Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Submissions. Things that might irritate your potential publisher...

As many of you know, I have been working with Little Bird Publishing House on an anthology of Young Adult Dark Fairy Tales called 'Dark Heart.'

It's been very much my pet project, having approached Kitty about it late last year. Being on Twitter and Facebook, I have connected with some incredibly talented writers of YA and an anthology seemed a really good way of creating a showcase collection of works that would act as appetisers for their larger works.

Connecting with new readers is the most important aspect of small press and indie publishing and anthologies are a great way of doing this because ultimately your work is its own  best advert. I take every opportunity I can to submit to anthology calls because the wider my potential audience the more likely I am to find a reader I connect with.

However, working on 'Dark Heart' the shoe has well and truly been on the other foot. As an editor and publisher of others' works, I have been on the most incredible learning curve. Mind, as a baptism of fire I  have had it pretty easy due to the fact that all the authors we have worked with on the anthology have been so enthusiastic, professional and dedicated.

There are some key things that I noted as I went along. Things that I am guilty of in my own writing and I thought I would share them with you.

  • Annoying formatting
I can not state enough how formatting impacts on the editorial and publishing process. The main bug bear is authors not setting up their ruler and paragraph returns properly; doing crazy whacky things like using space bars to create indentations - this is especially the case with dialogue. (I've learned from smash words that the mindset to have is PURITY. Keep your MS as clean as possible right from the outset. Set your margins and don't do anything fancy. This will make things much easier for e-book upload on Amazon etc. too)

If you are wanting to have a section central then press the central text button! The computer doesn't work on visuals but on commands. Spacebars are visuals!)

  • Habit words: 
The over use of the following words is interestingly prevalent in a lot of the submissions I read, my own included.


I'm guilty of these too and seeing the over use of these words repeatedly in the works of others has made me far more conscious of using them.  (I'm particularly guilty of the "just" irritation) It isn't that they shouldn't ever be used but they need to be used with a full consciousness.

  • Double Punctuations!?
Make a decision. Your reader is clever enough to decipher between a question, an exclamation and a question that is actually a statement.

  • Multiple exclamations!!!!!!!
This might just be me but multiple exclamations are highly irritating and smack of adolescent over statement. I'm not saying never, I'm just  saying only use them in the MOST relevant of places. Personally I don't use them ever.

  • Superfluous placement information.
"She looked in the mirror that was hung on the left hand side of her wardrobe door."
"He moved towards the car, which he had parked next to the Aspen oak."
"James picked up the plastic cup that Ellie had set down next to the half eaten cookie."

Okay, so these are slightly extreme examples but you catch my drift. And YES, this another thing I am sometimes guilty of (especially in my earlier works). I think it is because when you are writing, you are so involved in the world that you are creating that you have a desire to enable a replication of that in the reader's mind, however, they will construct their own version of the world you have created. You have to allow the reader this freedom. Not only does it make the narrative laborious to read, it's a little control freaky - so stop it.

Only use placement if it adds to the narrative, the scene or offers extra information that the reader really must know.
  • Your / You're & its / it's 
Really easy to do when your  you're in the flow but try to make sure that when you have finished your document you put the search function on and check that you have used the right one. (I'm constantly brain tripping these on Twitter. I admit to this before you slam me with the badge of hypocrisy)

  • "That" versus ",which". 
This old chestnut. Firstly, they are mostly interchangeable so you can carry on merrily and be pretty much okay. However, there are times that there is a definite choice between the two to be made. This is when you are using "which" to add extra information to your sentence with the use of the subordinate clause. In this instance you must add a comma before the word.

I bought a new dress, which I will be wearing to Jo's party. [non-restrictive]
I was wearing the dress that I bought to wear to Jo's party. [restrictive]

I hope you have found the the above points interesting. I by no means claim to be perfect and I usually avoid writing stylistic advice posts because I'm too guilty of making stylistic mistakes myself. I am certainly not a member of the Grammar Police; people who pick on grammar minutia  rather than losing themselves in the storytelling and the intention of the author, in my humble opinion, need to do a little more feeling and a little less self applauding of their own cognitive ability.

But I hope you take these notes in mind. I'd love you to put some of your own notes in the comment box below. It would be great to create a checklist that we can print off and use.

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