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Rules for Challenges

Frequently Asked Questions


Why should I donate?

Well - you like the site, right? TtH is popular enough that it requires a dedicated server and we must pay for the rental/hosting of this machine and for the bandwidth consumed. If the donations dry up, no more site.

In return for their support we offer donors a few perks:

  • Donors get a donation icon in front of their penname throughout the site.
  • The "50% of your stories must be crossovers" rule does not apply. You can post as many non-crossover stories as you as long as you post at least one crossover, and the other stories comply with all other rules of the site.
How long does a donation stay 'Current'?

Donors are classified as 'Current', 'Recent' or 'Past' based on the date of the last donation. All donors remain current for at least 1 year; the time it takes for a donation to be reclassified varies depending on the amount donated.

I can't register

The following are the most common problems in registering new accounts:

  • You are blocking cookies from our site. Normally, the registration error message will say when this is the problem.
  • Your first attempt to register failed, and you are seeing an old anti-spam image from your cache or a proxy server. The anti-spam image should change every time you visit the register page. If you see the same letters twice, try pressing Ctrl-Shift-Refresh to get a new image before registering.
  • You are using a device such as a screen reader that prevents you from reading the anti-spam message. If this is the case, use the contact us link and we will create an account for you.
My account has been deleted - why?

We periodically clean up unused user accounts by removing any users that meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Not logged in for 6 months
  2. Never posted a story
  3. Never reviewed a story
  4. Never issued a challenge
  5. Not recommending any stories
  6. Never voted in the Crossing over awards
What if I want to delete my account?

There is currently no delete account function; storyline did not come with one, and we haven't got around to adding this feature. Do not email the moderators, as they can't do it either. The situation explained above is the only scenario in which accounts are removed. If you no longer want to be member of the site, you can delete your stories and challenges, then change you penname.

Reading Stories

When I go to the latest page, the story at the top is a few days old.

Assuming the site hasn't suddenly become so unpopular we don't get at least one story updated per day, you have chosen to sort the stories by something other than date. Change the sort order drop down back to date descending to see the latest page the way you expect it to be.

What do all the icons mean?

There are a number of icons displayed next to each story. The large icon on the left indicates the type of work (Story, Ficlet, Fan Art, Poetry). Additionally, if you are logged in, this is overlayed with a tick, cross or star to indicate the tracking status of the story:

  • A tick means you are tracking the story and have read all chapters posted.
  • A star means you are tracking the story and have not read all chapters. In some skins these stories are also highlighted in a different background colour.
  • A cross means you are not tracking the story.

The icons to the right of the story title appear if particular flags have been set for the story such as non-crossover, comedy, romance, etc.

If you hover over any icon, the tool tip will display its meaning.

I can't get to the browser context menu when right clicking on a story title.

When you right click on a story title, a menu of possible chapters appears. If you want to reach the browser's context menu, you can right click again on any of the items in the chapters menu.

If your goal is to open the story in a new tab, a quicker way is to middle click on the story title (if you have a middle mouse button), or to hold down the control key whilst left clicking. On some touchscreen mobile devices you can open a page in a new tab by holding down your finger on the link.

What does it mean in the profiles when it says "Under moderator archival"?

In the early days of the site, sometimes the moderators uploaded fics to an account on behalf of the author. When you see an account labelled with "Moderator Archival" it means that one of the moderators was the one to create the account and upload the fic.

What is story tracking?

Tracking a story means the site will record the last chapter of the story that you have read. If the author posts more chapters in the future:

  • The story will be highlighted in all story lists until you read the new chapters.
  • The story will remain on the latest page longer than usual.
  • Clicking on the story name will take you to the first chapter that you have not read rather than to chapter 1.

You can also opt to receive email alerts when a tracked story is updated, and to automatically start tracking any new stories from the same author.

What is the "First New Chapter" / "Last Old Chapter"?

If you are not tracking a multi-chapter story, you will see "First New Chapter" and "Last Old Chapter" on the context menu that pops up when you click the drop-down icon next to the story title. The "first new chapter" is the oldest chapter that was posted within 12 hours of the last chapter. By using this option instead of "Last chapter", you can ensure you don't accidentally miss a chapter if the author posts serveral chapters in one go.

The "Last Old Chapter" is the one that preceeds the "First New Chapter". It is useful if you like to catch up on how the last chapter ended before reading a new one.

