‘I don’t care if I miss the target or not. I’m writing, that’s the main thing.’ - Henry Miller.
Henry Miller might be able to ignore targets and rules but you can’t afford to. You might have written a best seller but if you don’t set it out correctly and if you don’t submit it to the right agent or publisher you won't get anywhere and the world will have lost another masterpiece.
Tips on presentation
Your work must be typed.
Spelling, punctuation and grammar must be perfect. Be consistent in your choice of variant
spellings, capitalisation, sub-headings, directions, footnotes etc.
Use double spacing, a full empty line of empty space between every line of text, and allow
generous margins. This is preferred practise since it allows an editor to make notes easily on your text.
Number each page and include a front sheet with the title, your name and address and the number of words in the document.
Contact the agent or publisher and ask them about their submission requirements. If you have
written a book, it is common practise to just send the first couple of chapters and a synopsis.
The BBC Writers Room has examples showing how to lay-out your film, stage, radio and television scripts. There are also lots more writing tips and some ideas to get you started.
Tips on submitting your work
Choose the right publisher or agent; they specialise and will not look at material they are not
Approach them in the way they prefer. They may only accept work submitted by an agent, a
certain magazine may require only an outline of your article. Phone them or look at their websites for details.
Never send the only copy of your work. Always send a reply envelope.
Keep the covering letter professional, that is short and to the point. Do not try to write the
‘memorable’ letter; editors get thousands of submissions and are only interested in the work.
Once you start submitting work, record when and where you sent your various pieces. This will
not only stop you pestering editors with the same work but help you to build up valuable
information about responses and response times.
If an editor or agent is not interested they will not go into details; it is not worth their time.
If an editor does show interest, even if they don’t actually end up buying the work, you should be pleased; it means your writing is getting better.
For a good list of Agents, Publishers, Magazines and other markets, look in The Writers’ And Artists Yearbook – many libraries will have a copy of this.
Remember, a writer writes. Always. – Larry Donner
Now it is down to you. The thing that makes you a writer is, obviously, writing. So just do it, enjoy it, open the gates of the asylum and run free. It’s no good listing excuses; that is how you divert your spark into the gutter. Take a leaf out of Henry Miller’s book: he suffered great poverty and yet still made the leap. At thirty nine and without any publishing success he left his native Brooklyn and moved to Paris, with only a smattering of the language and barely any money in his pocket, just to write. To do it. To be. To live the dream!
Get into a routine. Burn the candles at both ends, get up early and make time, work at it, create, for there is nothing better. You will probably have to do two jobs at once, the writing and the one that pays the bills until your writing is good enough. It is an art and a craft, it requires dedication if you want to be successful.
When people say that they can’t write they often mean they can’t write like Dostoevsky or they can’t write like Anne Rice and of course they can’t and so they shouldn’t because they are not Dostoevsky or Anne Rice. Your writing is unique because it is yours and that is what makes it beautiful, the personal idiosyncrasies. The world already has The Brothers Karamazov and it is a wonderfully complex work of genius. Read it, learn from it, dismantle it, comma by comma, rivet by rivet, then feast on it and move on. You can learn a lot from good books but don’t be overshadowed by them. When the rejection slips start coming through the door, don’t be discouraged but take heart. No writer ever made it without suffering and overcoming adversity. Go for it!