Monday the 9th of May 2011, 09.00 am.
So here it is, the first day, the very start of what I hoped would be the beginning of a new career. I had ended the weekend the same way I started it with a stinking hangover and my back still crippled with pain. I had decided that as it was my last weekend of being in paid employment, like a condemned man with his last meal, I would have a blow out with the booze, and what a good job I did of it.
I settled down on a chair with a pillow for support and leaned on the dining room table. With notebook and pen in hand I scribbled furiously as the first chapter, pent up for so long within me, like a virgin on his wedding night, came spurting out in a joyous burst of exuberance.
I had purchased a notebook computer as I had lost the use of my company laptop when I handed it back on my departure. I planned to write by hand then transfer it onto the word processor at a later date. By the end of the day I had made an executive decision to bin the pad and go straight onto the computer, after it dawned on me that I was just doubling my work load.
It may seem a logical thing to type my manuscript straight onto the computer, but at the time I had no idea, what so ever, on how a person went about writing a book or even how to get it published.
I had joined the long list of hopefuls whose head was stuffed full of dreams and now I felt as if a bottle had been smashed across my skull as the reality of it all shattered into my head .
I sobered up very quickly.
The words flowed like verbal diarrhoea, but rock comes from lava, and looking back these early beginnings was the foundation on which I would eventually build my manuscript on.
I have learnt that there are five basic rules for any new writer or anyone else who can’t get an agent or publisher interested in their manuscript (or want to enter main new writer contests) which they must follow from the beginning. If they don’t then all that will happen is it will be given a quick glance then will be thrown into the bin.
Rule number one.
No manuscript must be hand written. All agents and publishers will ask for the first three chapters either in digital form by email or printed neatly on A4. If they want to take it further then they will all ask for the whole manuscript to be emailed to them. This you can’t do if your precious piece of work has been scribbled down on an A5 pad.
Rule number two.
All wording will need to be double line spaced. Stories abound about people in the industry who will simple bin the manuscript without reading it because it has been typed 1.15 spaced and not double.
Rule number three.
The font size should always be 12 and use a basic text like Calibri or Times New Roman. Please don’t think it will impress the end reader if you have used some fancy text because it will not. You manuscript will end up on top of the pile in the bin with the other rejects.
Rule number four.
All pages need to be numbered. It might sound a basic request but it’s required. The end reader will go through hundreds of pages a week and if they are unable to note a particular page or the pages get mixed up then the story is for the chop.
Rule number five.
If you are writing a story for children or Young adults (generally 8-17 year olds) then be careful it’s no longer than 70,000 words. How the rule of thumb goes is as follows 8-12 year olds up to 30,000 words, 13-17 year olds 30,000 to 70,000. Of course there are stories for this age group above these totals but these generally have been written by established writers. If you are unpublished thus unknown, and you send in a manuscript of 140,000 words stating, this story is for young children, it will end up in the bin without even being looked at.
All five rules have to be used together. You may just think that agents and publishers are being fussy but they aren’t. They will receive thousands of manuscripts a year from new unknown writers and will have to whittle these down to just maybe fifty which could be publishable.
What would you do in this situation?
First impressions count, and if you had this massive pile of slush to go through, you would automatically bin the ones which don’t match these five basic rules.
If you have received rejection after rejection then check first you have kept to the above. It may not be the only reason you get rejected (you story may just be a lot of hot wind) but at least it may help to getting it reviewed in the first place.