If you are tracking the story, these options are replaced with "First Unread Chapter" and "Last Read Chapter".

How are hits counted?

Originally we simply counted the hits to the first chapter of a story. Whilst a true count of the "hits" it over-stated the actual number of people reading the story, particularly for multi-chapter stories. Around Christmas 2005, we introduced a more complex algorithm to estimate the actual number of chapters read, so for example repeatedly refreshing the same chapter won't increase the number of hits, whereas following a link from an email directly to chapter 5 would. We also began discounting hits from the author and from known robots such as Google & Yahoo's bots indexing the site.

In July 2006 this was further refined by allowing stories to be cached in the reader's temporary Internet files, so if you read a chapter and come back the next day to read it again, as long as your machine hasn't run out of space in temporary Internet files, the second visit will not count as a hit as the story is not downloaded from the server a second time. This also reduces our bandwidth usage.

The net effect of all this is that stories today will seem to receive fewer hits than they did between January & July 2006, and fewer still hits than they did before January 2006. However, the figures for today's stories are a far more accurate reflection of the number of readers, and rest assured the average readership of newly posted stories is increasing, not decreasing. If you want to (very) roughly approximate the true number of readers for older stories, reduce the hits before Christmas 2006 by 40%, and the number between then and the end of July 2006 by 25%.

I just read a story and the hits did not increase

The statistics for number of hits, reviews, recommendations and people tracking each story are only updated every 20 minutes so the hit counter may not increase immediately after you read the story. Also if you have already read the story, your second hit may not be counted.

Why are the statistics on graphs sometimes too low?

Most graphs and pie charts on the site use data that is only collected once a day around midnight. Therefore any increases today won't show in the graphs until tomorrow. Graphs are only available for new stories once they are two days old. The exception to this rule is the crossover ratio pie charts on an author's profile - these are always up-to-date.

How do I use keyword search?

See the Search Tips Page for details of how to use the search functions.

The number of stories is wrong when browsing categories

When you are browsing the category pages it shows the number of stories in each child category at or below your chosen rating in brackets to the right of the category name. However, if in your profile you have chosen to exclude stories with certain tags (e.g. no slash stories), these stories are not deducted from the count, and the count will be higher than the number of stories you actually see inside the category.

This is because it would slow the site down to actually count the stories according to your particular choice of filters each time you view the page, whereas if we only use the maximum rating, we can pre-calculate the counts for each category.

When a fandom occurs in two categories, how do you decide which way the aliases go?

When a fandom is, for example, both a book and a movie, we have to decide whether to create a subcategory inside Literature and then create an alias inside Movies to point toward it, or vice versa. There is no fixed policy on how this is done, although often we will tend to put the real sub-category inside the smaller parent category and the alias in the larger parent.

One thing that is not a consideration is which one is the original medium for the fandom; the aliases are not intended to show provenance, only to help readers find stories.

How many recommendations can I make?

You can make 10 recommendations, plus one for every month in which you have left a review. If you try to make a recommendation when you have reached your limit, you will be warned and given the option to replace one of the stories already in your recommendations list.

Recommendations are limited so that they hold more 'value' than a high rating in a review, and to increase the accuracy of the storie suggested on the related stories page.

Can I hide all stories by a particular author? No. You can hide individual stories, but not an author's entire present and future work. The purpose of hiding is to remove stories that look interesting in the summary, but turn out not to be after a few chapters, so that you don't waste time starting to read them again at a later date; it is not intended that you hide every story you don't want to read.

Posting Stories

Are slash or FR21 fics allowed?

Yes, but please label them with the proper ratings and put warnings on the slash fics for those that do not wish to read slash.

What if my fic fits into more than one category?

Do not upload the same story more than once.

