How to write a Daily Kos story: The basics

Welcome to Daily Kos, and thanks for taking a big step in participation, by writing and posting your own story.

This document explains the three basic parts involved: 1) Opening a draft window, 2) Composing your story, and then 3) Publishing your story. (A Story is also called a Post or Diary, just so you know.)

There are other resources that explain the finer points of writing stories/posts/diaries, and you can find them within the Knowledge Base right here. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask at Help Desk. Creating a public ticket there will improve your chances of getting a faster response from other community users, but you may set it to private if you prefer so that only staff can read it and reply.

1) Opening a draft window

When you are logged into Daily Kos, look for an big orange-and-white button at the top right of the page that says Blog It! (with a pen icon next to it). Click it. A draft window will open.

KNOW BEFORE YOU START: As you go along, remember to SAVE your draft often -- using the button at the top of the right side bar. We cannot retrieve lost drafts. Some people compose their drafts elsewhere first before copying & pasting their words into the draft story box. That’s a good option, though please also note that we recommend a text editor over a word processing program. Software like Microsoft Word or Pages uses formatting that can be carried over and may conflict with the built-in formatting provided in our own story editor window.

2) Composing your story

Headline: To enter text into the Headline field, put your cursor within the "Write a headline" prompt and click. You can write just about anything you like, within a length limit that you will be told if you exceed. Profanity in headlines is frowned upon only because it runs afoul of filters on public computers. Substituting special characters is the usual workaround.

Title image: Providing an image at the top of your story is optional, not required--but we know that doing so attracts readers and comments. The image you choose for your title image will display at the top of your story along with your headline and your username, whether in full view or in thumbnail view in a sidebar, once you post the story.
To add a title image, click on the little image icon (a mountain outline) in the middle of the big open space under the headline. You'll be offered the option to choose an image that someone else has already uploaded OR to upload your own image into our Image Library for use in this spot. The Image Library is searchable based on attributes such as uploader, attribution, description, and more. The thumbnail array will display with a scrollbar; the number displayed will depend on whether you search at all to narrow your options. Once you find an image you like, click on it to select it. The image will display with an orange border, and in the right sidebar you'll see the image details--including the size information, which may indicate that it is too narrow to be suitable for the title image position. If it suits your needs, then click the orange Choose button displayed under the thumbnail array. The image you chose should display in that title image spot.
If you prefer to use your own image, you may click on the "upload image files" button and follow the prompts. Please note: When we say "your own image," we mean an image for which you hold copyright, or which is in the public domain. We respect intellectual copyright and we expect our users to do so as well.
More tips for uploading title images: There are size and format constraints (jpg, gif, png). Images narrower than 915 pixels in width will not display well in this position. Take some care with the tags, license, and attribution fields for your image. We also encourage people to be thorough with the textual description, for the benefit of visually-impaired people who won't see the image but will hear the description via a screen reader. When you're done with entering information about the image, click the big orange Choose button underneath the image array area and your newly-uploaded image will be displayed in your title image space.
Feel free to add a descriptive caption below the image as well.
If you change your mind about the image at any time prior to publishing your story, just click the orange X in the top right hand corner to remove the image. Save the draft again after you change it.

Text: To enter text into the main body of the story, put your cursor within the "Write your story" prompt and click. Write what you like!
The toolbar provides nifty options if you want to play around with it.
You can hyperlink to other websites if you use the tool that looks like a link. Usually, people highlight the text they want to have as the link, and then click the icon. That selected text will then pre-populate the "display text" field, so then you need to paste in the appropriate URL and choose Insert Link.
You can format the text to show in italic, bold, or underline. You can use the H tools to create (sub)headings.
You can add images within the body of the story, using the same icon that is in the Story Image field, IF you want to use an image from our own Image Library. Here in the story, though, you don't have to use the site's Image Library; you can embed directly from Flickr and a few other photo hosts.
You can set off quoted material with the blockquote tool, a large double quotation mark.
You can embed tweets, YouTube videos, and several other kinds of sources. Use the embed code via the </> icon -- in the second row of the toolbar, thus visible only if you expand the view to show both rows! -- or paste the direct URL right into the draft window.

