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format should I use for a manuscript?
of the following rules can be broken. However, any time you break one of them,
you run the risk of irritating an editor. To quote Strunk and White:
"It is an old observation
that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do
so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit,
attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well,
he will probably do best to follow the rules."
should be typed in black ink using a new ribbon or printed on a daisy wheel, ink-jet
or laser printer. Never write or print a manuscript by hand. Each page must be
doubled-spaced (one blank line between each line of type) and each side must have
at least a one-inch margin. Use white medium-weight business letter-sized paper
(either 8-1/2 x 11 or A4) and type or print only on one side. Once the manuscript
is typed or printed, do not staple, bind, or otherwise attach the pages to one
font should I use?
manuscript is not an opportunity to show off your elaborate desktop publishing
system. Many publishers specify a font or type size in their writer's guidelines
and only a fool would ignore such a requirement. Editors read vast numbers of
pages and anything that strains their eyesight gets a deserved toss toward the
no font is suggested then the writer should choose one that does not distract
from the writing. Serif fonts, which have slight projections to finish off the
stroke in each letter, are been proven to be easier on the eyes than san-serif
fonts, which resemble block printing.
the font is proportional or monospaced also affects how easy it is to read. With
proportional fonts such as Times, the individual characters vary in width ("w"
is wider than "i.") With monospaced fonts such as Courier, all characters
are the same width. Proportional fonts make a manuscript look more like a book
and allow more words per page but monospaced fonts give editors a more accurate
feel for the space required by the piece.
also matters, at least for fonts. The usual size is "12 point" (also
referred to as "10 pitch" or "pica.") Pitch refers to the
number of characters per inch. Point size refers to the relative height of the
font; a point is a typographical measurement very close to 1/72nd of an inch.
Anything smaller than 12 point or 10 pitch and editors might strain to read the
words; anything bigger and editors may assume that you are disguising a too-short
any legible font might be acceptable, the safest choice is Courier 12. Work printed
in Courier 12 closely resembles typewritten work. Familiarity with Courier allows
editors to quickly extract word count and other important information from manuscripts
printed in it.
What about photocopies?
you submit a photocopy, make sure it's clean and clear; it also doesn't hurt to
explicitly mark it "Not a Simultaneous Submission" (if this is the truth),
as some editors assume photocopies are simultaneous. NEVER submit your only copy
of a manuscript; tragedies do happen. Photocopy the manuscript, back up the disk.
Not vice versa.
How should I format the first page and following pages?
I. Wanna Write Approx. 2000 words 1000 Maple Street Anytown, USA 00000 (508)555-1212
1/3 of the way down the page)
that you use your real name, not your pseudonym, as the return
address; the publisher wants to know who will be endorsing the check.)
additions to the header about which there is some debate:
Social Security number (Pro: Aids publishers in record keeping when they cut you
a check. Con: If they need it, they'll ask for it.)
copyright notice (Pro: May be useful in establishing legal claims to ownership
of your work, should problems arise. Con: "This is a mark of the amateur;
editors have better things to do than steal story ideas.")
in writers' professional organizations -- SFFWA, SCBWI, et al. (Pro: Gets editors'
attention in the slushpile. Con: Doesn't help, doesn't hurt.)
offered (more important for articles/stories than for books)
name/Title of Story Page X
shouldn't take up more than one line; shorten the title to fit. Manuscripts *do*
get dropped; if you identify every page, you reduce the odds of your story's being
re-collated with the last third of "Marshmallow Mud Maidens from Madagascar".
(Richard Curtis, the renowned agent, feels it's a mistake to include the story
title in the page header, since this requires you to retype or reprint the entire
manuscript if you change the title.)
How should I indicate that the last page of my manuscript is the last page?
