Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fundamentals

Although the entire landscape of publishing might be changing, don't forget the most fundamental skills you were taught in Composition 101. Specifically - formatting.

Now, we're not ones to stand on formality here at The Battered Suitcase. After all, our editorial staff is made up of street rats, band campers, squatters, gypsy dancers and other nefarious characters with dark and secret pasts. But there's a reason they invented manuscript formatting... it's so people can read your writing. Honest. There is no other reason for it. It's not a conspiracy to make you jump through hoops. It's not an excuse to allocate demerits and reject otherwise solid, imaginative writing.

It's so your solid, imaginative writing can be read. It's so the editor, agent or intern can see that it's solid, imaginative writing. It's so the layout staff can convert your manuscript into print or html that matches your vision for the work.

That being said, here's a good example of manuscript format: http://www.shunn.net/format/story.html

Consider fonts; currently, Courier font isn't the die-hard standard as it was in the old days, but it is easy to read. Personally, I think it's trog-ugly, and I'm always put-off when I convert my own manuscripts into Courier for an editor or agent who demands it. I think it looks cheap and ugly. But it's one of the three fonts you can use when submitting work to an agent or publisher. I do my own writing in a font I like, Garamond, and then convert it to the request font or standard Courier before submitting.

Why not use fancy, attractive and attention-getting fonts? Won't it make your work stand out?

Yes. It might. Mainly it'll stand out when they open to find a nasty mess of hieroglyphics because the font you've used is not installed on their computer. It'll stand out in the 'Recycle Bin' on their desktop when they decide that it's not worth spending the time trying to convert it because they have 500 other submissions waiting that are in a legible font by writers that followed submission guidelines.

There are only three fonts that are standard for every single computer, whatever its age, manufacture or operating system: Courier, Times New Roman and Arial.

Do. Not. Use. Any. Other. Font.

Just basic stuff and something that makes complete sense when you know why it's done the way it's done.

More on manuscript formatting later. Carry on writing - and have fun.