ONE KEY DETAIL: There is no "preview" mode for a story draft, so this process works differently from the way comments do. The draft view as close to a WYSIWYG -- What You See Is What You Get -- format as we can manage, but it's not perfect. If you find post-publication that the formatting is really off, you CAN edit the post after it's up. Clicking on the Edit link to the left of your story will return you to the draft window. There you can revise it again and choose to Publish your changes (or not).

Extra tips about composing:

  • Take care with your headline, which can make or break the appeal of the story. Avoid excess capitalization: Only the first word and any proper noun should be capitalized. Avoid "breaking" unless it really is that new and urgent, and also avoid click-bait headlines that don't match the story content.

  • Attend carefully to the first few lines of your post, because they'll show up as a preview of the rest of the story. (Hover over a title in the right sidebar of the site, and you'll see what a preview looks like.) A good preview can also draw in many readers who are looking for interesting stories in the sidebar.

  • Use the page break option from the toolbar in all but the shortest of posts. It is our way of inserting a "jump" into the story. The page break icon looks like a piece of paper with a corner folded down and a dotted line at the bottom. When you have created a good lead-in for the rest of your story--preferably three paragraphs or shorter--click on that page break icon, and it will be automatically inserted. Everything above it will show up on the blog page; everything below it will be visible only if a reader chooses to read more/continue reading. Paradoxically, adding a story break can help readers decide they want to read the rest of it. Otherwise, the wall-of-text effect can elicit a "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read) response that can discourage a reader from finishing it. Plus, it is disruptive to the Recent Stories blog to have very, very long stories posted there in full, instead of having several stories displaying their headlines, story images, and introductory sections. The front-page authors show you how the page break can be used to good effect in their stories.

Tags: Every post must have at least one Tag for it to be published, or even to be able to queue or schedule a post to be published later.
Tags serve as labels for our stories, permitting users to search for stories on a particular topic and identifying which topics are covered the most. A Tag has the same general appearance as a Twitter hashtag does, meaning that a multiple-word name or phrase will appear as #AllOneWord. Our software automatically applies the #, so you don't need to do so. In fact, if you DO include the #, your Tag will not be accepted.
The text area in which to enter Tag(s) is right beneath the text area for the body of the story. To start adding your Tag(s), put your cursor within the window and click. To complete a Tag, end it with a comma or click Enter. Either keystroke will signal an end to the tag and put it in a display right below that Tag field. You can remove a Tag from the list displayed by clicking on its X.
Tags may include ONLY letters and numbers plus three non-alphanumeric symbols, namely -, &, and . (hyphen, ampersand, and period), the last of which cannot come at the end of the Tag. Letters may be upper or lower case, though it can help improve readability if the first letter of a word or name is capitalized; they are treated the same regardless. Tags may not have spaces within them.
When you are satisfied with the post, including your Tags, save your draft one last time.

3) Publishing your story Now that you have a draft ready to go, let's review how to publish it.
If you want it to publish immediately, that's really easy. Click the Publish button in the right sidebar. You'll be asked to confirm (or cancel) your choice. As soon as you hit Publish, your story will appear under the Recent Stories heading in the right sidebar on the home page of the site.
You can choose to schedule your post for a later time. That option is available in the right sidebar, too. Look beneath the Publish button. If you click Schedule for later, a calendar will display, and you can also choose the time of day. Confirm your choice with the button that appears below the calendar. A draft scheduled for later publication will be entered into your own draft queue, which you can view by following a link modeled on this one:[yourusername] Note that if your username contains any spaces, you must substitute %20 for every space to have the URL work properly.

Some last tips It's considered polite to be available to reply to any comments that are made on your post, at least for the first hour or so. It's not required but it will endear you to the community.
For more information about site norms and expectations, see the Rules of the Road.
Good luck and have fun in the comments!