Wednesday, November 16, 2011

17 Writer Things I've Learned

The Internet and social networking are wonderful things. So are conferences. I've accumulated a lot of writerly information over the years. Here are some things I've learned:

1. Double-space a manuscript with at least 1" margins.
2. Round off word count to the nearest thousand. Don't put 79,462 on your ms/query!
3. Use at least 12 point for your font. Be kind to weary agent and editor eyes.
4. To indicate mid-chapter scene changes, make hash tags # or asterisks * (centered). They are especially important to indicate scenes that end at the bottom of a page.
1. Don't put extra line spaces between your paragraphs. Don't. Do. It.
2. Don't number your first page. Your name, address, email, word count, & title go there.
3. Some editors detest the Courier font! It adds pages, for one thing. Times New Roman is the closest to a finished product page count, but always check submission guidelines.
4. Never underline. Use italics for direct thoughts, emphasis, names of ships/books/etc.
5. Never put two spaces after a period.

1. If you truly want to social network with others, make sure you have an email linked to your profile. TO CHECK: In Blogger, go to Dashboard, then Edit Profile. Add your email under Identity (this can be one you set up just for blogging). Then bloggers who reply to comments via email--like me--can respond to you. Yay!
2. You may have fewer readers, followers, or comments if you do the following: write long posts, have word verification, or have comment moderation. People are busy; these things slow them down.

1. POV: A lot of successful YA manuscripts are in 1st person; it's really popular with teens. (And here I had only written in 3rd limited, before…)
2. Editing: The more polished your manuscript is as far as grammar, punctuation, and spelling, the greater your chance of acceptance. It's like brushing your hair before an interview. Editors these days have less time and budget to polish, so a near-ready novel is a very attractive thing. Agents love it too.
3. On Sub: Once you have an agent and go "on submission" to find an editor, do NOT post about it on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook. Editors don't want to Google you to find out you've been peddling your book for a year and they're last on your agent's list. Ouch. (Nope, I'm not on sub; I'm still revising and polishing.)
4. Advances: It's not always best to get a whopper advance from a publisher. For one thing, taxes take a bigger bite. For another, it's harder to sell well enough to "earn out" that big advance, and you may be met with less enthusiasm for your next book.
5. More on Advances: A writer doesn't get an advance all in one chunk. It's split up into 2 or 3 checks, for instance one at signing and one when the book comes out.
6. Contracts: If you signed a book contract with a traditional publisher today, your book would come out in TWO years; it'd be on a fall 2013 list. Small publishers and presses often work faster, though.

And speaking of not having too long of blog posts, I will quit here!

Did you learn anything, or did you already know all these things?
Do you disagree with any of these points--or have you heard info that conflicts?
Do you have other helpful tidbits to share? What have YOU learned??


  1. Looks like I need to stop double spacing after a period. IT's just so much easier to read though. :-(

  2. Very helpful writerly tips! In fact, I went into my blogger account to check my email address and oops, wrong email. Thanks for this, Carol.

  3. Good to have confirmation on the "no two spaces after a period". I used to always put two spaces and then there was some debate. My latest MS, I put only one. So I'm glad that's the way to go. Thanks for all these tips!

  4. Excellent information! I wish I'd have known all of this a few years ago when I went into contests blind and wrote in Arial! lol

    I don't mind a long blog post if it's interesting and informative or a Bible lesson of some kind. If I'm running short on time, I usually book mark it and come back later when I know I can get into it. :)

  5. I'm glad you mentioned the two spaces between sentences and spaces between paragraphs - that drives me crazy.

    I agree that Times New Roman is way easier on the eyes than Courier.

  6. Ooh, I always wondered about why agented writers are so cagey when on submission. But what you say makes total sense! Thanks for giving us a peek behind the curtain.

  7. Double spacing is a habit.

    Great list.

  8. Thanks for the great tips, Carol! I did not realize hashtags or asterisks were necessary for mid-chapter scene changes; I thought that was something done at publication. Great post!

  9. I like this post. It shares a lot of info in a few words, and in point form so it's easy to follow without getting lost in all the on-screen words :-)

  10. Oooh good list, Carol!! Do I get extra points if knew most? :-)))

  11. I have nothing to add. Oh! Yes I do..._thanks_! Just an all around great post.

  12. This was great. I've copied it for later reference.

    I loathe word verification, but at times long posts can't be avoided. People only flick through your posts whatever you write I'm sure, unless it's very riveting. I hasten to say I read through.

