worth reading further...unless you like what you are reading. Surprise.
Actually it can be very hard to tell sometimes. Genres tend to blend quite frequently. Vampires used to be horror, and then turned into drama with Lestat and those guys. Now it's mostly teenage drama with some added comedy.

5. Format and spell check. Absolutely.
Should be obvious. Even if you are a newbie writer posting your first story, always try to make it look professional.
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Old 12-09-2009, 08:21 AM
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You know when I first joined I thought about giving stories random titles to grab attention like "Ball Guardian". But I figured it would be in bad taste.

I think this is a good little guide though and I agree with most of these things. From now on I think I will try and be a little more structured seeing as how people here seem to like it.
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:00 PM
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Thank you for this.. I plan on posting my first story next week. Had no idea where to begin.. now I DO!
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:46 AM
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I took a quick look at the Fiction section, and the first titles that popped up was something like "1st draft, no title", "Looking for opinions if you like fantasy writing ", "Critique? Don't hold back" and "first attempt at writing... critique plz".

Of those four titles, only one tells me something useful. Yes, it's the fantasy one. It doesn't have a title yet, but at least he/she bothered to tell me it's fantasy.

As for the rest... meh. Sorry, but that's not good enough. This is a forum for writers. The main reason to post things here are to get help on it, so you really don't have to ask if we can give you critique and advice. That's what we are here for, after all.
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:46 AM
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Dev, I refer more to the people who want to comment on the actual story and - like me, who have a compulsion to edit - end up critiqued SPAG and don't have enough time to cover content and style.
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:48 AM
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I thought we were here to read the work and offer an honest critique.
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:05 AM
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I have updated the first post a bit. And yes, even if the story doesn't appeal to me much, I can still offer SPaG advice and suggest how to make it flow better.
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Old 12-10-2009, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by The Nordic Nincompoop :D
First of all, I simply don't have time to read long stories.
What a picky chicken - and lazy too! So do you not read novels because they are too long?


1. Titles are helpful but not necessary, and length shouldn't be a stumbling block. So long as what you put in the thread subject line grabs the reader's attention enough to make them open the thread, it's good.

2. Word counts are also helpful, but a scroll down the page will give you a good idea of length. If you're too lazy to scroll, you're probably too lazy to use the internet. I like seeing word counts, but if they are not there, I don't run away in panic.

3. Author bios are unnecessary. What is useful is to know whether it is part of a larger piece and, if so, where the posted section comes from (beginning, middle end); whether you want a detailed critique or comments on specific areas (ie style, characterisation, etc). If you want to include something about your prior writing experience (or lack of) that's fine, but not essential.

4. Where the genre is clear-cut, it can be helpful to state it but again it's not essential. Besides, it's good to read outside of your normal genres sometimes, and a bit of mystery could add spice to your reading.

5. Format is probably the most important thing. Great lumps of text without line breaks between paragraphs and dialogue will turn me off. I might still give it a go, but rarely get beyond the first few paragraphs. Into this I would include spell-checking and grammar-checking. Posting a block of text that is badly formatted and riddled with basic errors says you don't give a toss about your writing, and if you don't care, why should we?
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:06 AM
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Women. Pft. (Naw, just kidding.)

1. Titles. Yes, they are important. As you said, they need to draw us into the thread. A title like "critique plz" isn't doing it for me.

2. Word count. Yes, you can scroll down and see how far it is, but a word count takes you one second and saves me a lot of time.

3. Author bio's. I'm not asking for your life story here. Just some relevant information how long you have worked on this, what other work you have posted and so on for reference.

4. Genre. I have my favorite genres (horror, sci-fi, mysteries), so if you include those in the title, I will read it. if I have to read half the story to learn it's a romance, I will probably stop reading it and might not bother read your next story, even if it's in a different genre.

5. format. if you drawn me into your story, this is crucial. but it's not important if you don't get me to click your link and open the story.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted by ChickenViking View Post
Women. Pft. (Naw, just kidding.)
Chickens, pah.

