Manuscript Preparation

Christian Writer Training Course 2, Lesson 4

We live in a generation of “packaging”. Unless it is put into a proper package, even the best product in the world does not attract customers. In the same way, every writing has to be presented in the right way if editors are even to look at it.

A few hundred years ago, when writers were not so much in abundance, and when editors had more free time than today, they would surely give attention to anything that came to their table, but today the situation is just the opposite. Your manuscript has now got to capture his attention while it competes with a large number of other submissions which he possibility cannot read in the time available to him.
Inculcate Good Manuscript-preparation Habits Right From The Beginning !!

Even if an editor makes as exception to this and gives time to all the manuscripts that cross his table, he is still not going to give the same attention to each manuscript thus placed. On the contrary, he will unconsciously spend more time with that piece of writing that has been presented in the more attractive way. This makes it imperative for you to present your writings in the most attractive and readable way.

Further, you must also remember that the editors are human. They have frustrations and irritations that are peculiar to their profession and, therefore, instead of adding to their problem you should try to help the editor out of these. For example, an editor has to deal not only with substandard writings, but also with carelessly written and even illegibly scribbled manuscripts. Therefore please give plenty of attention to how you prepare your manuscripts.

In this lesson I will explain the following points about manuscript preparation:

1–Type all manuscripts
2–The stationary to be used
4–Your record keeping practices

Let us look in detail at each point:

1-Type All Manuscripts: There is nothing wrong with handwritten manuscripts even at the dawn of the twentyfirst century, but typewritten material has a definite advantage in that it is more readable as well as compact. Therefore get all your manuscripts typed if at all possible.

Typing charges are not too high these days, and even if the initial investment looks too much you will reap much reward in the long run for this investment. Further, if you are a young person looking forward to twenty years or more of writing I strongly recommend that you learn typewriting yourself. It is not difficult or expensive. Just six months spent in a good typewriting institution will make you an expert. What’s more, during this period you don’t have to spare more than an hour a day for it. If you have a typewriter of your own, then just three months of training and then three months of practice at home is an equally good alternative.

If it is impossible to get the manuscript typed, then neatly handcopy it on ruled paper. What is important here is not a beautiful handwriting, but a handwriting that is highly readable without any strain.

If you are able to get it typed, or if you are able to type it yourself, then get three copies typed. Two copies should be sent to the editor, and one should go into your files for the record. In case the originals are lost in mail or in case the article is rejected but not returned by the editor, the copy in your records can be used to rewrite or retype it.

These days computers are becoming cheap, and very soon smaller machines might become cheap enough to become household gadgets. If the article is typed on a computer, then always keep a backup copy. Send two copies of the writing to the editor. Further, you must remember that these days many magazine editors are happy to receive articles on computer disks. These disks can be sent through mail, and once they make a copy of the article, the disk will be returned to you.

There are some standard practices for the layout of typed material. Some editors prefer a layout of their own specification, and that information can be obtained by writing to them. Meanwhile, you should continue with the standard layout. The standard layout is to type the manuscript double spaced (or 1.5 space, when available), on a single side of the paper. Around one to two inches or margin should be left on the left as well as on the right sides. The top and bottom margins should also be more than one and a half inches each. A good quality carbon paper should be used so that the copy is clear.

The first page of the manuscript you submit should preferably contain the following information:

Article Title:
Approximate Length Of The Article:
Approximate Level Of The Article (Simple, Semi Technical, Technical, etc.):
Your Address:

After giving this information, you should leave several inches of the paper blank, and then you can continue with the following: Title (centered on the page), your name on the right side after leaving a few lines from the title line, and then the text of the writing after leaving a few lines from the name.

Some typists do not number the pages. While this might not give any difficulty to the writer, it is greatly inconvenient for the editor as well as the person who is going to compose your writing. Should a page drop out of the manuscript (as it sometimes happens), they would have to waste a lot of precious time to decide where it goes back. Always label the pages with consecutive page numbers. If the typist has forgotten to do it, the do so with pen.

2-The Stationery To Be Used: The material that you use for presenting and dispatching the manuscript is as important as the writing itself is. You should therefore use the best quality paper that is available to you. If you are going to get the manuscript typed by somebody else, then supply them with good quality paper if they do not use paper of good quality.

Never use thin paper called rice-paper or onion-skin paper. It is to difficult for editors to handle that kind of paper, and you should not add to their difficulties — which are not little anyway.

Also, do not staple the papers. The experienced editors and composers find loose sheets of paper more convenient to handle, and therefore you should preferably use paper clips instead of staples.

3-Dispatching: Always use large sized envelopes for dispatching. The large size will ensure that you do not fold your manuscript too much or too many times. It is too difficult to read a sheet of paper that has been folded mercilessly. You should always know the current postal rates so that you mail the manuscript with sufficient postal stamps attached to the envelope. Postal fines are very high these days and, what is worse, no editor likes to be punished for the mistakes and carelessness of others. You should not expect any sympathy from an editor after you penalize him
with a postal fine.

If you want unaccepted manuscripts returned to you, then you should enclose a stamped and self addressed envelope (SASE) of suitable size with your manuscripts. Anything less than that (for returning your manuscript) is unacceptable to most editors. Some government published magazines do return rejected manuscripts at their own expense, but the number of government-controlled magazines is very small.

4-Your Record Keeping Practices: All writers should carefully keep a record of their writings. This is because by the time you write two dozen articles, you will loose track of the things written, sent to publications, rejected by publications, accepted for publication, and what has already been published. This statement might look a bit surprising to you, but it is true.

An article is a single entity, but the information connected with where you have sent them to where they have been published might add as many as four to six items with each article. This means that by the time you cross two dozen articles, the potential information that you will be chasing will exceed one hundred items. No one can keep this kind of information in his head. Many who were too foolish to do so have tasted the bitter fruits of neglect.
Long-term Record-keeping Habits Pay Well In The Long Run !!

For example, many careless writers have ended up sending the same article to more than one publication because of sheer neglect and forgetfulness. This is a crime in the world of writing, specially if you send them to publications that pay you for using your material.

Keep detailed information about your writings in a diary or notebook with the following minimum information for each piece of writing: name or title, the date you started writing, the date you finalized it, the date dispatched, the name of publication, the date of publication, and a line or two about what this piece of writing contains.

If the manuscript is typewritten or handwritten then a copy should be kept in your files. If it is done on a computer, then you should always keep a copy on two different disks so that if one is erased accidentally then you might be able to restore it from the back up copy.

One final word of advice: If you are careless now, you will regret all your life. If you take a little pain now, then you have a whole life to enjoy the fruits of hard labour.


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