Archive for November, 2007

The Good and Bad News

November 19, 2007

Proper Manuscript Format

Hello Writers,

If you have been following this blog, I’ve been offering my expertise on writing and getting published. Today, I’d like to discuss a necessary writing evil for getting published. It is called manuscript format.

If you are writing to be published on the Net, this isn’t quite as important. But if you are yearning for print publication, here’s the down and dirty. A manuscript MUST be in proper format before it will be considered by a print publisher. If it isn’t in proper format, it will end up back in your envelop or as landfill.

What does that mean? Here are the basics.

  1. The manuscript must be typed, that means from your handy Mac or PC, in 10 or 12 point type in either Times Roman or Courier type. For the beginner, these two typefaces are called serif type because they have those “serifs” (any of the short lines stemming from and at an angle to the upper and lower ends of the strokes of a letter)(Thank you, Merriam Webster dictionary). San serif type (Arial) is not looked upon with a kind eye.
  2. The manuscript must be double-spaced on one side of the paper only.
  3. The manuscript should have the title centered about 3 inches down from the top for an article or short story.
  4. The first page of an article or short story should have the author’s name, address, and telephone number in the upper left hand corner and the approximate word count on the right hand corner.
  5. Most editors prefer page numbers on subsequent pages in the upper right corner with the title centered and the author’s last name on the upper left corner in a header format.

That should get you started. Next time I’ll discuss novel and book-length format.

Sandy Whelchel is the author of seven published nonfiction books and two novels. Her most recent book is THE NATIONAL WRITERS ASSOCIATION GUIDE TO WRITING FOR BEGINNERS, ISBN:978-1-57886-685-4

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Six tips for getting ideas

November 9, 2007

Getting Ideas

Most author/speakers will tell you that the question, where do you get ideas is at the top of writer’s questions at any workshop or seminar. Most of us must wipe the astounded look off our faces before we answer, because the problem is a foreign one for us. Most of us have more ideas than we can ever put on paper. However for the idea challenged, here are a few suggestions on the where and what of getting ideas.

  1. Use the newspaper. My book, Check and Mate evolved from a series of murders that took place in the Denver area in the 1980’s. After reading the accounts for several months, my brain said this looks like the work of a serial killerand a book was born. The local paper also used to feature a science page in the Monday edition which was rife with ideas.
  2. Magazines and books also contain many ideas. Perhaps you’ve read a book where one of the subplots would have made a great story but wasn’t developed to your satisfaction. Now it’s your turn.
  3. Personal experiences are perfect fodder for your writing. Take a personal incident and twist it just a bit and “VOILA!” you have a story.
  4. Very few writers will admit to being “people watchers” but every one of them has the habit. Malls, grocery stores, and neighborhood parties offer the opportunity to sit or stand quietly and watch the people around you. Let your imagination go and you’ll add a stack of material to your idea file.
  5. Conversations overheard in restaurants make excellent starting points for ideas.
  6. The last and perhaps source of ideas is your own imagination. Imagination has been browbeaten from the majority of adults but there are smatterings in every writer so let it range free and you’ll have the beginnings of some great stuff.

Now that you have your ideas, you’ll want to save them. Whether you use a journal, file box, or notebook, carry paper and pencil everywhere. Blackberries or even My Little Reminders will keep those ideas handy, also. Ideas come from every place at odd moments so once you have them don’t forget to save them.

Sandy is the author of The National Writers Association Guide to Writing for Beginners as well as six other nonfiction books and two novels.