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WRITING HELP

PAST ARTICLES FROM RALAN'S MONTHLY REPORT


  • 2 November 2010: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 18 - "When to Give it Up - or Why Don't They Answer!"
  • 7 March 2006: On First Sales
  • 7 February 2006: Comments on a Writer's Letter about Unwanted Line Edits
  • 3 January 2006: 2006: The Speculative Fiction Marketplace (and an anniversary)
  • 5 July 2005: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 16 - "Do I Really Have to? or How to run a publication off the map"
  • 1 February 2005: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 15 - "To Query or not to Query, or How to put the screws in nicely"
  • 4 January 2005: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 14 - "Farewell 2004, or how to say goodbye to a bad year"
  • 5 October 2004: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 13 - "Smart E-mail Links, or How to avoid bugging editors"
  • 3 February 2004: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 12 - "A New Type of Listing, or How to continue to dance the submission dance"
  • 2 December 2003: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 11 - "Copyright, Schmopyright, or How to not to step on someone else's prose"
  • 7 October 2003: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 10 - "Converting to RTF Files, or How to mutate and not freak out editors!"
  • 4 March 2003: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 9 - "Wallowing In our own Slush, or Where are we now?"
  • 1 October 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 8 - "Son of Loose Ends, or How you can never get it all right the first time -- or even the second!"
  • 3 September 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 7 - "Editor Pet Peeves, or How to feed the kitty"
  • 2 July 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 6 - "Loose Ends, or How to keep the virtual prunes from getting the best of you!"
  • 4 June 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 5 - "How to Read and use a Webstravaganza Market Listing: or At least use it for virtual toilet paper"
  • 7 May 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 4 - "Going Through the Guidelines for Dummies!, or This doesn't apply to me, does it?"
  • 2 April 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 3 - "Spelling and Grammar Checks, or Who me?"
  • 5 March 2002: How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 2 - "Electronic Submissions Formatting Made Soft"
  • 5 February 2002: Speculative Fiction Market Analysis - Part 3 -and- How to Submit Like a Pro, Part 1: "Don't forget that paper clip!"
  • 2 October 2001: Speculative Fiction Market Analysis - Part 2
  • 4 September 2001: Speculative Fiction Market Analysis - Part 1



MANUSCRIPT FORMATTING
Hard Copy, Disk, & E-mail Attachments
(MSWord/Word Perfect/RTF -- in standard ms format):


  1. Type your manuscript on one side of white, 8½"x11" (or A4), 16 or 20 pound bond paper. Don't use erasable paper. Keep corrections to a minimum (if any). Never send your original, or only, copy of your work. Keep a dated copy or file for copyright proof.
  2. On the first page in the upper left-hand corner write your full real name, your address, telephone & fax numbers, and your e-mail address. In the top right-hand corner write the approximate word count (if a hard-copy submissions use the old lines-per-page -- times -- 10 words per line [60 characters] formula. Center your work's title (yes, it must have one) about a quarter of the way down with your by-line centered 2 spaces. Some editor want the manuscript paper clipped together, some stapled and some want them loose. In my listings leave them loose unless noted otherwise, or better yet, check the actual Guidelines.
  3. Type your name, the title, & page number on the top right corner of every single page, except the first. Always include a sufficiently stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE).
  4. The Type, or print) must be highly legible. If printed use one font only: Courier New (or Dark Courier) is usually best. However, some editors will ask (in their guidelines) for a different font (for example Ellen Datlow strongly prefers "Times New Roman"). If they do employ what they ask for. Utilize at least a 12-point size (again unless the editor asks for a different size). To denote italics (don't actually italicize them) underline the words or phrases. I know this sounds silly, but it's what editors want (because it's too easy to overlook a word typed in italics, and it's a carryover from the days of the typewriter, which had no italics). To indicate bold draw a wavy line underneath the text and write "bf" (boldface) in a circle in the margin. Really, I'm not kidding.
  5. Double-space: leave a full, blank line after every typed line. Never use a 1½-line setting. Keep the same spacing throughout. Make your lines 60 characters long. Indent paragraphs with five spaces, dialog included. Only leave an extra space between paragraphs when you want to indicate a scene or time shift. Use two spaces after a period. Keep the same number of lines on every page. Remember, the more standard your format, the more attention the editor will give your story.
  6. Leave wide margins, approximately an inch (26 mm), all around. Leave the line ends ragged, don't use right justify function. Never hyphenate, or even end a line between 2 hyphenated words. Use -- 2 hyphens with a space on each side -- to indicate a dash.
  7. Do not fold the manuscript. Use an envelope large enough not to, but not overly large. Non-clasp, or clipless, non-padded or stiffened envelopes are preferred. Don't send it registered or certified. If you want "proof of receipt" include a stamped self-addressed postcard for the purpose
  8. Besides spelling and grammar checks, manually check your manuscript for common mix-ups like its & it's,; your & you're; there, their, & they're; or the various tenses of lie & lay.

E-mail Submissions: embedded & attached:

  1. Generally e-mail formatting that is submitted in the body of the message (embedded) or as an attached file of various formats. Embedded and attached ASCII (plain text -- *.txt) files are simple and standardized, but they lack underlined words (and most other special characters), normally used to indicate italics, so you'll have to indicate them some other way (more later). Other attached files (RTF, Word, WordPerfect, etc.) are no problem, but many editors will not accept them because of virus worries. Be sure to check the guidelines for the type of e-submissions allowed for each publication. There are no standards -- everyone has their own preferences.
  2. This article is mainly concerned with embedded and ASCII attached files, although some of the information may apply to other attached formats.
  3. Many editors demand that the subject line be formulated in an exact way (ex: SUBMISSION: "Story Title"), so check that too. Failure to comply will probably get your story deleted. In that case, you will not be notified. This is the cause of many "late" responses and is the author's own fault for not being careful to follow all the rules.
  4. * IMPORTANT: always type your name & e-mail address at the top of your story. Don't rely on the system to tell the editor where the message came from, they get garbled sometimes. This is especially important with attached files. Many problems are caused when weeks later editors can't match up an attached file with the e-mail it came with. Without an e-mail address they can't contact you -- and you think you've been shafted.
  5. Some editors want you to format the same as would a hard copy manuscript. But some editors want you to use single spaced text about seventy (70) characters wide with carriage returns at the end of each line, place an extra line between paragraphs, and do not indent.
  6. Unless the editor specifically instructs you how to denote them, to indicate special fonts such as italics, bold, or underlining it is best to make a note at the beginning of the story telling the editor what indicators you are using and how. For example, my note is always: "NOTE: underlined _words_ denote italics." This maintains the standard of underlines indicating those words or phrases that are meant to be set in italic print.
  7. Remember, however, that some editors require specific marks to indicate special print types. One such way is to use brackets to mark where such formatting should begin and end. For example: Some editors [italics-start]prefer this method[italics-end]. Check the guidelines carefully to see if any special methods are required.
  8. Good luck!


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