After The Story Ends

After the story ends, you’re left with a pile of editing and formatting. Woohoo! It’s fun; I promise.  You simply have to harness your inner editor, a shiny new red pen, and a stack of manuscript pages an inch or two thick…then let the magic happen.

If you’re new to fiction writing like I am, perhaps you came up with your genius novel idea, immediately sat down at the computer to write and just let the words flow out of your soul and onto the virtual page as they wanted. Perhaps you paid little attention to line spacing, margin size and font.  I sure did! I figured, let’s get the words on the page, let my characters tell their stories, and then I would format it to make it perfect. Let me be very clear about one thing, my next book will be formatted in proper professional submission-worthy accuracy from the my first key stroke! It’s not that it’s terribly hard to reformat your document if you know where to find things in your program, but it would simply be easier to skip this step next time and just do it right from the beginning. With a click or two, I can double space my lines, set my margins to one inch all around, choose twelve point New Times Roman font, and be off without another worry about formatting. Next time, I will click first and type second.

Since this is my first submission for fiction, I’ve spent a decent amount of time online researching proper formatting. The thing that I’ve come to discover is that everyone has an opinion about how it should be done, and as usual in life, the person in need (AKA, me), is left to sort through the confusion to try and figure out which rules they should follow and which should be ignored. I have no opinion one way or the other. I will format my manuscript anyway you want me to if it means I’m one step closer to getting it published. But, for the love of all things written, can people in the business please ban together and pick a preference?! Tell me how you want it, oh wise editor/agent, and I shall deliver it to you via email or snail mail (your choice again!). All I ask is that there be only one set of rules to follow, not multiple versions of the same rule that contradict each other.

Don’t know what I mean? Have you ever googled ‘manuscript em-dash formatting’?  Here’s an example of what I found… “Use two dashes together with a space on either side” or “use one em-dash with no space on either side and DO NOT use two dashes with spaces under any circumstances.” Confusing? I think yes. How about the chapter title location? Yep, more contradictions. One source will say to have it one-third of the way down the page with the text start right below it. Another says to never do that, instead put it at the top of the page and start the text twelve lines down from that. So who’s right? Who do you believe?

I’m choosing to go with the simple standard of ‘majority rules!’ Whatever opinion on a specific formatting need is found to be in the majority, that is the way I’m formatting. I figure there will always be a few people out there who want things to be a different style, but if the majority wants it a certain way, then that’s how I’ll do it. Of course, this is just in preparation for sending out my manuscript. When I am truly ready to send my manuscript out to someone, I will do everything I can to research how they want to see my novel. If they say that they’d like to see manuscripts on pink paper with 18 point font and triple spaced lines, they by golly, that’s what I’ll send them!

Now editing is a whole other beast! Editing is fun and challenging and frustrating and satisfying, all rolled into 300 plus pages of bright red graffiti. Hopefully, not every page will be covered in scratches of red pen! Some sections may be cut, other added, but most will be finessed and polished. I think some people may have trouble editing their words. They may get attached to what they’ve created and be resistant to change. I’m not that person.

I love my characters! I love the story they’d decided to share. Most of all, I have loved every minute I spent writing that story. However, I feel no attachment to the words on the page. I will move them, change them, delete them, anything if it makes my writing stronger, clearer, and more exciting. I’ve found the act of editing so satisfying. I enjoy being able to sit and fiddle with things until I have them the way I think sounds the best. In the process, I think I’ve learned a lot about my voice as a writer.

I haven’t finished my editing yet, but every day it gets closer and closer to being complete. Soon, I’ll be at the end and it will be time to send it out for a select group of editors and agents to evaluate. I guess I’ll know then if what I’ve done is enough.


About the author

Heather Thurmeier

5 pings

  1. Terri says:

    Hi, Heather!

    I hate to be the one to break this to you but not all pubs want the ms formatted the same way! You probably can’t go wrong with one-inch margins all around. But one publisher I’ve submitted to asks for 1.5 between each line, rather than the typical double space. Rule of thumb: Before you submit anything, look at the publisher’s/editor’s/agent’s guidelines and follow them to the letter.

    A stroll around the internet will tell you that many of the above-mentioned also look for different things when it comes to a query letter. One editor with a big internet presence likes a query with a chatty mention of what she’s been up to, according to what she’s been blogging and tweeting. Others prefer just the facts, ma’am. Most editors and publishers say to your ms’s word count right up front. But I’ve seen agents say on their blogs that they don’t need to know that–or at least not so soon.

    I have some links you might find helpful on my blog.

    I’m in the middle of revising something and I’m at the point that I don’t know what’s in and what’s out anymore! But another project I’m working on (unfinished at the moment), I’m enjoying revising and editing more than writing.

    Good luck with your WIP. I’m eager to hear it!

    1. hthurmeier says:

      Hey Terri!

      Thanks for coming to visit my site!! I definitely plan on looking up submission guideline specifics for each place/person I plan on sending my ms. I’m trying to get it to a place where I feel it hits as many of the most common preferences as possible. I’ll change it as needed before submitting to anyone. But my question still remains, why can’t there just be one set of rules?! That would make our lives so much easier! I’ll stop by your site tonight to check out the links you have up!

      1. Shana Brodsky says:

        Terri’s right – you can get the basics of manuscript formatting down to look professional, but ultimately anywhere you end up selling it will ask you to completely reformat it per their guidelines! It happened to me with Ellora’s Cave. They like their books formatted a certain way, but that didn’t matter when I first submitted to them. The editor saw past my formatting (which was 1 inch margins, double spaced Courier 12pt font, basically) knowing it was an easy fix. See you Tuesday!

  2. Janet Walters says:

    Welcome to RWA. I’ll be visiting your blog about once a week. Janet

    1. Jennifer Probst says:

      HI Heather,

      Welcome to the group! I am so excited you have a blog at WordPress, I like the layout. Check mine out and I will link you to mine:
      Sorry I missed the meeting in June but hope to see you soon. Great blog!

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