Preparing your Manuscript
It's never been easier, one would think, to write. Nearly everybody has a computer and those computers have either primitive of sophisticated text programmes.
All one has to do is write and write and write and then, send it off!
Recently, one or two manuscripts have come our way, from people who want to be published, and sometimes we have found them difficult to read. They are "all over the place" and working out what the person wanted to say, when sentences are left abandoned mid-page, and full stops are missed out - you would be surprised! - can be irritating.
We've seen pages with some paragraphs indented, some not, some paragraphs with gaps between them, some not. Usually, a gap between paragraphs denotes a pause in the narrative, but with four or five on one page, one might-as-well be writing a play.
They say that, like housekeeping, good design is invisible. People only notice the housework when you haven't done it. If you have an immaculate house, nobody says a word.
Make it easy. From the point of view of presenting your manuscript to a publisher, you need to make it easy for him or her to read it, so much so that they see only the beauty of the writing, never that your commas are in the wrong place. Your good design must be invisible. You must be consistent throughout a manuscript that might be 100 or more pages long. You must have, what they call in editorial offices, a "house-style."
Hence, these tips for presenting your manuscript, which include a bit of grammar.
1. Use a sans-serif typeface like Helvetica. A serif face such as Times Roman is out of date nowadays. Many people thinks it makes a piece of writing look literary. It doesn't, it just makes it look old-fashioned.
Use a sans-serif typeface.
2. "Range" your work on the left - leave it "ragged" on the right. When your book appears in print, it may well be "justified" that is, straight down on the left-hand-side and on the right-hand-side too. But for a presenting manuscript, ranged left, ragged right gives a more casual approach which works well. It's more "notebook" or "proposal" which is what a manuscript sent to a publisher should be. Usually, ranged left, ragged right is the default state of your text programme.
3. Paragraphing. Keep your paragraphs short, within the boundary that you go onto a new paragraph when the subject changes, or adjusts. Err on the side of "short" here. it is better to have some paragraphs only one sentence long, that to have paragraphs filling up whole pages without a gasp for breath.
4. Indicate a new papagraph by indenting the first line - do NOT leave a space between paragraphs. You can probably indent by using the tabulation button.
5. Do NOT indent under the following circumstances; first, when beginning the text, secondly, under a new heading or cross-head, and thirdly, when you have left a gap between paragraphs because you want to move on to another subject, or onto another chapter.
6. A gap between paragraphs shows a natural pause. Never let a gap between paragraphs be there by accident.
7. You may be confused by my use of "heading" and "cross-head." A heading is a main heading, such as at the beginning of a chapter, and a cross-head is a smaller heading inserted within the text.
8. Make headings and cross-headings in bold style.
9. If you are using foreign words, put them into italic style. Make sure you are consistent about this.
10. Speech-marks. Use the double speech marks - " - for conversation, the single speech marks for other quotes, such as what somebody is thinking or dreaming.
11. Leave one space after a comma, two spaces after a full-stop.
12. Rules of grammar are more fluid now than they have ever been. However, the old advice of, never start a sentence with "and" or "but" still applies. Equally, make sure every sentence has a verb in it.
13. Number every page at the top, either on the right or the left. Some people number them as "page 1 of 10" continuing to "page 10 of 10" or however many it is.
14. However, this is only necessary if you expect your manuscript to be printed out. This is rare in today's world of computers.
15. Lastly, save your document as a pdf, and send the pdf to your possible publisher. This removes all the grid and page lay-out lines in your original and looks so much nicer and neater. And incidentally, makes it harder for anyone to alter or appropriate your work.
PS. Good luck.