Sunday, September 30, 2012

Over and Over and Over Again

Every time I go to a science fiction convention, I try to attend some panels on writing. It might concern a new idea on how to write a rough draft, or tips on writing a query letter … There are lots of subjects dealing with writing that can be explored.
I have noticed, over the years, that some things get repeated and repeated, like submission guidelines. The speaker(s) start with the basics; the manuscript should be on normal white paper, double-spaced, normal paragraph indentations, the font should be 12 point, probably in a serif-type font like Times New Roman, and your manuscript should be absolutely error-free. Well, as close to error-free as you can possibly get it.
That was pretty much the gist of it 40 years ago, when I first started looking at the possibility of submitting something. Things were done on typewriters back then, so an occasional typo neatly corrected by pen was acceptable.
These days, the editors assume you are working on a computer, and they expect that between your rewrites, spell-checker and self-editing, there won’t be any typos. Many editors also expect you will send your manuscript via email.
For that reason, today’s speakers on how to make submissions go on to say that you should always consult that market’s submissions guidelines, and look for their particular desires in a submission’s formatting. Maybe this editor prefers Helvatica rather than Times New Roman, or wants the entire manuscript submitted in the body of your email, rather than as an attachment.
For many years, I wondered why they kept repeating the same stuff all the time. I had heard it all before, I followed their suggestions, and I always followed the instructions of the market’s guidelines. Why were they pounding on me like this?
Now that I’ve been helping Tommee work through her slush pile, I understand that those speakers were not necessarily speaking to me. The MoonPhaze Publishing submission guidelines ( state that manuscripts should be sent as a .doc file (NOT .docx) attached to their email. One day, she got 2 submissions, and neither one was sent as a .doc file! One came as a pdf, the other as a .docx. So much for following the guidelines!
I’ve seen one ‘submission’ that didn’t even follow the basic guidelines for formatting. Instead, it was sent as if it were already a book; single-spaced lines, no contact info, title page and dedication.
So, I’ll still go to these ‘basic submission’ panels, in case changes are introduced. But I will no longer feel they are nagging at me. They harp on these things for the benefit of newer writers, or those writers who think they don’t need to follow a few simple guidelines.

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