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Vanessa Davis Griggs

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The rules to writing
2/22/2005 1:49:42 PM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

You know there has to be some rules to writing. Just like rules in life, here too, there are exceptions to the rules. And yes, rules are also made to be broken. I just say: Before you break a rule, at least know which one(s) you are breaking.

These are general rules I decided to mention before we begin the real work of writing. There's nothing worse than developing a habit and discovering you started out doing it wrong. You then must unlearn all the bad and replace it with the correct way. We don't have time to waste like that.

Writing Rules

1) Double space your typed manuscript. Notice I said "typed" not handwritten, not calligraphy styled writing, not telepathic. TYPED. Pecked, if that's the only way you know how to do it.

2) When it is ready to go off to an agent and/or publisher, it should be on one side of paper (no double-sided paper just because that's the way books come out anyway). Your manuscript is not a book yet. Also, neatness counts.

3) Use the spell checker, but don't forego good old fashioned reading of every word written. "A word can be spelled write two the tent degree and steal end up being wrong." I hope you caught the mistakes in the last quoted sentence. If not, I need to add another rule: Learn grammar.

4) Realize that agents and publishers might have different guidelines. Research what they desire and adhere to that. It's a bad sign when your introduction to a prospective agent or publisher is that you don't know how or just plain can't follow instructions. If they say send a query only, don't send them the whole manuscript believing that if they just read the entire thing, they'll see how great you are. You'll probably find out you've wasted money (in the printing and excess shipping charges) and time (yours because they're not looking at it and you could have been doing something that would truly get you closer to your publishing goal) and their time because someone has to take the time NOT to look at your work but send it back to you (if you provided them with a SASE...if not, you may never see those pages again).

5) Keep in mind that when you're getting the book out of your head onto paper, you still want to double space so you can have room to EDIT. Yes, editing and revising your work is a wonderful thing. It gives you the opportunity to make your work more perfect. Even gold is not all that great looking until it has gone through some things that makes it shine. So it is with your work. Now, if you need to print on the back of your paper at this stage to save money because you know it's going to the thrash once you've worked out the kinks, then go ahead. Only when you're ready to send it off, double space, and use one side of the paper only.

6) Already have an idea who you're writing for when you begin, then do your homework to find publishers/agents who care about that genre/audience. And please, when you send them a letter or email, spell these people's name(s) correctly. That's also part of the test. Oh yeah, there's always a pop quiz working when you least expect it.

Next time, we'll get into the creative side of writing.

Vanessa Davis Griggs

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More Blogs by Vanessa Davis Griggs
•  The rules to writing - Tuesday, February 22, 2005  
• So your desire is to Be a Writer, so now What? - Friday, February 18, 2005

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