You can choose secondary categories when adding your story, or when editing the details of an existing story. However, you should only add secondary categories if your story really does feature significant crossovers with another fandom. We do not, for example, want to find a Stargate story with Harry Potter as a secondary category because Dumbledore makes a brief guest appearance in Chapter 30. Here are some more examples of when to and when not to use this feature:

  • If you are writing a BtVS / Stargate crossover story that features characters from Firefly in a significant portion of the story, put it in Stargate General as the primary category and add Firefly General as a secondary category.
  • If you are writing a Supernatural / Highlander crossover that does not involve BtVS, put it in Supernatural Non BtVS/Angel fics as the primary category and Highlander Non BtVS/Angel fics as the secondary category or vice-versa.
  • If you are writing a story or series of drabbles where every chapter is a different crossover, put it in Multiple crossovers and do not add secondary categories.
  • If you are posting the first 3 chapters of a Roswell / BtVS Crossover that you know will become a Roswell / Smallville / BtVS crossover in chapter 10, only put it in the Roswell category when you first post it, and then add Smallville as a secondary category when you actually post chapter 10. You may wish to consider posting such a story as a series with chapters 1-9 and 10 onwards as separate stories. Whether or not you should do so depends upon whether the two halves could be read independently.
  • If you are writing a Harry Potter story where a Willow pairing and a Buffy pairing are both central to the story, you can add it to more than one sub-category of Harry Potter, but you should only do this when multiple pairings are the central focus of your story; do not add it to every sub-category for every pairing that appears in the story.

The general guideline is only add a secondary category if people who just read stories in the second fandom would want to read your whole story.

There is no category for the Movie / TV Show / Comic / Book I am crossing over with. How do I get one created?

Post your story to the appropriate "Other" sub-category. Every now and then moderators check the "Other" categories and move fics to new categories if deemed necessary.

What if my fic crosses over more than one fandom but does not crossover with BtVS/Angel?

For the purposes of the site rules, such stories are counted as Non-Crossovers. Therefore you should first check that posting the story will comply with Rule 8. If so, you should tick the non-crossover checkbox when posting.

You can either post in the Multiple Crossovers -> Non BtVS/AtS Stories category if you crossover with many fandoms, or post in the category for where your story is mostly set, and add the other crossovers as secondary categories.

How do I format my story?

Formatting is achived using a subset of HTML. The following tags can be used to format your story:

  • To make something bold surround it with <b> and </b> tags.
  • To make something appear in italics surround it with <i> and </i> tags.
  • To center a line on the page, enclose it between <center> and </center> tags.
  • To add a separator between sections of a chapter add a row of --------'s, or an <hr/> tag.

You may also use <a> and <img> tags as explained below.

How do I add links to my story?

You may add hyperlinks to your story in the normal manner for HTML documents:

<a href="address goes here">text of link goes here</a>

You may use this to link to related stories on the site, link to your personal site, or to link to the author profile of a co-author. You may also add links in your author profile.

Links are also supported in reviews, but do not use the above syntax. Simply type the address into the text of the review and the site will automatically convert it into a link.

How do I upload fan art?

Thank you to user Marcus Rowland for this short, informative guide:

The first step in adding an image to a story is to convert it to a form that web browsers can use (preferably .jpg, .gif, or .png), then upload it to a web site. You can use your own site, or an image storage site such as Photobucket or the "album" space paid users get on Livejournal. Once you have the image accessible on line, you link to it by putting something like this into an HTML document:

<img src="">

In this example the first part ( img src= ) says to include an image, the rest of it, the part inside quotes, is the address of my files on Photobucket and the specific image I want to include. Photobucket automatically generates this type of tag, other archiving sites ought to do something similar.

That's about it, really, except I should mention that this command can accept a few extra parameters, which should be put in after the image address - always leave a space though. These are:

  • align="left" puts the image on the left-hand side of the page, with text hopefully flowing around it to the right.
    align="right" puts the image on the right, with text to the left. This generally works much better.
  • You should use the alt attribute to set the text that should appear in place of your image if someone is using a browser that does not support them, or has them disabled. NOTE: Web accessibility guidelines state this text should actually describe the content of the picture, not why it is there. If you omit this, the text "Illustration" will be added automatically.
  • You can use the title attribute to set text that appears as a tooltip if someone hovers over the image.

Using these techniques, the above example would become:

<img src="" align="right" alt="Linda Carter as Wonder Woman">

Once a document is uploaded TtH stores it as HTML, so if you prefer to write the story in another form an easy way to produce a "story" with an image in it is to upload a text document containing your notes etc, then edit that after it's uploaded to put in the <img src="....."> command afterwards.

Remember that really big images will be slow to load and may cause problems for viewers with low-resolution screens, and anyone who pays for access time.

Is there a limit to the size of each chapter / story?