    Yeah, the two spaces after a 'full stop' rule went out when we moved from typewriters to computers I think. I tend to still do two spaces if I'm not thinking...

    Thanks again. Love numbered lists.


  13. I hadn't actually heard that some editors detest courier. I personally detest it, but for a long time it was THE font to use when submitting. And yep, I always check first.

  14. This is a good list. I can tell because it's all the stuff I didn't know when I first started. Any way you can post this back in time?

  15. Great list! I didn't know half of these things when I started writing. It's nice to be in the know a little more. I'm still clueless about a bunch of stuff still, but not AS clueless... lol :)

  16. Nice list...though I've always used one empty line to indicate scene changes w/in a chapter (instead of hash marks, etc) and I never got any complaints about that format.

    Also, the advances are a tricky thing. Higher advances often come with more marketing supports (ARCs, reviewers, etc)...better to have a smaller advance WITH all that marketing support, but it doesn't often work that way (from what I've heard, anyway)

  17. Even if a writer knows and employs these rules, it doesn't hurt to go over them again.
    I did. Just to make sure I wasn't doing something wrong :)
    Thanks for the super post.

  18. This is a great list of tips, Carol. I ALWAYS put two spaces after a period since it was engraved in my head around sixth grade. I guess I have a habit to break...

  19. I hadn't thought about announcing being on sub -- I've been avoiding spending too much time thinking about the publication side of things recently since I need to focus on actually writing -- but that is so true! Funny since I know a few writer-friends mentioned being on sub on their blogs.

  20. Great advice Carol. I've learned a lot so far. I love your polishing analogy. It's like brushing your hair before an interview. So true.

  21. GREAT tips! Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!

  22. Excellent tips. I've come across new writers' manuscripts that skip spaces between paragraphs. I do it on my blog because it makes it easier to read on a computer screen. The only time that should be done is a small transition in time.

  23. Thanks for the great tips. Double spacing after punctuation is a habit I'm still trying to break.

  24. the one about blog posts being shorter, and losing the WV is right on. And good point about big advances. I'd never thought of it that way, but you're right. Thanks, Carol! :o) <3

  25. How did I know about hash tags/asterisks and polished writing, but not the double spacing after sentences?? I still don't understand what's up with that anyway, but everyone on all social networks is talking about it.Thanks for the great tips! Cheers! (LOL..just went back and got rid of all of the double spaces in my is ok, right?)

  26. hash tags for scene breaks! thank you! I usually just double space.
    ...*hates* word verification. And has anybody noticed how nearly impossible it is to comment on some wordpress blogs? One wordpress blogger I know has a pop-up ad, a word verification, and a complicated sign-in protocol before you can comment. Arghhh.

  27. Thanks for the tips Carol!
    I'm saving all the Editor/Agent info for if I get an agent...

  28. I knew about all of them except using hashtags, I knew about asterisks although sometimes I haven't used them. The double space one I think surprises a lot of people. I learned that one while writing my first manuscript and it was hard to get used to! Now it's second nature. :)

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  30. I'm still having issues with the two spaces after periods. I've always done it because it's always been deemed correct grammar rules. The latest thing I heard was that if you're epubbing you should do period and one space, but if you're pubbling traditionally you should do period two spaces. Someone told me copy editors get rid of the extra space when they're ready to publish your book. So with all this mixed advice I am highly confused. ??? :)

  31. Great post! The two space thing was something I discovered a while back on the blogosphere, and it was shocking to me. But now I'm totally used to one space.

  32. Great post... I've leanrt most of that too...though some applies to USA.
    Never bag out an agent or a publisher.
    Think about paying for a professional editor as smaller publishers will look a well edited mss by unpublished authors
    Support your fellow writers :)

  33. Wow, what a fantastic list! Gosh, I've learned so much through blogs that I wouldn't even know where to start. I'd be lost without them!

  34. a terrific, thorough list indeed. i learned things. some of the demands of agents and publishers are petty, however, like don't number the first page. give me a break:) others, like no double spacing after a period, are good rules for writing. my opinion only:)

  35. Thanks for these pointers. Very, very useful.

  36. Just starting with point one, I'm always amazed when someone doesn't double space. Or when they single space, BOTH sides.

    Oy. Newbs.

  37. Oh my goodness,I still do two spaces after a period. I can't break that habit, even here on this post. :(

    And I need to add astericks after each scene within chapters. Thanks for that reminder!


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