We’ve reached what is, every year, my busiest week at work, so I have less time than usual to put a post together.  For that reason, I’m going to run an older post from a previous incarnation of Wednesday Writerly Words.  Enjoy.

Wednesday Writerly Words: Machine Carding Your Manuscript (Originally run Wednesday May 6, 1857)

I would like to take a moment this week to not talk about the art of writing, but rather the craft of submitting.  More specifically, I’d like to focus on the simple truth that publishers are increasingly requiring manuscripts be submitted upon machine cards rather than hand-written upon vellum.  For those of us versed in the ways of the new steam artifices, this may not serve as a significant obstacle to publication, but there is a generation of writers who are just now embracing the marvelous word processing engines providence has bestowed upon us, and are far less comfortable with the concept of “compiling” a story.

The first thing to remember is that the engines are your friends.  They make all of our lives simpler, and as a writer I’ve found that as soon as I could master the word processing engine I had installed in the back three rooms of my house, it almost did my creating for me.  Almost.  The machines are smart, but they still require the unique divine spark of human intelligence to be properly operated.  I do all of my writing directly on the engine, however I know some fellow writers who prefer the more visceral feel of crafting a first draft the old fashioned way and then entering it into an engine only when fully satisfied, allowing that to serve as the final editing pass.  Writing is always a highly personal task, and I would never dream to suggest one way is better than the other.

When it comes time to compile the story and put it onto cards, remember your proper machine card manuscript formatting.  Between every line of your punches, leave an empty line.  This will allow the editor to make their own machine notes and edits to the piece, and should thus provide them ample space to do so.  Also, and I do not feel like this can be over stressed, ensure that each of your cards is properly marked at the top with the card number and the total number of cards.  This will ensure the story is read in the correct order and that the editor can discover any missing cards.  Nothing would be more embarrassing than having your story cards fed into a word processing engine out of order, save perhaps the potential of that improving the tale.

Before beginning the process, ensure you have enough cards on hand.  The editor’s rule of thumb when preparing a magazine or anthology is that a card will contain 10 words.  When I’m compiling a story, I ensure I have enough cards for that plus an additional tithing of that total.  The worst possible time for a trip to the cardstockerie is during the middle of a story compilation when you should be ensuring that your engine does not suffer any jamming of wheels, kinking of hoses, or the ill timed introduction of a curious cockroach into the mix.  Keep a close eye.  Ensure that all your cards print, and run them back through the machine to verify that their contents are as intended.

Remember that publishers will not return your cards without proper return postage being included in your shipping container.  Though some writers are fully willing to allow their manuscripts to be disposable and see the cost of said return postage being only slightly less than the cost of the same weight of fresh cards.  However, even if you are not looking to receive your full manuscript back, always include an envelope large enough for a single card so that the publisher can send you their decision.

The engines are revolutionizing life, and they shall revolutionize the publishing process.  We need only to learn their ways and adapt to this brave and changing new world we are living in.  Who knows, we may even be just a few short years from the first entirely engine-generated story appearing in the pages of the esteemed Evening Mirror.

Until next week, this has been another Wednesday Writerly Word provided free of charge to my telegraphic diary subscribers.

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.