Writing Wrongs

June 07, 2005

So I get an email today from a contest coordinator who informs me my contest entry may be disqualified. What? I say. What gross error have I committed?

Well, there it is, in black and white, so to speak. On pages 2 and 3 of my synopsis, I have 26 lines of text rather than 25.

Yes, a grievous error. In previous centuries, writers were flogged for this. These days a sound beating about the head and shoulders with the manuscript pages is all that’s required.

Can’t you see it now? Picture the editorial meeting room at Huge NYC Publisher, editors, senior editors all gathered around, each manuscript in the pile reviewed with a critical eye. The senior editor plucks one from the center and starts reading. She grows pale. Sweat sprouts along her upper lip. The room grows quiet.

She brushes a strand of hair from her eyes and surveys her fellow editors. “We’ve found it,” she announces. “Not only is this the great American novel for the 21st century, it’s going to sell like The Da Vinci Code.”

A murmur ripples through the gathered editors. Two editorial assistants whisper and giggle. Another editor tears through the manuscript, her smile wide until . . .

Disaster! “Wait!” she cries. “This won’t do. It’s not the one. Look! Look here!” She points to the synopsis. “The writer has twenty six lines of text on pages two and three! Oh, the humanity.”

Okay, seriously now. I’m a technical writer, which often means formatting is my life. You haven’t seen a flame war like a font flame war (say that three times fast). And I have no issues with standard industry format. I have a pretty sharp eye, too. I can tell when a writer has purposely crammed more lines of text into an entry or adjusted the margins.

And I can tell when an extra line is just one of those things Microsoft Word does to make your life miserable.

In this case, the contest coordinator is just following the rules (and for this particular contest they are strident) and has graciously offered to hold my entry until I send her the corrected synopsis. She did have other advice, which I’m ignoring, but may make it into future blog entry.

Until then, make sure all your manuscript pages have 25 lines of text.

Or else.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 11:39 a.m.

|