Sunday, June 07, 2009

Who? What? When? Heh?

No, I'm not going deaf. I just wish I had some way of knowing when they'd changed requirements in formatting out in the publishing world.

When I first thought about writing a book, I bought several books on how to get published, and inside them were sections on formatting. NO! I will not tell you when this was. And NO! I didn't use a chisel and stone tablet. ::sigh:: You're worst than my children.

Anyway, the rule (yeah, one of those fluid rules) was to type in Courier 12 and each page was considered to have an average of 250 words. Thus, a 400 page manuscript would be 100,000 words.

Well, then computers took over and now they say, the above was for typewriters and no longer valid, unless you still use a typewriter. Then I wish you luck with White-Out and the just as messy white strips. Hated those things. The agents and editors might think it to be charming that you typed it on an old fashioned typewriter. Problem is, they'll think how charming it looks in their old fashioned trash can too.

Now, you have to use the word count in the word processor. For example, MS WORD (2007) can automatically count the words as you type and show them to you at the bottom of the page on the left. Sweet. AND, they tell us NEW Courier 12 is a true sign you're a newbie. Times New Roman is the preferred font. But of course they also say anything that is easy on the eyes is acceptable too. Myself, I rather use TNR until my agent/editor tell me different. That is, when I get a agent or editor.

If you wonder who THEY are, the people on the internet. I read about twenty different websites to get this information. The one I kinda trust the most was AGENT QUERY.

Oddly, I've found in contests, when I submit a entry in Times New Roman, I normally have higher scores (good thing) than if I submit it in Courier (bad thing).

When it come to your query letter, do you say 80,000 "computer" words or just words. When it comes to a publisher, they're thinking of print runs. Do most of them think computer count or the old school count? If you just say 80,000 words though it's computer count, a publisher may say it's too short. But they maybe thinking old school count. Argh! I know I'm overthinking it and just need to concentrate on the story. But if you're like me and have a habit of writing short, that can be a problem.

And don't get me started on where the chapter should begin on the page, or where my stupid address on the title page should be or where I should place my damn name in the header of the manuscript! ::deeper sigh:: I do need my little pink pills more some days than others.

For now, I'll just write the damn story and let the chips fall where they may as the old saying goes.


Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks, Carla! I really needed a laugh this morning. You are SO right! Who knew the hardest part about writing would be getting the **** thing formatted correctly!

When I first started I had NO clue. Now I have a few clues, but will probably still have to buy a vowel to get the whole thing worked out. Thank God for my CP who stays up on what editors / agents want!

Still, like you I think I'll just right the damned thing and worry about making it fit the magic formatting formula later.

Karen Beeching said...

These little things can be maddening. I've read several agents/editors blogs that say this "small stuff" doesn't really matter, as long as you're not using Egyptian hieroglyphs or the like, and the story is good. Then in agent/editor critiques I've received, somehow the subject comes up again.

I think when I've written the story that really grabs the agent/editor, I won't hear about font size until copy editing.


Carla Swafford said...

Louisa, be sure to have your CP tell us what she finds out.

Carla Swafford said...

Karen, font size so far hasn't really been an issue, though one website said if a person used Courier that was a sign you're unprofessional. I don't believe that but you never know. My main concern has been meeting word count. That's a big deal to publishing houses.

Karen Beeching said...

An agent once did a critique of my manuscript and said Times New Roman 12 point "looked" too small and that I should always always always use Courier 12 point. Crazy!

Carla Swafford said...

I guess, Karen, that's why we have to read as much we can on that special agent or editor. In fact, that would be great info to share with your chapter mates. :-) LOL!

Karen Beeching said...

There's a lot more to this story and I'll definitely share off line.


M.V.Freeman said...

Thank you Carla, for the humor and the very real frustration.

It never gets easier, does it?


Carla Swafford said...

You're right, Mary. Everytime you think you have it nailed down, something pops you in the face. LOL!

Christine said...

Word count? How about lines on the page? I remember when I entered the LHAofE last year, I was so stressed out about meeting the line format, I asked about it. But you all were fine with my inability to get the exact number of lines per page (doesn't matter how many times I try to make it happen--I just can't).

I did have one judge in a contest give me grief because I didn't ALL CAP my chapter headings. And she also gave me grief about the WIDOWS/ORPHANS function (either being on or off--can't remember--so ridiculous as what does that have to with the story????).


Now about the word count/computer word count. I wonder, do I need to subtract all the CHAPTER ONE, CHAPTER TWO.... from the count? Or not?

And I am like you, Carla, tend to write "short" so I worry if I am under in word count as well.


Okay, now I have creatively avoided cleaning my house too long and since I haven't cleaned in over two weeks, I must face this challenge.

Why doesn't anyone interrupt me when I am cleaning?

Carla Swafford said...

All caps and Widow/orphans in Windows: I agree totally, Christine. The story counts and that's really all.

Christine said...

thanks Carla! But if anyone wants to teach me how to do it right, I'm willing to learn!!

Suzanne said...

Great post, Carla.

My MS has been in progress so long that the rules have changed about a trillion times. At this rate it will never be finished.


Carla Swafford said...

Suzanne, the best part of writing is a good story never goes out of style.

Diane Richmond said...

I think every writer has agonized about the format. Still, the key point in all this is the story. Sometimes I think we pay more attention to the format rather than what we are writing. I know I have fallen into that trap on occasion. The book I am working on now will be different. You can hold me to it. I am working on content and story now. I will correct the rest later.