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  • Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 16:43 on 21 April 2014
    I'm confused!

    Nothing new there, you say as you notice the WW member's name who posted this.

    However I am  confused and I'm politely asking for some advice on 'correct' presentation for submitting short stories to womag magazines in particular.. I'm hoping that, at first glance at least, the editor might be fooled into thinking, 'Hey, this guy knows what he's doing.'


    When starting  a story or change of 'scene' I've been told to not indent the paragraph. Is this only for the first paragraph or first two?  Or does it depend?

    For example 
    The world ended yesterday.
    And today ... well that's when things really became bad.


    The world ended yesterday.
                     And today ... well that's when things really became bad.

    Also when there is a break - new day or something like that do you leave a line OR put a # on that line LHS OR put a # on that line in the centre?

    Is there other protocol that I should know and does it change from country to country or publication to publication. I am aware that Woman's Weekly now wants single ' marks for dialogue rather than " and I can cope with that. 

    I have referred to various 'experts' both on line and in my reference books but only become more confused - Hence this plaintive plea.

    ​All polite suggestions will be gratefully received and naming of my first-born after you will be seiously considered.       

    Thank you in anticipation,

  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by EmmaD at 19:52 on 21 April 2014
    Not an expert on this in particular, but I would say:

    If the guidelines say, do what they want. If they don't, and any other opinions you can garner vary too, then it really, honestly doesn't matter all that much. At the worst, if it's they want you to change something rather than the editor to it, then they'll tell you.

    Don't indent the very first para, or the para after a double-line break or ***, whichever you're using, but indent all the others paragraphs. The function of an indent is to show the eye where the new paragraph starts..

    I would put put a centred * or *** or something, where you want real break - you can never be sure that a mere double-line space won't come out at the bottom of the page or somewhere else hard to spot. (For fiction, I use both  double-line-speace and *** for a more major break. But for a womag story you don't really want or need that many different kinds of break, IYSWIM)
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 20:06 on 21 April 2014
    I appreciate your input, Emma.

    I've never had any negative feedback from editors regarding presentation but I simply wished to look professional, out of coutesy to the professionals who read so many submissions.. Your explanation about using * in the line break makes so much sense - no one has ever given me a reason for this before. 
    I do intend to spend some time trawling through this forum to try to pick up useful ideas and refine my skills.

    Thank you.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by EmmaD at 23:17 on 21 April 2014
    You're welcome, TassieDevil.

    Do you know WomagWriter's blog? http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk/ ? It's a good'un.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 03:11 on 22 April 2014
    Yes, EmmaD,
    I've put a couple of blogs on it myself over the past year. Kath's guidelines helped get me into this and to achieve that which I have in sales and I have a couple of her 'how to' books..
    Thank you for the suggestion though.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by Terry Edge at 11:34 on 22 April 2014
    I don't know about womags but for short story submissions to SF, Fantasy, Horror, Crime and Romance, etc, Standard Manuscript Format can be found here:

    The only thing you might alter is italics, i.e. using italics instead of the old-fashioned underline method.

    This system is generally the default in both the US and the UK, although obviously you make the page size Letter for the former and A4 for the latter.

    As you say, you want to show that you know what you're doing. I've edited anthologies and had to go through lots of submissions. What you want is 'invisible' formatting: any difference (that isn't justified) is an irritation, which doesn't help the author's cause.

    Also, as Emma says, it's vital you follow any guidelines the magazine provides. Just yesterday, I received a note from a magazine editor, asking me to re-submit because I'd attached the story, not pasted it into the email as they'd requested. I was mortified, since I pride myself on taking the trouble to submit according to directions.

  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by Terry Edge at 11:40 on 22 April 2014
    Just noticed: that version of SMF doesn't show what to put at the end of the story. Essentially, it's THE END or ### centralised.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 16:26 on 22 April 2014
    That's great Terry,
    Exactly what I needed. I shall bookmark the suggested reference page right away.
    I do follow the guidelines as requested but it was the invisible guidelines that I wanted to clarify. And yes, I have been putting THE  END in the appropriate place.
    Thanks for the time to write and the advice given.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by EmmaD at 17:24 on 22 April 2014
    Ah, yes, the "shoot me now" moment. I think we've all had some of those.