Technically the chapter limit is 16,000,000 characters and there is no story limit. However, large stories can impact the performance of the site in several ways including using excessive server memory and causing slow page load times. Therefore:

  • Please, try to keep each chapter under 10,000 words.
  • Break epic fanfics into multiple stories in a series. Consider around 75,000 words (the length of the 1st Harry Potter book) to 125,000 words the upper limit on a single story.

Apart from the technical reasons, if you plan to split stories longer than this into "books" it will often help the pacing of your story ensuring you have story arcs that lead to logical conclusions rather than a long rambling plot.

NOTE: Larger stories may be split by the administrators if performance issues occur.

How do I edit an FFA request I have made?

There is no feature for authors to edit FFAs. If you have made a typo, let the moderators know. If you want to change your mind, answer another FFA ;)

I want to start a series, but I've already posted the first story.

Click on the "My Series" tab of your profile, then "Add Series" to create an empty series. After creating it you will then be taken to the edit series screen where you can then add your existing stories to it.

Alternatively, if you are about to post a new story that will be part of the series, you can create the series while posting your new story, then edit the series afterwards to add the existing stories to it.

Why was my challenge deleted?

The challenges section of the site is periodically pruned. Challenges will be removed if:

  • They don't meet the rules for challenges, which are posted on the 'Add Challenge' page.
  • They are not a crossover challenge, or there is not enough detail to determine what the challenge is a crossover with.
  • They are too similar to another challenge. Which one of a group of similar challenges is kept is at the moderators discretion.

Due to the already labour intensive workload in doing this, barring excpetional circumstances, we do not notify anyone when challenges are removed.


What kinds of blog are supported?

We support any blog that provides an RSS or ATOM format feed, and that has at least a title, description and date for each item. In most cases you can paste the URL of your blog homepage into your profile. However, in some cases you may need to enter the URL of the actual RSS or ATOM feed.

When are blogs updated?

The latest posts from an author's blog are downloaded whenever someone clicks on the blog tab in the author's profile, unless the last download was less than 1 hour ago. However, the blog itself may specify a longer cache interval than 1 hour in the RSS feed using the <ttl> element, which TtH will honour if it is present.

Additionally, all blogs are refreshed at least once a day.

Why is the formatting of blog entries sometimes messed up?

The source site is responsible for converting the blog item to RSS or ATOM format. This conversion may remove some of the formatting from the original entry. Furthermore TtH restricts the use of HTML in blog entries to the same subset of tags we permit in stories.

How do I get my blog added to the site?

Edit your profile and set the blog field to the URL of your feed.

I added my blog and it shows the message 'No blog entries found' - why?

The most likely reason is there is not enough information in your RSS / ATOM feed - for TtH to be able to use a feed, it must contain at a minimum <title>, <description> and <pubDate> elements for each item.

Some blogs (e.g. Livejournal) make some of these fields optional. In such cases, the entires that do not have all three fields completed will not be included on the TtH copy.

What happened to...

What happened to the user panel?

This site used to have a page called the user panel where you performed all uploading and editing of site content. To improve usability, the user panel features have now been moved:

  • To edit/delete a story, login then read the story.
  • To edit/delete a challenge, login then read the challenge.
  • To add a recommendation click the link at the bottom of the story page.
  • To add a favourite author, go to one of their stories and click on the tracking tab.
  • All other user panel features are now on the My Profile page
What happened to favourite authors?

This feature has been subsumed by the new story tracking features. All favourite authors have been migrated into tracked authors and we have assumed that you have read all their existing stories and marked them as such.

What happened to the WWE stories?

After some debate on our forums in 2005 it was decided that WWE stories should be considered real person fic, and thus were in violation of Rule #2. Therefore, the category was removed. Please don't contact us to ask if we still have them or know somewhere else you can read them - we don't. Authors were given time to take copies of their stories before they were removed and may or may not have posted them elsewhere.

In 2010 we relaxed the site rules on real person fic to allow such stories in some circumstances. You may now post stories that contain WWE personalities if they meet the new terms of Rule #2, but they will not be considered WWE crossovers, hence there is still no WWE category on the site.

What happened to the fan art?

The site used to have a specifc fan art category. WWE fan art was removed when the stories were removed (see above). All other fan art has been moved into the main categories with the stories as it tends to get more readers (or should that be viewers) there.

