Formatting the Manuscript

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guichizango
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Formatting the Manuscript

Post by guichizango » May 5th, 2012, 1:49 pm

I just had a question that I'm sure someone out there can answer. When formatting a manuscript, I know there needs to be a page break between chapters, but my question is what do we do between scenes? Is a double return good enough or should I put some kind of symbol, like an asterisk to signify the break?

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polymath
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 5th, 2012, 2:21 pm

Standard Manusript Format preparation for submission recommends a single hash mark flush left on a line break as a signal to a publication designer or typesetter that the line is intentionally left blank. The hash mark functions as a nonce character, meaning instances will be removed before publication. Though most writers anymore just leave section line breaks for scene changes empty. The hash mark, like so:
#
For plain SMF style see http://www.vondanmcintyre.com/mssprep.pdf

McIntyre covers every aspect of SMF. The use of a monospaced typeface like New Courier is generally passing out of favor. However, its fundamental purpose is more valid than ever: to facilitate editing ease from its ample glyph spacing qualities.
Last edited by polymath on May 15th, 2012, 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by Mira » May 7th, 2012, 3:10 pm

What would we do without you, Polymath? :D

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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 7th, 2012, 4:22 pm

Might have to acquire and use the shelves of reference and style manual books and education and training and experience I have acquired over the years.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by Mira » May 13th, 2012, 12:42 pm

polymath wrote:Might have to acquire and use the shelves of reference and style manual books and education and training and experience I have acquired over the years.
Don't be silly. That's so NOT going to happen. That's why we need YOU, polymath. :D

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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by cheekychook » May 13th, 2012, 2:55 pm

Polymath, as always, offers the technically correct response. However, depending on where you're sending this manuscript there might be differing guidelines/preferences.

I currently work with two publishers. One requires a double line break to indicate pov switch and a centered asterisks break with three asterisks to indicate a passage of time. The other publisher requires four asterisks to indicate a pov switch and a double line break to indicate a passage of time.

If there are no specifications about how this should be handled, it is best to choose one method and be consistent throughout the document. As long as you're consistent they'll see what you're doing. There's plenty of time for them to give you their detailed style guide once you've signed with them. Hope that helps.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 14th, 2012, 3:10 pm

One benefit I see from publishing house to house SMF deviations as a writer is they allow me to evaluate publishers and their editors' training, education, experience, and professionalism. For example, putting a nonce character or characters on a blank line of a manuscript signals the line is deliberately left blank, especially important when a blank line falls at the bottom of a manuscript page.

Though elegant variety is the spice of life, deviations from SMF signal to me that a house might unintentionally take less care than one that doesn't deviate. The hash mark is the standard signaling a space in proofreader and typesetter marks. By itself on a blank line, a deliberately blank line space. Asterisks signal other meanings, for footnotes, for ordering heirarchy, for bold formatting in plain text ASCII listserv publication format (electronic). Asterisks are one of many standard glyphs for strong subsection subhead labeling in Standard Publication Format (print). I prefer more artful type art for SPF, — § — or ☾♕☽, for examples.
Last edited by polymath on May 14th, 2012, 8:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by cheekychook » May 14th, 2012, 5:50 pm

I assumed the initial question in this thread meant formatting for submission to either agents or editors. When subbing a manuscript directly to either agents or editors (meaning editors at a publishing company, not to a freelance editor) many of them require certain formats (more or less) because they wish to see if the writer who's subbing to them has taken the time to read their specifications and is compliant enough to follow them. It's not so much what is "standard" as a way they use of gauging how well the author has researched their wants and how able the author is to follow guidelines---both very big things with many agents and editors in the decision-making process about who to (and not to) rep/hire.