    Although Terry's story also shows that even then, if they like the story, they'll probably just ask you to sort it out and re-send it.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by Teika Bellamy at 17:52 on 22 April 2014
    Just wanted to say that the replies you've had are very useful (I think I'll bookmark those links too!). I thought you may like to also know *why* the guidelines exist. Obviously, an easy-to-read submission makes the editor's life a lot easier - they can just concentrate on the story rather than the poor (or overly fussy) formatting which doesn't give the editor huge amounts of confidence in the writer. When/if the story or MS is accepted and gets passed onto the typesetter or graphic designer it'll be transferred by them into the typesetting software which eliminates virtually all the formatting. The typesetter can then format it in the usual house-style. So if the story is 'clean' to start with, it saves time for all involved.

    I also, personally, like to see "Name of Story by Author" right-justified in a smallish font size in the header on every page. But I'm aware that that is simply my own personal preference.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 18:07 on 22 April 2014
    Thank you for the insight, Teika,
    Obviously making it easier for the editor to read makes it more likewly that any story will be viewed more favourably by them so it's a win-win situation all round. And to think that when I started out all my writing was fully justified because I thought it looked neater. We live and learn.
    Edited by TassieDevil at 18:08:00 on 22 April 2014
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by Terry Edge at 18:20 on 22 April 2014
    It has to be said, however, that some mags present complicated and different guidelines just to see if they can catch you out. I remember one particular SF mag editor: first, you couldn't simply send in the story; you had to approach him with a synopsis (which is a pain to do for short story). Then, if he was interested, he'd email you with a long list of formatting requirements, different in almost every way to Shunn's. I thought I'd followed them all but after I sent in the story he emailed back with: "What part of 'single-space' did you not understand".
    Of course, all he had to do was Ctrl+A 1 and he'd have single space. I wasn't too upset when soon after he had to close up shop because he'd made racist remarks in email correspondence with a writer who then put it on her blog. Just about all his writers called for their stories to be removed and the magazine went bust.
    Having said that, in SF/Fantasy/Horror at least, the vast majority of editors are very reasonable and don't mind the odd deviation from SMF, e.g. here are the requirements of Tor.com which is probably the highest-paying SF mag with the biggest circulation:
    "Don’t query us, just send your story. Submissions should be emailed to (tordotcomsubs)(at)(gmail.com)—the first part spelled out (“tordotcomsubs,” not “tor.comsubs”). They should be in something approximating standard manuscript format and be sent as *.doc (not docx), *.rtf, or plain-text attachments. They should not be sent as text in the body of the email. If you get that part right, we don’t care all that much about the particulars of your formatting—just use common sense. We don’t care about the content of your cover letter, either. Putting the string “SUB:” at the start of your subject line will help us know that you’ve read this, which is quite confidence inspiring."
    And on an adjacent note, while I've posted these before, they're worth a read if you haven't seen them: Strange Horizons' "Stories We've Seen Too Often":
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by TassieDevil at 18:40 on 22 April 2014
    Again you have my gratitude, Terry. Plus you've given me another market for my SF stuff.I shall check this out tomorrow. As you say there are degrees of padantacism.
  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by Terry Edge at 18:55 on 22 April 2014
    Good luck. Strange Horizons is a top pro-paying market and a tough one to crack. They probably get around 800 submissions a month.

  • Re: Presentation Format For Short Stories
    by SamanthaT at 12:53 on 25 April 2014
    Alan, what i do for the Womag market is not indent the first para, but indent the rest.

    As for speech marks, yes it varies and is usually spelt out in the womagblog guidelines - or look in the actual mags to see.

    Double spacing, number the pages and on each page put the story title, your name and a contact email.

    But i don't think the wrong formatting or the odd punctuation blip will stop them buying a good story :)
    And if you haven't already got it, get this book - it is the BIBLE for womag writers and even has a section about men writing for women's magazines :)


    Edited by SamanthaT at 12:55:00 on 25 April 2014

    Edited by SamanthaT at 12:58:00 on 25 April 2014
  • This 16 message thread spans 2 pages: 1  2  > >