Proper Manuscript Form 2.0

Jacob Haddon
email@address
Approximately 650 Words

Proper Manuscript Form 2.0

by Jacob Haddon

In this day and digital age it may seem odd to format your submission in a particular way, but yet over and over it is requested.

William Shunn (shunn.net) has, perhaps, the most famous resource online for formatting. However, it is written for paper submissions. This is an attempt to update it for the more digital world.

Despite the fact that your story will be read online, it is important to remember that it will still be read by a human. We hold the computer / tablet further from our face than we would a book, and as such, your font choice and size should reflect this.

Courier is still the font of choice for this, for all the reasons Shunn mentions. It is easy to read, makes things clear, and, from experience, doesn’t strain the eyes as much as proportional fonts.

Because of distance to the screen, you should make it at least 12 pt. Double space your lines. Either double space between paragraphs, or indent them, but make sure paragraph delineation is consistent and clear. Left align your file, rather than use justification. This is for ease of reading, and really, you want to make your submission as easy to read as possible.

It is preferred you do not use italics, but rather underline. Why? again, readability. Not only for the first time through, but if your story is chosen, it is easier to see underlines to reference the document with the production layout than it is to see italics.

Remember, you are not formatting for layout–that is the job of the publisher. This formatting is designed to make it as easy and clear as possible for the content and layout editors.

Despite the digital submission, we still have ‘pages’ in word processor documents. Keep them about normal, so letter or A4 depending on what suits you best. Use 1 inch margins all around. This is probably the default setup when you start your word processor.

Shunn talks specifics about headers, but don’t bother with them. Headers are best for print submissions in case the pages get separated, but that is not going to be the case in this situation.

Let’s talk the about the first page.

Put your name on it. Just like grade school, put your name right at the top. Do not trust that the file will be kept with the email / submission website / etc, it was sent with. This is to be your legal name.

Under your name, put your email address. Under that an approximate word count. Rounded to the nearest hundred is usually fine, though if it is a flash piece, the exact number of words is probably better.

There will be some publications that ask for blind submissions (no information in the file), for these, exclude these bits, but make sure you include the title of your story and the file name in your cover letter.

Put the title next, center it. Under the title, put your byline. This is how you want your name to appear in print.

Give a space, then your story.

If you have section breaks, again go for consistent and clear delineations. An extra space can sometimes be lost in a page break, so an actual marker is better. I use “* * *”, for example. The singular “#” is also a common choice.

And now your story is ready for reading. Good luck! For reference, here is the original Shunn article: shunn.net/format/story.html

This post is from: jacobhaddon.com

TL:DR

Formatting:

  • Use Courier (or Courier New), 12pt
  • Double space lines
  • Either double space or indent paragraphs, be clear and consistent
  • Standard page size, 1 inch margins
  • No page headers
  • Use underlines instead of italics

Front page:

  • Name, Legal
  • email
  • number of words (approximately)
  • Title
  • Name, Byline

Through a Water Drop

20 May 2007

Ten years ago I woke up one morning with distortion in my vision. It looked like a drop of water on a camera lens that hung out in the lower left hand side of my right eye’s vision.

By lunch it had not gone away, and so I set out to my doctor’s office. They looked inside, they took pictures, and we even looked at the two sets to compare–all looked fine.

“But if it gets worse, come back.”

It got worse. The area grew, and the middle began to grow brown. On Friday, I went in again for another look. This time the doc called over immediately to the retina specialists nearby.

“Did you eat lunch?” he asked, looking at his watch, phone reciever on his shoulder.

“Uh, yea, about 11?”

The retina doctor explained my retina was detaching, and I would need surgery. Had I not had lunch, it would have been right then, but they need longer between food and the anesthesia.

So instead, I got to sleep with it one more night. I was scared. My vision has never been good; I’ve needed glasses since I was five. (probably longer…)

The next morning we went in. Mom drove, since I would not be able to myself, for a few reasons, when it was all done.

I sat on the bed, waiting on what would be my first real surgery. The nurse came in, and seeing the TV commented the remote was nearby, and I could change it.

