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The Art of Story Writing : CHAPTER XVI The Preparation of a Manuscript

by Nathaniel C. Fowler, JR   

CHAPTER XVI The Preparation of a Manuscript

UNDER another heading I have suggested the size and quality of the paper to be used. All manuscripts should be written on the typewriter, and ruled paper should not be used, unless the manuscript is hand-written.

Many book publishers will not consider a pen-written manuscript, and the majority of periodicals and newspapers, other than country newspapers, will refuse to read a manuscript which is not typewritten.

If you do not own a typewriter and do not feel that you can afford to purchase one, you may rent a fairly good machine as low as five dollars for three months. The standard typewriters cost approximately one hundred dollars, but there are several machines on the market which can be had for much less, and which answer the purpose.

A typewriter with visible writing is to be preferred to others. Use a black, or blue-black, or dark blue, or dark green ink, and under no circumstances a purple, a yellow, or any other color. Black, or blue-black, is preferable.

There should be a margin of at least one inch at the top, bottom, and sides. Under no circumstances write on more than one side of the sheet.

Single or narrow space between lines is an abomination. The lines of all manuscript should be double spaced.

Unless your paragraphs are plainly indicated, precede them with a paragraph mark. Should you, however, desire to add paragraphs after the manuscript is written, there is no need of rewriting ; simply write in paragraph marks. Should a paragraph appear in a manuscript, which, after consideration, you desire to have set not as a paragraph, mark in front of it the word "No," followed by the paragraph mark, or the words "Run in."

Be very careful with your spelling, particularly of proper names and of technical terms, for the editor and publisher will hold you responsible for all spelling, except of common words, and he may demand that all words and terms be correctly spelled.

Do not write more than one or two words at a time between the lines, and better avoid doing this altogether, as interlining confuses the reader and compositor. It is better to cross out wrong or misspelled words and write them on the same line, than it is to interline them.

Avoid, as far as possible, writing in the margins. If you make many changes on any page of your manuscript, better rewrite it, even if it does not make your page come out even, or carries the matter over to another page. While it is desirable to have about the same number of words upon each page, there is no need of rewriting the page or pages to produce this result, so long as your matter is not disconnected.

Every publisher of books, or of periodicals and newspapers, maintains a style of his own as regards paragraphing, spelling, and punctuation, and he will set the manuscript according to his system, unless it be one of a technical character.

Unless you know the style prevailing in the publisher's office, or in the magazine or newspaper office, paragraph, punctuate, and spell according to your system, if it is one of the standards, and be consistent. The editor will make changes, if he desires to do so; but you should not consider this an excuse for careless paragraphing, punctuation, or spelling.

Write in your chapters and chapter headings, and if, for any reason, you desire to have any part of the book set in smaller type than that used for the body, indicate it by writing "Small type "at the side of the paragraph.

Draw one line under all lines you desire to have set in italics, two lines under those to be set in small capitals, and three lines under those to be set in capitals.

If your book contains dialogue, be very careful to use quotation marks, and to have a separate paragraph for what each person says, using more than one paragraph if the spoken words occupy over a dozen lines.

Number each page with figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., and write them in the upper right-hand corner.

It is not necessary to repeat the chapter headings on the manuscript.

If, after the manuscript is completed, you desire to insert one or more pages, write in the upper left-hand corner, "46-B," "46-C," etc., and then insert them in the proper place. For example: let us suppose that you desire to insert three pages between pages 46 and 47. It is not necessary for you to repage the entire manuscript; simply write "A " after 46 on page 46, and then write "46-B," "46-C," and "46-D," respectively on the inserted pages; and on page "46-D " write, "Next page 47." This will assure the editor and compositor that no page has been omitted. If you remove a page, say page 62, write in the upper left-hand corner of the page following the omitted page, "No page 62."

Your manuscript numbers should run consecutively, and you should not write in the margin of any page, " Insert paragraph marked 1," or "Paragraph marked A." Have these insertions come in regular order, even if by so doing, some of the pages will contain an uneven amount of matter.

In another chapter I have told you how to estimate the number of words or length of a manuscript, and how to give this information to the editor or publisher.

Begin every chapter on a new page. Underline all foreign words, like "prima facie," so they may be set in italics.

A good way to prepare a manuscript, which, if you are a ready writer, will save you much time and trouble, and the expense of copying more than a part of it, is to write the matter on paper eight and a half by eleven inches, and then paste the written sheets upon paper about eleven inches from right to left and twelve and a half inches from top to bottom, these larger sheets to be paged. On these larger sheets allow a wider margin on the left than at the top, bottom, and right. By this method you can easily insert additions and revisions, and yet your manuscript will read smoothly. Let us suppose, for example, that after your manuscript is written, you wish to insert considerable matter in certain places. You will then cut up the pages written upon, and paste the pages, or parts of them, where they belong on the larger sheets.

Practically all manuscripts are subjected to additions, omissions, and revision. By following this method, you will have to rewrite only that part of the matter which needs changes, and you can add or omit as you please.

After pasting the manuscript pages upon the large sheets, press them out smoothly by placing large books upon them. While this method does not present as handsome a manuscript, it is acceptable to every editor and publisher, for they care nothing about the appearance of the manuscript, if it is on paper of sufficient strength and suitable size, and reads smoothly, with no disconnections.

If the margin is sufficiently wide at the left, you can, if you desire, fasten your manuscript together by punching holes in the left margin and inserting strings through the holes, but this is not necessary.

A very acceptable and good form of manuscript is to bind it into portable covers, similar to those used for loose-leaf ledgers. These covers, and the perforated pages to fit them, may be purchased at any large stationer, and they are not expensive. This method keeps the manuscript in good shape, and it is not likely to be mutilated or soiled by the editor or reader of it. Of course, it will be detached from the covers when given to the compositor. If you use this form, number your pages as you would in a loose manuscript.

The author should accompany his manuscript with a title-page, and allow one page for the copyright line.

He should, as a rule, present his table of contents, and the index, if the book is to be indexed. He should not, however, write in the page numbers on either of the manuscript pages of the contents or index, because the correct numbers cannot be ascertained until the book is set and page proofs taken. Some years ago, publishers of high-class books made a requirement that every chapter should begin on a right-hand page, but this condition no longer prevails. However, the author cannot anticipate it, as he does not know, until he receives proofs, where the pages will begin, nor does he know whether or not the ending of any chapter will fill a page or occupy only a part of it. The last page of a chapter in a book, however, should not contain less than six type lines.

If the manuscript, when paged-up, runs from one to five lines over full pages, the publisher usually requests the author to add to the proof a sufficient number of words to make the last page of the chapter contain at least six lines; or the author may omit a sufficient number of lines from the chapter itself, so that it will not run over into the following page.

These omissions and additions are usually made after the page proofs are furnished, but if the author knows the number of lines to a page, he can anticipate them, and make them on the galley proofs. As this running over is not the fault of the author, it is not usually charged as author's corrections when it occurs. If you add pages, the number written on the last page will not represent the exact number of pages in the manuscript; then on the last page write something as follows: " 360 pages," which number must include the inserted pages. If you do not do this, and have inserted many pages, the manuscript would appear to contain less pages than it actually does. While the public or reader never sees a manuscript, the better the manuscript, all things being equal, the more likehood of its being accepted.