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Creative Writing – Preparing Your Manuscript – by S.A. Barone

Creative Writing - Preparing Your Manuscript
by S.A. Barone

When you submit your manuscript for copy editing make sure it is the best piece you can write.

Make sure your manuscript (ms.) is in standard form before sending it to an agent or editor. That pile of paper represents you and your work, so you will want it to look professional.

Your manuscript should be produced on a computer. Do not make any handwritten changes. Use the front side of your paper only and use good quality white paper, no cream or other colors. I recommend 24 lb, bright white.

Always use clear, readable 12 pt. type such as Times New Roman. Don’t get cute or creative with your fonts, editors hate that.
Leave generous margins, at least an inch, on both sides and top and bottom of each page. Indent to indicate a new paragraph, remaining lines should be flush left, do not justify your right margin.

Always double space your manuscript. Editors need space for editing marks. However, do not double-double space between paragraphs.

Each page should have a header. On the left side, type a shortened form of your title. For example, if your title is Watching for Signs, your abbreviated version might be Watching. Put a slash mark and your last name. (Watching/Barone). On the same line on the right side of the page, put your page number. Every page should have this header so that if the pages are dropped, the editor or agent can put the manuscript back in order quickly.

Your title page will have your name, address, phone numbers and e-mail address in the upper left-hand corner. On the top right-hand side will be the approximate number of words in your manuscript. (If it’s 5, 256 words, write: Approximately 5,300, always round up or down.) Then drop down to the middle of the page and type your title; underneath it put, By and your name.

On the initial page of each chapter, drop down about four inches from the top of the page and write your chapter number (e.g., Chapter One). On all other pages, drop down only one double space from your header to type your text.

When you send out your manuscript don’t bind it in any way. Don’t staple any pages, simply put it in a manuscript box or large padded mailer with your cover letter on top. Always, and I can’t stress this enough, always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) or postage and a label for your manuscript box so your manuscript can be returned. If you are sending illustrations with your manuscript never, never, send your originals. Color copies are fine.

Here are some writing tips to remember.

Write about what you know.
Read widely.
Read what you enjoy but read a variety.
Create strong plots.
Show don’t tell.
Keep the same point of view.
Use natural dialogue.
Try to write every day, keep a journal.

Here is a checklist for you to follow while writing that best seller.

Is the beginning of your story interesting enough to make the reader keep reading?

Is your main character faced with a problem which is important to him to solve?
Are there real obstacles in the path of your main character which prevents him from easily achieving his purpose? or goal?
Has your main character solved his problem satisfactorily?
Is your character consistent all the way through your story?
Does the action continue throughout the story?
Does the ending carry a punch?
Is the solution satisfying?
Have you kept a single viewpoint throughout the story?
In a mystery is your logic sound from the beginning to the end?
Is your dialogue natural?
Include only material that is absolutely necessary to your plot development.
Do all the action, dialogue, descriptions, and characterizations help move the story toward the end?
Keep these bits of information close at hand when you are writing and you will have a good if not great manuscript.

Keep reading and writing

S. A. Barone

Shirley is a published children’s writer. She has publishing credits in Highlights for Children, Turtle, Children’s Playmate, Humpty Dumpty, and Chicken Soup for the Pre-teen Soul. Shirley  has won a Distinguished Meritorious Service Award from the California School Boards Association for authoring an elective program that was adopted in schools in the Western United States and in areas of New York City. To learn more about Shirley and her art, visit www.sabarone.com

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