2. Word count. Yes, you can scroll down and see how far it is, but a word count takes you one second and saves me a lot of time.
A lot of time? How long does it take you to scroll down, mate? Crikey!

3. Author bio's. I'm not asking for your life story here. Just some relevant information how long you have worked on this, what other work you have posted and so on for reference.
If you want to know what else someone has posted, a few wee clicks of the mouse will tell you. How lazy are you? Don't you realise that most of us don't want to write you a billet doux to get you to drag your beady chicken eyes over our work? Sheesh!


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Old 12-10-2009, 08:22 AM
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Yeah, I'm lazy, so sue me. Maybe I can get some sleep in the courtroom.

Scrolling down a single story doesn't take long, but what about twenty? fifty? It quickly adds up.

Yeah, maybe the bio thing was silly. It looked like a good idea at the time, though...
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:32 AM
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You are a very silly chicken. No wonder you don't get to join in any festive raiding parties.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:36 AM
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Silly? Aaaaww... thank you...

(wait... that wasn't a compliment, was it?)
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:47 AM
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I'm not picky with what I read, but some of those comments are very pertinent. I don't think that a biography is necessary, but it behoves the person posting the work for critique to at least provide some insight into how long s/he has been writing and how long they've worked on the piece in question.

I'm old-school, so spelling and grammar checks are mandatory. I won't read past the first sentence if I see a mistake. Sorry, that may sound like I'm nitpicking or being disparaging, but the reality is that if you haven't the time to check your work for mistakes, why should I bother reading it and pointing out those mistakes to you?

I have a problem with offering critiques. I happen to read very fast. In fact, some people believe I don't read at all. My tutors and college professors have taken to calling me "Mutant" because I possess a rare and priceless gift: I have an eidetic memory, coupled with the ability to photo-read. I can read a 500-page book in an hour, and retain over eighty percent of it. So, when I offer to read over people's assignments in college, they often look at me in bewilderment as I run my finger down their page and skim over their 5000-word essays in thirty seconds. The problem, however, comes from my being a grammar Nazi. I've stopped offering to read others' assignments because some have become agitated that I point out all of their mistakes. So, that's my problem with critiquing.
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  #28  
Old 12-10-2009, 09:04 AM
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Great thread, ChickenViking! I do believe in giving titles. Many of my past feedback threads were excerpts from the same (as yet untitled) work, but I gave each excerpt a title that suited it. For instance, "Fading Warmth" was about the death and funeral of an important character.

I think titles are really important because they help me decide whether to click on a thread or not. If I see something that says "The Gut-Wrenching Horror", I might click on it out of curiosity while avoiding something called "Part Three". And I don't even like horror! But it sure sounds more interesting than "Part Three".

Another thing that I caution against is titles like "The Lonesome Shepherd, part 3 of 6". Followed by more of the same with only the numbers changed. For one thing, they make me feel like I would have to read all the parts. For another, they look the same in the list of threads, so I may not click on the next installment because I don't realize it's new.

Originally Posted by Mike C View Post
If, however, the great title is followed by "I wrote this quickly last night" or "just a very rough draft" or anything else that suggests the writer doesn't really give a shit about presentation, or hasn't sweated blood and shed tears over it, then I'll move right on.
Absolutely! Why should I spend my time on it if the author hasn't? "Just something I banged out while drunk/sleep deprived/bored" = "Just something no-one will bother with".

Originally Posted by Q Wands View Post
3. Author bios are unnecessary. What is useful is to know whether it is part of a larger piece and, if so, where the posted section comes from (beginning, middle end); whether you want a detailed critique or comments on specific areas (ie style, characterisation, etc).
This is a good point, too. Specify what kind of feedback you're looking for, what you had trouble with, etc. If you've done your job with formatting, critiquers won't be suffering eye-strain or bogged down in typos, so they can focus on the things you need help with.
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  #29  
Old 12-10-2009, 09:29 AM
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I've edited the post a bit and removed the bio-part. Instead, I changed it to adding a synopsis of the earlier parts (if there are any) and so on.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:05 AM
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Here are my two nits: Stop telling me to enjoy. How presumptious. Stop telling me to be honest. How insulting.
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