Saturday, April 7, 2012

Guidelines! Not just casual reading

I'm going to take a day and talk a bit about something that is a pet peeve of mine. No, it's not that each publishing house, market, magazine or contest has its own unique set of guidelines. It's not that they can't agree on a font, size, margin measurement, or standard scene break symbol. Nor is it that the peripheral requirements continually vary from submission to submission. Some want a one page synopsis, some a three page. Sure. I can live with that. I've developed a pretty slick-and-quick routine for tweaking my manuscript to fit each specific guideline, and I can change my # to *** faster than you can say, revision....well almost that fast.

So what's the rant for? It does say G is for Guidelines, right?
You Betcha.

But the rant is about IGNORING guidelines. Its about getting your knickers in a self-righteous twist about all of the above and deciding that you don't really need to follow a different set of rules for each editor.

I still can't believe this happens, but it does. I am assured regularly that it's common as chips, and my single stint as an anthology editor proved it to my doubting mind. A lot of authors really do ignore the bloody guidelines. It doesn't matter how simple you make them, how clearly you explain, a good chunk of them will think the rules just don't apply to their brilliance. And while, I shall concede that you don't absolutely need to follow an editor's rules. I'll add that, in that case, you are fully welcome to publish on your own, without said editor. That is the one, viable option where you are welcome to completely ignore their guidelines. If, however, you are submitting to someone, I can only assume that you want them involved in the process.

And at that point, if you can't be bothered to follow their rules...I have to just scratch my head and wonder.

Because you know how competitive it is out there right? I don't care how much trouble you think it is to change your # to *** is it really worth making your chances even more slim? Even the most brilliant writing won't save you if your attitude ensures that nobody is going to bother reading it to find out what a gem you've sent them. You know that they won't read it, right? Not even if its on pretty paper? (Okay, especially not if its on pretty paper)

Do yourself a favor and take the next set of guidelines from whomever you are wooing, to heart.
Or strike out on your own and give up the wooing, I suppose. That is a very solid option these days. I'll get to it. Promise. Look for day "I" and see what I mean. :)

~ Frances


Laura Marcella said...

Hi, Frances. I really like the clever name of your blog!

I'm with you here. It doesn't make sense to me that someone would want to jeopardize their chances of publication even more just because they dismissed the guidelines. Guidelines are there for a reason!

Hope you have a great weekend and happy A to Z!!

Anonymous said...

I can see your point about people not following guidelines. I'm guessing most writers tend to view their creations as "precious gems" that should not be tampered with - which is an understandable feeling - but if someone is seriously interested in trying to sell their artistic creation & turn it into a profitable product, via someone else's outlet (i.e. a short story magazine) - it seems that compromise is inevitable.

Frances Pauli said...

Absolutely D. Though as far as guidelines go, it isn't so much about tampering but just changing to the font, size, margins and file type they want...or not sending them a genre they specifically don't take etc. That seems more about just not wanting to follow the rules than anything.

The "precious gems" comes in more during the editorial phase. I absolutely believe it hurts a story more to refuse to take outside opinion than to keep it "pure." lol But good luck getting everyone to see that. All it takes to remind me that I can't view my work objectively is to go back and read something I wrote ten years ago. :D
That'll get ya calling out for help let me tell you.

Greta said...

Oh, I do so very much agree. It's the first thing you do, to avoid pissing off the slush-pile reader. Isn't it? I mean, if you're applying for a job don't you address the selection criteria? And that's what you're doing when you submit to an agent or publisher - applying for a job.

So G is also for Get over yourself.

Well said, Frances

Amalie said...

It boggles my mind that people who are in the business of reading... don't read the flippin guidelines. I have blame laziness because I really can't understand that level of ego. Especially if any of them have received even a single Rejection!

Newbie I'M-BRILLIANT-itis didn't last past a couple R's for me, and it never went deep enough for me to think the rules didn't apply. I went more the other direction(I can't get 1 inch margins and 25 lines per page ... will they hate me if I do .9 inch margins instead!? What's wrong with my paper! ZOMG-flailflail-etc).

M Pax said...

I laugh now whenever I see "standard". What standard? lol If there was a standard, why are we always changing things for each sub?

Sometimes I think it's a test, but I do my best to follow them.

But, yeah, there's not much place for attitude in this industry.

deathwriter said...

I was once a first reader for a personal essay site and I couldn't believe how many people ignored the very simple guidelines of posting their writing in the body of the email. Not to mention the very big guideline that the site was all personal essays and people would submit everything under the sun. Before submitting anywhere, it is so important to be familiar with the kinds of work the lit mag, site, magazine, paper whatever publishes so you don't waste a lot of time.
Nice post!

Perle said...

The key was 'their brilliance'. Some folks think their words are so perfect, the rules don't apply. Probably a good thing you can bounce them for not following guidelines; saves time you would waste editing them only to be told they don't need editing.

Aurora Celeste said...

While different rules suck, you gotta adhere to them or look like an idiot. Then again, it's an easy way for editors to screen for the people that will work with the editing process and those who will fight it tooth and nail . . .

Aurora Celeste