“He changed it TO this,” my mother offers.

It was Pokemon.

The nurse took my blood pressure, and asked if I knew why I was in there today. It seems it was a fairly normal level.

At that point it was either going to work, or it wasn’t. I was in good hands, but nothing was assured. At this point I was simply along for the ride.

And ride I did. First down to the prep room. They put me on a bed, connected me up to all the nodes and tubes. We made some jokes, and they started the meds.

What seemed a few minutes later to me, I was awoken. The right eye was just blackness and numbness. The left eye was covered over by something, so I couldn’t see anything.

You see, you can’t sleep through eye surgery. If you go into REM, bad things happen. I slept through prep, but it would be up and awake the rest of the time.

I’m laying there, listening to the doc talk as they get things ready.

“I could totally move if I wanted to,” I think.

And to prove this to myself, I wiggle my fingers on my left hand.

“HA! Totally,” I think. “Eh, but I don’t really WANT to move.”

And I didn’t. I didn’t want to do ANYTHING but lie there. (pretty sure I wiggled my toes later as well, again for science.)

They start. I never looked into the details of how this all goes down, but I have an overview. With lasers they are gonna tack weld my retina back on, put things back into place, and in the end put a small nitrogen bubble in my eye as a temporary bandage.

I know there was a needle involved because in the midst of that blackness I saw the tip, which at that point looked like a pointed cylindar the size of a barrel.

At one point I hear the doc ask for the laser.

“Is it on a shark?” I ask.

A few moments later he asks what I said, in that ‘are you ok?’ doctor tone.

“Nevermind,” I say. Thinking that making jokes with the guy about to lase my eye may not be the best choice.

All of which happened under a lot of drugs.

They finish up, I get knocked out again for the de-rigging, come to in bed with a nurse talking to me.

Now starts the fun part. Remember that bubble? The nitrogen in my eye? Well, it is a bandage of sorts, intended to help keep things in place. Which means it has to stay in the back of my eye…

For a week.

This is where that starts. I’ve got bandages covering the right side of my face, so all I have a this point is blackness still. The left eye is open, and sees, well, as much as I can see without glasses.

“Keep your head down,” the nurse says.

As we are walking to the wheelchair, she made a comment about her appearance.

“That’s ok,” I say, “I can’t see anything right now.”

“In that case,” she says, “I look like Pamala Anderson.”

She wheeled me down the hall, and we kept chatting. We were joined by another nurse who had paperwork and meds to hand off to my mother.

“And she looks like Christy Brinkley,” the first nurse comments.

Which is how I introduce them to my mom when we get to her. She told me she knew it was me they were bringing out because she could hear people laughing.

And, as we do after important life events, we picked up a milkshake on the way home.

Now for the fun part. Remember that bubble? Remember, I gotta keep it at the back of my eye, so face down, for a week. I spent MOST of that week lying face down with support holding my head in the right place.

My face was swolen, so even after the bandages came off there was still darkness.

It would be nearly three days before I got it open enough that through the blur of my bad vision, and the blur of post surgury, I could see my hand.

The bubble left me near the end of the week, but a new feature had arrive. There was a curved discontinity in my vision from where the detachment had been. Like a crack in a phone screen. Everything was there on both sides, they just didn’t meet up quite right.

As with most of our scars, the brain compensated, and after a while, everything lined up again.

My eye works. In some ways it is clearer than before, as all the stuff that was floating around in there is gone. But in other ways not. The brain kicked things over to the left eye for data, which had the good effect of improving my prescription on that side.

In these ten years I fell in love, had heartbreak. I went to wine country in California. I started playing the violin. I played two seasons of rugby. I wrote. I started a publishing company. I went to Ireland and Poland and Canada. Friends got married, and I stood by their sides. I saw the sunset in Key West. I danced at a wedding in upper New York, twice. I was in a car crash, car totalled. I crashed a Vegas wedding. I climbed rock clifts in Colorado. I read so many books.

I met a girl, fell in love again, but this time it took.

And I saw it all.

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