Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Manuscript Rant

I knew when I started Take the Helm back up it would only be a matter of time before I wrote this column. This is my “please don’t do this on manuscripts” column, the one that you will probably see from every editor in the business today.
  • Don’t send me a story in supposed ‘manuscript’ format. People haven’t used typewriters in two decades, please start using Times New Roman instead of Courier and for goodness sake, if you want text to be italicized please do it yourself.
  • Learn how to insert tabs. While I prefer inline page indents, I know not every writer has enough computer savvy to insert them. But I do expect everyone to know how to use a freaking TAB button. It’s been around since the 1920s, folks. At this point, the next manuscript I receive with a bunch of spaces to start each paragraph may get sent back unread.
  • If your sentence has more than one action, thought or idea in it, consider revising it in to two sentences. If it has more than three, it’s unreadable and it needs to be revised. You would be surprised how many stories that I end up chopping apart paragraph-long sentences during editing time.
  • The enter button is your friend. Go pick up five books from five of your favorite modern authors. Flip through them now and look at the lengths of the paragraphs. Notice how most of the authors keep them short? That’s because shorter paragraphs are easier to consume for modern audiences. If your paragraphs are some sort of three page diatribe out of Dostoyevsky, you’re doing it wrong.
  • If you use verbs ending in “-ing” more than once a page, you probably need to revise some of your verbs. This is probably the biggest enemy of New Pulp authors, as a lot of traditional pulp writers loved these kinds of phrases. But modern readers are more sophisticated and you have time to proofread, so please leave them out. 

I’m sure I could go on, but that’s probably enough for now. Part of this is a rant, I’m sure, but these are all points that will make writers write better. Obviously none of them (other than the tabs one) are always 100% true, but fort the most part they will make whatever you write read better. 

1 comment:

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