It may also
be a good idea to put an "end of story" marker on the last page. Use
"# # END # #", "--FIN--", or anything else you're confident
the editor won't mistake for part of the story. (Some people think that this marker
How much of my manuscript should I include?
the rules of the market you're submitting to. For short fiction (less than 20,000
words), you normally submit the entire manuscript. For novel-length fiction, many
publishers perfer to receive a couple of sample chapters and an outline; if the
publisher likes your sample, he/she will request the remainder of the book.
won't normally commit to buying a manuscript from an unknown writer until they've
seen the whole thing. DON'T submit a portion of an unfinished book, unless you
are certain that you can finish the book very quickly (within a month) if the
publisher expresses interest.
How do I format a picture book? What about illustrations?
picture books are normally assembled by the publisher, who buys a manuscript,
then assigns an artist to create the drawings. Historically, most publishers have
strongly perferred *not* to receive manuscripts with illustrations; the feeling
has been that it was too difficult to accept one part of the package and reject
the other. Author-illustrators generally earned their spurs by illustrating the
works of others, and were then allowed to create their own books. Some publishers
are beginning to accept (but not perfer) complete packages; check *Writer's Market*
to find suitable candidates.
you are submitting an unillustrated manuscript for a picture book, you should
generally not attempt to indicate page breaks, double-page spreads, etc., or give
detailed illustration suggestions, as these are the book designer's and illustrator's
domain. Anything that you want to appear in the picture should be part of the
text. One obvious exception to this rule is irony: if the text reads "Irene's
room was always tidy", you're allowed to insert a note like "(Illustrator:
the room is actually a pit.)"
always, you should read many different picture books to get a feeling for the
strengths and limitations of the format. Bear in mind that picture books are almost
invariably 32 or 48 pages long, including title page and other front matter.
How should I format a poetry submission?
to the _Writer's Market, 1997 edition, poems are submitted one to a page. The
format is single-spaced with two lines between stanzas.
How do I count the number of words in my manuscript?
at the beginning. Point at the first word and say "One." Point at the
second word and say "Two." Repeat, increasing the count by one integer
for each word at which you point. <g>
some more professional answers:
could use the "Word Count" feature of your word processor. Note that
all word processors do not use the same algorithm to compute this--Word may give
a different figure than WordPerfect.
can multiply the number of pages in the manuscript by 250. This gives a very rough
that 1.5 typewritten/computer-printed pages equal one page of a book (another
the words on five random pages of the manuscript. Find the average number of words
per page (divide the count by five) then multiply this number by the number of
pages in the manuscript.
will be paid by the publisher's word-count, not yours; the publisher's algorithm
may differ. (And padding word-count is like double-parking in front of Police
Headquarters; you *will* get caught.)
What are the standard word counts for novels, short stories, et cetera?
- 0 - 250 words: Flash or
- 2,000 words: Short-short story
- 10,000 words: Short story
- 40,000 words: Novella
- infinity (or durned close to it): Novel
good length for a novel (by consensus of this newgroup) is 80,000 words.
genre publishers require a maximum word count because they produce a standardized
paperback. Follow these requirements.
What is the best length for a chapter?
depends. Although chapters of a standard length (4,000 words, say) may be easier
to outline, plan, count, and edit, there are no rules on chapter length. It is
easy to find huge novels divided into 20 or fewer chapters and very slim novels
with 45 or more divisions.
to end a chapter and begin another one is one of the factors of story-telling.
Sometimes a chapter closes where a story would end: following a brief cooldown
after a crisis resolution. This gives a feeling of accomplishment for the reader
and a sense of intermission.
the chapters close before the resolution of a crisis, or after the introduction
of the next crisis. These chapter breaks give a sense of suspense--that events
are crowding in on the reader.
chapters are kept consistent in length to establish a rhythm. Sometimes chapters
vary greatly in length, giving the reader a sense of a kaleidoscopic world. Other
times, chapters end and begin with a change in Point Of View, the scene's setting
in time or space, or at a radical change in mood.
depends on what suits the needs of your story.
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