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Submission guidelines, what a drag

Saturday 25 October 2008

You know those creatively restrictive, unreasonable, set-in-concrete “guidelines” that treat writing as if it were maths rather than art?

If you have ever read the submission guidelines for any publication or publishing house, you’ll know what I mean. ‘One-inch margins’‘Double-spaced, not space-and-a-half’‘Pages bound by a paper clip, not stapled’‘Every page numbered’‘No separate title page’

They disagree with each other: ‘No email submissions,’ OR ‘Submissions by email only’ ‘All submissions must include an SAE,’ OR ‘Disposable manuscripts only; do not include an SAE.’

How they limit their options! ‘We do not accept science fiction, erotica, westerns, horror, romance, or children’s stories.’ ‘We do not accept stories with characters below the age of 18.’ ‘We do not accept light verse.’

Some places seem to want hardly anything sent in at all: ‘No unsolicited manuscripts;’ ‘No verbal/phone queries;’ ‘No email attachments;’ ‘No submissions from May 1 to October 1.’

Some go into a lot of detail about formatting. ‘Use 12 point font, to save our eyes.’ ‘No italics or scripts.’ ‘Underline words to indicate italics.’ ‘Indent for each paragraph. Do not leave 1-line spaces between paragraphs.’ ‘Please do not justify the right-hand margin. The number of lines per page should be uniform. Indicate line breaks with a single line and a centred pound sign (#).’

And there are the length constraints. ‘Less than 2,000 words’ … ’75-200 words’ ‘Poems of up to 200 lines’ ‘We prefer that stories not be longer than 12,000 words; most of the stories in the magazine are considerably shorter than that.’

Yours is 12,300 – surely close enough? They only say ‘prefer’, after all.

Well, many great writers do break the rules. But you’re not a great writer.

Click through to page 2

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One Comment leave one →
  1. thebeardedlady permalink
    Saturday 25 October 2008 11.53 pm

    Advice is always fun. Me, I only break the rules when I really, really want to.

    The best criterion, i find.
    – mand

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