Final, final, FINAL edit

Posted on January 11, 2009 (Subscribe to Blog)

Yesterday I was pottering about with my novel Island of Fog. The printed manuscript that I sent to the literary editor a while ago is full of little red marks, and I'm now running through them and making corrections as necessary. In doing so, I've converted the document to proper manuscript format.

Now, I've always had a good idea about the correct format in which to send a manuscript to agents, but until now I've not bothered with that aspect too much. Printing the manuscript for a literary editor back in October involved using double line spacing (as usual) and her preferred font, Times New Roman. But perhaps a more proper format is to make the manuscript look like it's been typed on an old typewriter, and that means using good old Courier New. This font is monospaced as opposed to proportional (in other words each character uses the exact same amount of space, whereas with a proportional font the letter "m" uses more space than the letter "i") and the result is fewer words per line and thus many more pages to print. So I've gone from 295 printable pages to 480, almost an entire ream of paper. And that's just for 95,000 words, a pretty modest total compared to, say, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is, according to Scholastic, a total of 257,045 words. I imagine J. K. Rowling hired a removal van to ship THAT manuscript off to her agent! (This is the longest book in the Potter series, and while some readers say they couldn't put it down, I personally had trouble picking it up.)

Some of the corrections I've been making to Island of Fog are because I'm an Englishman in America, a bit of a half-blood when it comes to writing. A Brit would probably write "Hal looked about" while an American would write "Hal looked around." Not a big deal, but these little "Brit" nuances might make an agent or publisher frown a little, so I want to get them right. Unfortunately I can't even ask my wife because she's just as bad, having spent five years living in England and being influenced by my Britishness. So it's often a bit of a surprise when someone – either a fellow writer nitpicking my work, or a website client correcting some text that I might have added to their site – says something like, "Whoa, what's a 'car park'? Do you mean 'parking lot'? And as for 'enquiry'... we use 'inquiry' in this country, pal." Throw in some colloquialisms from my local hillbilly town and I'm in real danger of having characters say stuff like "Where's it at?" and "I might oughta get home now" and "I'm fixin' to mash this button."

Comment by MING on Monday, January 12, 2009...

Good to know you're progressing with the novel!

Comment by RALPH CORDEROY on Monday, January 12, 2009...

It seems the solution is somewhat obvious. "Hal took a gander." ;-)

Comment by ROGOZ on Monday, January 12, 2009...

Doesn't the publishing industry use e-files yet ? Never heard of Acrobat ? No wonder they are in trouble.

Funny, I left an engineering position which was 95% paperless & went to a Hospital where patient files were all 3" thick — paper, paper everywhere. When I made an appointment, some gnome from the records dept. had to send my files up to the Surgeon on a trolley — Lucky the rest of the hospital was up to date.

Psst ! — What's wrong with surplus FEMA trailers ? Bolt 2 together.

Comment by JULIAN PARRY on Monday, January 12, 2009...

What a great post, Keith! I chuckled at this:

"....and while some readers say they couldn't put it down, I personally had trouble picking it up."


Good luck on publishing Island of Fog!

Ever-Reader of Keith's Excellent Blogs,
Julian Parry.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Monday, January 12, 2009...

Thanks, all! Rogoz, you asked "Doesn't the publishing industry use e-files yet?" and of course many agents do prefer emailed inquiries and submissions. But many prefer emailed inquiries and then, IF they ask for it, the manuscript sent by mail. The reason is that editors scribble red marks on the manuscript as they go through, and for that they need double-spacing, etc. I have to agree with them on this; if I were reading manuscripts all day, I'd want to read paper versions so I can go sit in a cozy chair or out in the sun or whatever. And it's far easier to make notations in ink than fiddle with a word processor. (I like your story about the hospital though. Some places really are still in the dark ages!)

Thanks also, Ming and Julian, for your comments. :-)

Comment by LIZ on Tuesday, January 13, 2009...

I know exactly where you're coming from with the lingo in your novel. When I'm writing, I find little British expressions falling into Australian stories and Australian expressions falling into British stories. It's one of those things you're unaware of. Perhaps keep a copy of your Pommie version, though, so that you or your agent can seek a British publisher as well as an American one down the track.

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