I've actually seen many an agent and editor rant on Twitter about how writers who don't take time to follow their submission guidelines (which includes formatting) are automatic rejects. Many of them make their specific requests based on how/where they read their queries and subs---those who read on their phones or e-readers often want things to appear in a less traditional format simply because it makes it easier for them to read the submission. My advice is check the guidelines of each person to whom you're sending the manuscript. When no details are offered then you can assume any of the formats that are considered "standard" will be acceptable.
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polymath
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 14th, 2012, 8:22 pm

It's a two-way street. An agent or publisher or editor who expects off-standard formatting indicates to me a fudge on the homework. Gives me reason to pause.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by cheekychook » May 15th, 2012, 1:26 pm

Polymath--It's not a fudge of the homework, it's a power play, part of the game, a test. And it's an extremely frequent occurrence. I can't even count the number of snotty Tweets and blog posts about "Dear Writer, If you can't even follow my submission guidelines what makes you think I'm going to want to reply to your query let alone commit to working on a project with you?" Sure, there are some agents out there who don't act like that, but there are far more who do and they take their personal set of rules as the first test. You pass and then maybe they'll actually read your pages. You don't and *delete*. Editors are more likely to mess with things like the specific way your attachment is labeled (TITLE_AUTHOR_MANUSCRIPT or Title-Author'sInitials-MS etc). Again, you get it right, you have a better chance of moving to the next step---getting your work read. That's not my jaded attitude, agents brag about things like this quite openly and editors often specify that they've given rules to follow so they can see how well you'll follow them. It's not about being "correct" or "standard" it's about playing the game. Fair? Not really. Fun? Not at all. Necessary? If you want an agent or editor, yes.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 15th, 2012, 2:41 pm

If the voice of a submission guidelines page turns me off, I reject the house or agency. Period. Life's too short to endure uncalled-for adversity. There's 100,000 publishers active in the marketplace, 500 of them first-tier imprints. There's 2,000 accredited agents, many of them respectable, respectful, courteous, and professional. Lots to chose from. Since their actions are accessible through web sites and social networking sites, their attitudes are too. A house or agency's negative attitude toward writers says unequivocally to me that gatekeepers think writers are not worth the trouble. Biting the hand that feeds them. I do my homework, think for myself, won't submit to any old rude house or agency, and thank Providence I don't have to.

In the end, I aver, it's not about the format, it's about the caliber of art, craft, and voice, and the quality of relationship between consumers and producers and the intervening middlepersons who negotiate putting them together.

Following a submission guideline might demonstrate a writer's attention to detail, in turn, demonstrate potential creative caliber, but rigid conformance to arbitrary, capricious, whimsical rules, even if purposely motivated, is not conducive to creativity.
Last edited by polymath on May 15th, 2012, 3:50 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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cheekychook
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by cheekychook » May 15th, 2012, 3:09 pm

Very little about the submission process is conducive to creativity. Or sanity. At least in my experience.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by polymath » May 15th, 2012, 3:46 pm

Thus why following conventional standards is the mark of professionalism. If every house made up new in-house standards for every formatting aspect, there'd be little possibility any struggling writer could make sense of the gamut. Soon, no emerging struggling writers would be able to enter the field. Literary arts would die out.

The convention for the hash mark signaling space has been around since the introduction of the printing press, at least five hundred years. Deviations have only cropped up in the past twenty years.

An example of the standard upon which using a hash mark signals space: word space, sentence space, leading space in the case of a deliberately blank line;
http://www.espressographics.com/text/proofreader.html

Note there are no asterisks in proofeaders' marks. Asterisks signal other orthographic meanings.

Every style manual, most comprehensive dictionaries, and other writing references contain a substantially identical copy of Proofreaders' Marks. They are ready to hand for any professional's use. Deviations disrupt editing ease and confuse correspondence with writers, and between editors, proofreaders, typesetters, and page designers; editing ease which is the purpose of formatting in SMF.
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Re: Formatting the Manuscript

Post by andyallisonm » May 22nd, 2012, 5:34 am

Formatting the Manuscript is really complex.

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