There are certain tools of every trade. For the plumber, it’s his…um…plumby tools. Doctors have all kinds of toys as well. For the US writing industry our tools follow thusly:
- You can put more than two coherent sentences together
- You have a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style or some such writing book that weighs more than the beagle
- You have an excellent command of the English language
- And a whole lotta other writerly stuff
- You have MS Word
Let me repeat that. You have MS Word.
I realize there are many people who hate Word as much as the beagle hates sobriety, but it is the industry standard. If I ask for pages, I always state up front that it needs to be a Word attachment. If you send me a file extension that my poor, exhausted computer can’t read, it just ups and dies on me. Well, ok, it doesn’t really die, but it does groan a lot.
If you write back to me and say that you don’t have Word, or worse, you simply send your attachment as a WordPad file, then I believe you’re ill prepared and undereductated about the industry. You’ve also left me without options. Is it my place to offer a solution, or is it your job to take that as a sign that, “gee, I better get Word, or get this thing converted to a .doc(x) extension.”
The reason is that most of us edit directly to the document. We insert comments and have the Track Changes feature turned on. I’m not a program expert, but I do know that programs exist that pick up the edits and Track Changes. Let’s just say that I don’t give a rip if you use a jar of mayonnaise and celery root to convert your files – just be sure they convert.
If I asked for a Word attachment, that means I don’t want a snail mail. I surely know what snail mail is, and if I want it that way, I’ll recommend it. But what a cranky, hungover editor wants is an author who will say, “Yah, I can do that,” rather than an author who expects me to accommodate them. Ain’t gonna happen.
I had an author tell me that he had Word but didn’t know how to use it – but his neighbor did. It took all my willpower not to shout, “Bully for your neighbor!” I know deep down that my mother would take issue with rudeness, so I bit my tongue ’til it bled. The author went on to say that his neighbor would be right there to help with inserting rewrites and edits should the author be lucky enough to score a contract.
I know, sounds crudy of me, right? But from my standpoint, this is an unworkable situation. As any author can attest, the editing phase can be a rush-rush thing. There have been times when I was ready to go to print but came across a section that still bugged me. At that point I’ll fire off a “hurry up and change out this one passage” email. If my author has to wait for his neighbor to come back from buying dog food or worse, come back from vacation, then where does that put me?
If you want to be considered a professional, then you must behave like one. Be the good Girl/Boy Scout and be prepared. Make sure you have all your writerly tools in your tackle box because no one wants to be caught with their quills out of ink, yanno?