Technical Problems

What is read only mode?

The site enters read only mode for about five minutes or so once a day around 5:15am EST, while the database is backed up, and at random times when we are performing maintenance on the site. When in read only mode, all users will be logged out and then automatically logged back in again when the period of read only mode is over. Also hits to stories are not counted when in read only mode, keyword search is not available and, if you read a new chapter in a tracked story, the site does not record that it has been read and the story remains marked unread.

What Browsers are supported?

We support any browser that is compliant with the XHTML Strict 1.0 specification (including Firefox, Safari, Opera, Chrome, IE 7+), and partially support some that aren't such as IE 6. Javascript is required for some features, including posting stories, but you should be able to use most features of the site with it disabled. The browsers on most mobile device browsers comply to the above standard and are supported for reading stories. If you have problems with your device's native browser, we recommend installing Opera Mini or Opera Mobile which are avalable for most mobile platforms.

All pages of the site should meet the XHTML 1.0 specification, and mostly obey CSS 2.0 / WCAG level 2 standards. However, there are some IE 6 specific CSS styles necessary to cope with its lack of XHTML compliance. Other devices should ignore these.

Why are some background images not shown in Internet Explorer?

This site uses translucent background images to allow the colours of your chosen skin to merge with the image. Internet Explorer does not support translucent images as backgrounds until version 7, so some images are not shown in earlier versions.

Why can't I see the pictures in the Fanart section?

The images are not hosted on our servers - authors host them on their own webspace. Therefore, the images may no longer exist.

Also some browsers (e.g. Firefox) have an option to prevent the display of images that do not come from the same site as the page that hosts them. If you cannot see any Fanart images, this may be the reason.

I'm running the Storyline code on my site and really like the changes you have made - is there anyway I can get a copy of your version of the code?

Unfortunately, no. The disclaimer at the bottom of the site still credits storyline as our code evolved from that, but there is hardly a single line of the original code remaining and the database structure is totally different. It would be far too time consuming to explain all of the changes and how to implement them into someone else's code. Also our code requires extensive customsiation of the host server and various background process to run, and would not be compatible with a typical shared hosting account. If you wish to start a new fanfiction archive today, we recommend using efiction.

Sometimes I see two rectangles covering the text of a long story while scrolling.

This is a known bug in Mozilla based browsers such as Firefox 3.0. The rectangles will be grey or black depending on the browser version, and appear part of the way down a very long chapter. They will disappear again if you scroll by dragging the scrollbar with the mouse rather than using other methods such as keystrokes. The bug was been reported and confirmed by the Mozilla developers and was fixed in version 3.6.

I'm not receiving notifications when my tracked stories are updated.

Firstly, visit the My Settings page of your profile, and check that your email address is correct. There is also a link at the foot of the email settings section to send yourself a test message. If the test message does not get through, then there is a problem with our server sending email to your mail provider, or your anti-spam solution is categorising the messages as spam. Check on the forums to see if it is a problem affecting multiple users.

Also on the My Settings page, make sure you have the tracking alerts enabled.

If you are still not getting updates, bear in mind the following:

  • Alerts are not sent if the author posts a new chapter and you have not read all of the existing ones. This means you will only receive an alert for the first new chapter an author posted.
  • A limited total number of alerts are sent in each 5 minute period to spread the server CPU load evenly. An immediate alert may take up to 20 minutes to be sent if a number of very popular stories are updated around the same time.
  • Try switching between immediate alerts and a daily summary to see if either one works better for you.
  • Yahoo and BT Internet email is particularly unreliable and will often 'defer' an email making us send it several times. If this happens to the same message repeatedly it can get lost.

If you can receive test messages and you do still think there is a problem with sending alerts, post in forums and let us know your TtH penname and which story was updated that you weren't alerted about.

I had tracking alerts and/or review notifications enabled, but someone switched them off

Repeatedly sending email messages to mailboxes that have errors or do not exist is one of the criteria that sets off spam filters. Therefore, in order to minimise the chances of our notifications being treated as spam, if we have a number of failures to deliver messages to your address with no subseuqent sucesses in the following days, the site will automatically disable tracking notification and review notification emails.

If you believe whatever the problem was has been corrected, simply switch them back on.

If your question has not been answered here, try our forums.