Dear Writer Revisited: Letter Eighteen

The Manuscript

You may have noticed that these posts are getting shorter and shorter.  They are because the chapters are, although I am leaving out a lot of anecdotes and examples.  Once again, I stress that you need to get your hands on a copy of this book and work through it for yourself.  It is proving invaluable.  I am feeling totally new as a writer at this point; I have a new outlook and I have found a new confidence.  I feel as if I am walking around wearing an official hat that says WRITER and man it feels great.

One thing that I am loving so far about Dear Writer Revisited is the careful balance between loving, tender advice from someone who has been there, and cold, hard practical facts.  This letter is all about the facts, and the facts are:  If you format your submissions properly, they are more likely to be read.

But first, a little story.

Once, at work, a young fellow handed in his resume in the hopes that there would be a job available.  His resume had minimal contact details, no experience detailed other than a few months in another shop, and a one sentence statement about how he was willing to do almost any jobs.  Good on him for trying, but needless to say he didn't get a call back.  Compare this to another guy who handed in his resume a few months ago.  His resume had a professional heading.  His experience was laid out in dot point, chronologically so it was clear to read, and there was a lot of white space on the page.  His spelling and grammar were near perfect, and when someone called him he already had been offered a job.  So what does that tell you?

You should absolutely give the CONTENT of your manuscript the best possible start in life by formatting it correctly and according to the guidelines of the place that you are submitting.  In this age of the internet, these guidelines are readily available.  Virginia gives an anecdote which suggests that you should be thinking along the lines of:

* a4 envelope
* SSAE which is industry speak for a Stamped, Self Addressed Envelope
* Secured with a clip NOT a pin (but I don't know how staples fare)
* double spaced with generous margins
* page numbers
* cover page with a brief note on yourself
* one side of the page

I'm going to add to this list

* use a clear font and a 12 point font size
* detail any RELEVANT writing experience you might have had in your cover letter (but don't tell them your life story)
* show a bit of personality and don't write the same old schtick everyone else has probably included in their letter

Of course you should definitely do a little research and gauge your response appropriately.

Keep copies of your work and FOR GOD'S SAKE BACK UP EVERYTHING ON MULTIPLE USBs.  Keep a record of where you've sent everything.  Virginia says it's fine to send your work to a few places at once, but personally, I never do.  So far I have yet to see a competition where it is not stipulated in the guidelines that it can't be under consideration anywhere else.  (That seems like a double negative but give me a break, I am so tired it feels like my eyeballs have been frotting with sandpaper.)