Tough Love's Thumper's Corner Discussion Board: Thumper's Corner - Archive 2007: Tough Love

Posted by Urban_scribe on Sunday, September 23, 2007 - 11:01 am:

Solid article, Emanuel.

Y'know what I would love for first time writers to all learn? STANDARD MANUSCRIPT FORMAT.

Many, (most?) first time writers aren't even aware that such a thing as SMF even exists. Some of the submissions I receive from first time writers look like ransom notes. Some go as far as attempting to do the typeset on their word processing program, (Word, Word Perfect, Open Office), rather than desktop publishing software, (Quark, InDesign), and believe that this marks them as someone who's "in the know".

Little do they realize when a ms appears on any editor's, associate editor's, a first reader's, or even an agent's desk and it is not in SMF, that's an automatic rejection. Not only does it mark the writer as an amateur, but it marks the writer as someone who doesn't really care about their craft or the industry. If they don't care, we don't care to read their stories.

Any illustrator worth his salt can tell you about 2-point perspective. Any graphic artist worth his salt can tell you the difference between RGB and CMYB. Any actor worth his salt can tell you about the Stanislovski Method. Any singer worth his salt can tell you about whistle register. Any musician worth his salt can tell you about Every Good Boy Does Fine. Yet, we have would-be writers who don't know that a Standard Manuscript Format not only exists, but it is expected.

It both amazes and saddens me that so many want to enter the industry, yet haven't bothered to learn the fundamentals of the industry.

Perhaps you, Emanuel, can write an article outlining SMF and its importance.

Any writer reading this who's interested:

Standard Manuscript Format

- White, 8.5x11, 20lb paper
- Black ink, one side
- 1" margins on all sides
- Double-spaced text in Courier 12/Times Roman 12, ragged right edge
- Every page, except the cover page, should have a right aligned header in the following layout: Author's Legal Last Name (author's pen name - last name only, if applicable)/Title of Work/Page Number

Example: Jones (Devereaux)/Happily Ever After/12

- Every new chapter begins on a fresh page, halfway down the paper on the first page of the chapter ONLY. Subsequent pages WITHIN the chapter should begin at the top of the page (editors need that space at the top of the chapter page to make notes specific to that chapter)
- Every chapter ends with # # # (centered)
- Indicate scene breaks within a chapter with a single # (centered)
- After you've typed the last one of your story, skip two (2) double lines and type THE END (all caps) or <<<9999>>>
- Include a cover page (this page should NOT contain a header)

The following info should appear on the cover page:

(left aligned)

Author's Legal Full Name (writing as: author's pen name, if applicable)
Author's Address
Author's City, State Zip
Author's Home Phone
Author's Cell Phone
Author's Email (tab across the page and put total word count of ms) 80,000 words [for example]

Halfway down the page, centered, in ALL CAPS type the Title of the Work (hit enter) by Author's Pen Name

NO OTHER INFORMATION SHOULD APPEAR ON THE COVER PAGE. Don't tell me it's copyrighted, don't tell me to whom it's dedicated, don't quote a blurb from your beta reader, or a poetry stanza, or famous quote, don't tell me you have an MFA, don't tell me the year you originally wrote the story... This is a COVER PAGE.

Once they've mastered SMF, I implore writers to learn to understand Proofreader's Marks. Then I implore writers to learn industry terminology: galleys, uncorrected page proofs (UPP), advance review copies (ARC), blues (blueprints), F&G (folded and gathered), verso, recto, signature, beta readers, trade paperback, mass market, cloth covers, finalized text, BISAC Category, BISAC Audience, ISBN, EAN, LCCN, SAN, CIP...

Then, maybe, they can call themselves WRITERS - who give a damn about their industry. Now whether or not they can write is a different story; as writing itself comes with its own set of rules: plot, subplot, passive voice, active voice, character development, character profile, pace, nuance, foreshadowing, dangling participles, past progressive tense, show vs. tell, theme, main characters, supporting characters, cliff hangers, red herrings, character-driven vs. plot-driven, poetic license, imagery, symbolism, cliche, innuendo, irony, etc...

As my editor says, (yes, even editors have editors), "The pen is mightier than the sword, but not if you leave out the 'w' in 'sword'."