Author's Manual

Manuscript Guidelines

1 October 2005

Author: Eric Flint

The most important thing you need to understand about these guidelines is that what matters to me is establishing consistency in the formatting of the articles and stories which are submitted to the magazine for possible publication. What's involved here is not the Word of God, and my specific requirements may vary somewhat from the manuscript guidelines of other publishers. The important thing is that, as much as possible, the submissions have the same basic formatting - or else I have to spend a lot of time manually reformatting each and every one of them.

I don't much care about formatting issues which I can fix with a simple global search-and-replace. An example is font. I ask people to format their stories and articles in Courier New, because that's what I use to read on a screen, but the truth is that any standard font will do fine - Times New Roman, Garamond, whatever. That's because I can change that in a few seconds. In fact, I will change it if I like a story well enough to edit it, because I edit in hardcopy and I prefer Garamond for that purpose.

What I do care about are formatting problems which require Paula or me to spend a lot of time having to manually change one item at a time.

With that in mind, here are the guidelines:

General Guidelines:

Use Courier New, 12 point, or any standard font. The main thing is to keep it consistent throughout the entire text.
Set the margins as follows: Top and bottom: 1". Left and right: 1.2 or 1.25". Gutter: 0. Gutter position: Left
If you're not sure how to do this, we can tell you how to do it in Word. I assume that WordPerfect has a similar process. As follows:
  • Select "File"
  • Select "Page Setup"
  • Select "Margins"
  • Then set the parameters as shown above.
We prefer that you not use a page header. If you do, the header should give your last name, the name of the story or article (this can be shortened if needed), and the page number. I don't care whether you center it or place it left or right or both. (Eric centers his, but that's just a matter of personal choice.)
The headings and pagination will all change anyway if we buy the story and it gets included in the magazine. Whatever header you use will get replaced by the header Paula sets for the entire manuscript. However, use header rather than footer, and do not use a header on the first page. (To set all this, in Word, go to "View" and select "Header and Footer.")
We do not want any page breaks or section breaks.
Do not set any line breaks except as follows: When you want to indicate a line break, type three asterisks *** and center them on the page. (If you're not sure what a "line break" is, the term simply refers to skipping a line before you resume the text.) Line breaks are used in fiction to indicate substantial time lapses, change of scene, POV, or some combination.
The most important thing about this, by the way, is that you center the asterisks. I can change some other mark to three asterisks easily by using the global search-and-replace function. What I can't do easily is center it. That has to be done manually for each line break - at least, for someone at my level of computer familiarity - and that's a real pain in the neck.
Manuscript Guidelines:
Type your name and address on the upper left corner of the first page. Also include your email address. Phone number is optional but appriciated.
This is not the same thing as the "Byline" - see below for that. The purpose of this initial name and address is just so the editor can get hold of you if need be. It will not appear on any story or article which is published. The only thing which will appear publicly is your name in the Byline. Your byline need not be your real name. The address block does need to be your real name and address. We can not mail contracts and checks to a pen name.
The title of the story or article should be in the same font size as the rest of the story. Put the title in all-caps and highlight it in bold. See the title of this guideline for an example.
See the byline above for how to do it. "Byline" means your name as the author. This is the name you will be published under in the magazine. If, for example, someone named you James R. Boatright Jr., and you need your checks made out that way, but you want the radio article you wrote published as Rick Boatright, then put James at the top, and Rick in the byline.
If your story or article has chapters, sections or sub-titles -- either in words or in numbers -- use the same font and the same font size and highlight it in italic and bold. Do not use all-caps. Do not use a different font. Do not use a different font size. Do not center it. Left justified, italic, bold.
I don't care whether you choose one or another style in terms of capitalization. There are varying guidelines on this. Some publications Prefer Their Sub-Titles to Have Each Substantive Word Capitalized, and others don't. I don't care one way or the other, as long as you don't put it in all-caps and as long as you're consistent throughout the text. I.e., don't have one sub-title with capitalized words and another one without. Whatever style you prefer, stick to it.
The style itself is your choice. Just highlight it in italic and bold, that's all I ask - and don't do anything else.
I stress this because in my experience, it's with the use of sub-titles that 95% of all writers seem to be overwhelmed by the dreaded Inappropriate Creative Impulse. ("Icky" being, of course, the appropriate slang term for it.)
Use single spacing. (This is not critical, though - as long as you're consistent -- because I can change that with a simple global search-and-replace.)
Word and other word processing programs insist on replacing simple quotes ( " ) with their so-called "smart quotes" which put "these things" around quotations instead of "these things". Please turn them off. Also, turn off the formatting which replaces three dots (. . .) with the three dots character -the ellipsis- (…) Note that in submitted manuscripts there should be SPACE between the three dots (space)(dot)(space)(dot)(space)(dot). To turn off smart quotes in Open office do the following:
  • Choose Tools - AutoCorrect/AutoFormat.
  • Click the Custom Quotes tab
  • Clear the Replace check box(es).
In Microsoft Word do the following:
  • Choose Tools
  • Choose Autocorrect Options
  • Click the "Autoformat as you type" tab
  • Uncheck Straight Quotes.
  • Click on the AutoCorrect tab
  • Uncheck "Replace text as you type"
Do not set any automatic indentation of paragraphs. That is a nuisance for me. Simply indent each paragraph using the tab function. Set the tab at the standard 0.5"
Do not set a line break between paragraphs, unless you want one to indicate a break in viewpoint or the end of a section. One paragraph should flow right into the next.
In general, do not do anything fancy or complicated. The simpler, the better. The more formatting you put in, the more I have to take out. If you're not sure how to do all this properly, I can tell you how to do it in Word. As follows:
  • Select the entire text of your story. (Press CTRL-A or Go to "Edit" and then choose "Select all." Or you can use the mouse to do it by selecting the entire text manually.)
  • Having done that, select "Format."
  • Then select "Paragraph."
  • Then select "Indents and Spacing."
The selections should then be as follows:
Alignment, left. (Don't worry about "outline level." It should default once you exit as "Body text.")
Left, 0. Right, 0. Special, (none).

