Monday, October 8, 2007

My Idea of the Perfectly Formatted Manuscript

Disclaimers: Today's blog entry opens with not one, not two, but three disclaimers.
Disclaimer #1--What I'm about to say is not to be misconstrued as Official Barbour Policy.
Disclaimer #2--Becky and JoAnne may very well have a different set of preferences than the ones I am about to list below.
Disclaimer #3--Noncompliance to the following suggestions will not qualify as sufficient grounds for rejection. Not even close.

Now on with my regularly scheduled blog. . .

I've spent all morning processing and printing a few of the full manuscripts I've requested from authors after reviewing their unsolicited proposals. The process of changing the formatting specs of these documents has been valuable in helping me learn the ropes of my new Vista Word program. But I think I've just about mastered this skill set, and I'm ready to move on to new editing ventures. So, if there's anyone out there who'd like to get on my good side, send me a file formatted to my idea of the Perfectly Formatted Manuscript.

1. SINGLE SPACED. Since I established an "e-submission only" policy for Heartsong Presents--MYSTERIES, the cost of printing a hard copy of a manuscript is now absorbed by Barbour. As I prefer to read manuscripts via the paper version versus computer version whenever possible, I try to economize by printing a single-space version of the document. Yes, I know this goes against the grain of what all properly trained, double-space/one-inch-margin authors have been taught. So, call me a rebel editor, but humor me.

2. Times/New Roman font, 12-pt. type. See, I am not totally non-conformist.

3. Rather than using astericks or pound signs to signify scene breaks or POV shifts, at the left-hand margin, insert the following:
This indicates a space break to our typesetters.

4. Don't insert a formatted Page Break at the end of a chapter. Instead, simply skip down three or four lines and begin a new chapter.

5. Our typeset mysteries will not include the word CHAPTER in the chapter headings. Simply use bold-faced numerals--at the left-hand margin--to indicate the new chapter, and our typesetters will add a fun little magnifying-glass border as they prepare the manuscript for publication.

6. Do not indent the first line of a new chapter or scene break.

Any author who sends me a manuscript that has been formatted to these preferences will receive a Mystery Editor's Gold Star on their title page.

Now, for all you obsessive-compulsive mystery authors out there, before you inundate me with e-mails about the formatting variances of your project, please refer to this blog's opening disclaimers once again.

On to new Vista challenges,



Ed J. Horton said...

Susan, I want you to know I'm not really an obsessive-compulsive author. Hmm, maybe that should read, " it's in alphabetical order?" Anyway, maybe I'm just a wee bit paranoid and perhaps might even exhibit some of the characteristics of the quirky detective on TV's USA network's show, Monk. But who wouldn't be anxious to earn the coveted Mystery Editor's Gold Star.

Thanks for the tips!

Beth Loughner said...

Wow! There's a lot of editing on your part just to format the manuscript. I'm going to copy your suggestions and keep it for later reference.

It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but I think I can manage this one.

When I teach writing classes to teens, there are some 40+ parents who still won't conform (I don't think they believe me)to using only one space after each sentence when using the computer. For us oldies, but goodies, we were taught to use two spaces on the typewriter. They think I'm a rebel. Going to single space might actually do them in, :-)

Beth L.

Susan Downs said...

Beth, I can totally relate to the two-space hold-outs. My husband refuses to make the switch, no matter how many times I insist that's just how things are done nowadays.

Mary Connealy said...

I am officially doing EVERYTHING WRONG. Humbling to find out.
I will make these changes. I have already quit the page breaks after each chapter, so I'm good there.
I use the word Chapter because I use it with Find and Replace to skip through the book, BUT I can also use it to REMOVE the word Chapter pretty easily when it's time to send the manuscript.
I need to rig the computer to give me an electric shock when ever I disobey these directives, that worked pretty well to break me of the double space after each period and, although my hair grew back in gray before I started single spacing, that's what Loving Care is for.

Mary Connealy said...

I fixed all three books to your specifications, Susan. Now about this gold star....
Do you want me to send the updated version of Of Mice...and Murder. You've already got it. I hope you haven't done all that (not so hard for me...but a big job times dozens of books) yourself.

Susan Downs said...

Oh, my! I WARNED you, OCD MARY, not to go to extremes. I think I may have already tackled your OF MICE AND MURDER ms formatting, but let me check when I get back in the office first thing tomorrow morning. I'll e-mail you. sd

Becky said...

I just did most of this formatting stuff to a manuscript I printed out to read today. I try to condense manuscripts and long proposals as much as I can, or my back hurts from lugging them around.