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[process] A bit more on standard manuscript format - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-08-01 05:49
Subject: [process] A bit more on standard manuscript format
Security: Public
Tags:process, writing
A couple of folks made very sharp observations in the comments thread on my recent post on standard manuscript format [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. I wanted to touch on them here by way of follow-up.

C.E. Petit said:
I’d like to gently point out that — just like there is no monolithic “publishing industry” — there is no “standard manuscript format.”

He goes on to provide specific examples of formats from other sectors of publishing, and specific elements that vary between genres or publishing sectors. So, yes, a disclaimer I failed to make in my original post was that I was talking about the genres of science fiction and fantasy in specific, and somewhat more generally and with less authority, about fiction submissions.

Bruce Arthurs also pointed out:
Actually, in the case of electronic submissions, I don’t think there’s a “standard manuscript format” yet. I’ve seen submission guidelines that want manuscripts in specific fonts, specific font sizes, specific file types, etc. And they can vary widely from market to market.

This is also true. Many electronic markets have specific submission requirements, and there is not a great deal of standardization between them. I strongly prefer to attach a .rtf or .doc/.docx file to a submission, because that preserves my print-oriented standard manuscript formatting, and is also the least amount of work for me. But not everyone's online content management system supports file attachments. And many people are rightly wary of accepting executable files (ie, Word macros) from random persons on the Internet. Hence the varying requirements of online submissions.

Which are, frankly, fairly irksome to me. Going through and replacing all my underlined (for italics, obviously) text with _these characters_ is annoying and easy to make mistakes on. Then the next market wants *asterisks* or something. For me personally, this tends to simply discourage me from submitting to those markets at all. The extra effort is a barrier to entry, and it doesn't feel to me like a shibboleth of professionalism, as the basic print-oriented standard manuscript format does.

As always, your mileage may vary.

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threeoutside
User: threeoutside
Date: 2012-08-01 14:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"Going through and replacing all my underlined (for italics, obviously) text with _these characters_ is annoying and easy to make mistakes on. "

I've wondered for years, since there are so many many millions of people writing in hopes of publication these days, why have the almighty word processor code writers never thought to make such actions automatic, like Search and Replace? Shouldn't we be able, by now, to specify what the program is to look for, and what it is to do when it finds it? The most complicated and life-endangering industrial and medical processes and equipment are run on computer programs these days - why do we writers not have this ability yet? I'M LOOKING AT YOU SILICON VALLEY!

Ahem. Still need to work on this first cup of coffee.
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2012-08-01 14:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Agree completely on the futzy reformatting for electronic manuscripts. It could take me half an hour to reformat a short story for a specific market. More and more I just skip submitting to those markets when I see there's a lot of work involved in the formatting.
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Tim Lieder
User: marlowe1
Date: 2012-08-01 17:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I get very suspicious of editors who ask for very specific and very strange formatting such as 10 point font, single space, etc. I always figure that they are going to be hard to work with even if they do buy my story.
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joycemocha
User: joycemocha
Date: 2012-08-01 15:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm with you about the irksome replacement stuff. Generally I find those markets that demand a lot of tweaking and adjusting of the MS in variance from a standard MS preparation also have annoying and weird submission guidelines that reek of a lack of professionalism. Also, if an editor goes off on a submission rant in the GL, that's usually a strong hint to me that I really don't want to submit to that market because they're less than professional. Past experience has taught me that said editors are pains to work with if they buy the work, and that their rejections are pathetically annoying if they don't (grabbing at some reason to reject the work rather than just saying "it doesn't work for me.").
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