Before, 0 pt; After, 0 pt; Line spacing, single.

You can then set the tabs by selecting "Tabs" in the lower left of the "Paragraph" screen. The default tab stop position should be set at 0.5". If it isn't, select "clear all" and then type in 0.5 in the "Tab stop position" box.
Then make sure the alignment is set at "left" and the leader is set at "none."

If you've already written your story using a line break between paragraphs, here's the easy way to fix that without doing it all manually in Microsoft Word. These instructions will not work in other word processors.

  • Go to "Edit" and select "Find." When the "Find and replace" dialogue box comes up, select "More" at the bottom. Then select "Special" at the bottom. Select "Paragraph Mark" at the top of the list. Then select it again. You should wind up with two paragraph marks shown in the "Find" box.
  • Then select the "Replace" box. Having done that, select "Paragraph Mark." Then select the next item on the list, which is "Tab Character." You should wind up with one paragraph mark and one tab character shown in the "Replace" box.
  • Then select "Replace All" and you're done. You'll be removing the second paragraph mark which created the line break and replacing it with a tab key.

To do the same thing in Open office try the following:

  • Go to Tools, AutoCorrect/AutoFormat.
  • Click on the Options tab.
  • Scroll down, and in the "M" column, check the box next to "Remove Blank Paragraphs."
  • Click the OK Button.
If you want something in italics, put it in italics. Do not underline it. Underlining as a way of indicating italics is an antique hangover from the days of typewriters. It's silly in the computer era and just creates an unnecessary formatting change.
Also, remember not to use the standard methods for indicating italics in emails or online posts, such as _bracketing_ the word with underlines or *asterisks*. Those devices are even more of a pain to clean up than underlining. Each one of them has to be manually removed. USE ITALICS WHEN YOU WANT ITALICS. How easy can it be?
This is an important one, folks. I do not want anything else used to indicate italics except italics. ESPECIALLY, I do not want asterisks or _ marks or anything like that.
If asked to send your story to us, please send it as an attached file, saved RTF format.


Hm. That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm probably forgetting something. If so, I'll add it to a later edition of these guidelines.

The thing to understand about all this is that I am not obsessive and I will not automatically bounce a story just because it violates one or two of these guidelines. So don't tie yourself in knots worrying that you might have dropped a stitch somewhere. Just do the best you can with a honest effort.

I can tell the difference between someone who has tried to follow the guidelines and someone who paid no attention to them at all. The latter person will get the story bounced with a note telling them to do it right before they submit it again. The former person will get their story read, even if there's a glitch here or there.

What's important to me about these guidelines is not any mystical belief on my part in the Virtue of Rules, it's simply to cut down on my own work load as editor. The more closely you follow these guidelines, the less work it is for me.