PART I – FORMATTING
Authors should follow the following formatting rules for all manuscripts.
Setup of manuscript for editing:
- Some authors attempt to manipulate their manuscript to indicate a design preference. Please don’t do that. The manuscript is meant for editing and production. Extra spaces or type styles will only confuse the process.
- Use MS Word as a DOC or RTF file
- Use 12 point Times New Roman and set one-inch margins on all sides. Use left justified margins.
- For new author submissions use line space single.
- For all other manuscripts, use line space double.
- Indent paragraphs .5 inch.
- Author name in the upper left corner of each page (header).
- Number pages in the upper right corner (header).
- Use the ENTER key to start a new paragraph or a new line of dialogue. DO not use hard returns at the end of a line of text within a paragraph.
- Do NOT use Tabs in the manuscript. Set your paragraphs to automatically indent on the first line.
- Use only a single space between sentences. Do not use double spaces.
- Do not use two spaces after a period
Note that paragraphs and line spacing can be set in Word under Paragraph Formatting under the Indents and Spacing tab, select Indentation Special, select first line and then the .5 indentation. You can also use Word’s Help feature or just Google: How do I indent a paragraph in Word, or whatever your formatting question is.
- Flashbacks or dream sequences should be separated by one blank line above and below.
- Triple space scene breaks with # or *** centered in middle line.
- Insert a page break at the end of each chpater so that a new chapter starts on a new page.
- DO NOT insert blank lines at the end of a chapter to force a new page.
All manuscripts must have a cover sheet with the following information:
- Complete Book Title, including any subtitle
- Author Name
- Author e-mail address
Additionally, each manuscript should have a style sheet. The style sheet should include the following:
- List of all character names (first and last names, plus any special nicknames)
- List of all major place names (especially fictional names created by the author)
- Plot timeline (if passage of time plays any role in the story )
- List of any special usages – British spelling, special naming conventions, etc.
- List of any special formatting.
Special formatting means anything other than normal or italicized text such as a diary entry, IM exchanges, text message conversations, notes or letters, etc. that might need either a special font or special spacing in the finished book. Other examples include: use of foreign alphabets (including in dedication pages) or ANY special fonts other than Times New Roman.
Authors must notify their content editor about ANY special fonts that they might want to use, and they must be pre-approved by the typesetter. Authors should NOT assume that just because they submit a manuscript with special fancy fonts in the chapter headings or as part of the text that the printed book will have them as well.
- List of any artwork, including maps or other art. All art must be in the proper format. It must be high resolution (at least 300 dpi). The author is responsible for providing art or map files in the proper format for printing. Art that is not in the proper format or proper resolution will not be used.
PART II – GRAMMAR AND USAGE
Authors should make note of the following grammar and usage issues. Some of these are universal, and some are specific to Hamaca Press Style.
Example: I went to the store and bought bread, milk, bananas, and Oreos.
NOT: I went to the store and bought bread, milk, bananas and Oreos.
The comma before the last item in the list, in this case Oreos, is the serial comma.
Serial commas should be used regardless of the length of the list. A series of phrases can also constitute a list of items that must use a serial comma.
Example: I went to the store, searched every aisle, and finally found the Oreos.
Since serial commas show up so many times in a novel, it is extremely important that authors use them. There is an option in Word’s Spelling and Grammar feature to check for the use of the serial comma. (Don’t rely on it exclusively. It’s not 100% accurate, but it can help find the obvious ones.)
Commas should set off names in direct address:
“But, Laura, I don’t understand!”
This applies to group nouns or nicknames in direct address as well:
“Hello, my friends.”
“Hi, honey, I’m home.”
A participle is said to dangle when it is not grammatically related to whatever you intend it to modify. This is most common in but not limited to opening adjective participial phrases.
Incorrect: Driving to the store, Sarah’s tire blew out.
Correct: While Sarah was driving to the store, her tire blew out.
Incorrect: Though only fifteen, the university accepted Jen’s application.
Correct: Though Jen was only fifteen, the university accepted her application.
- Use ellipses to indicate incomplete sentences or a speaker’s voice trailing off.
- Use ellipses when presenting one side of a telephone conversation:
“Yes?…I see…I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
- Capitalize the first word in a complete sentence after ellipses.
Use an em dash (the longer one) to indicate breaks in dialogue and to indicate when one character interrupts another’s speech. Do not use spaces before or after an em dash.
Ellipses and em dashes should also be used sparingly. They are not a substitute for every type of punctuation, especially commas, and should not be used merely to try to force the reader to pause in the narrative.
Refer to Merriam-Webster’s and Chicago for compound words.
- Colors: do not hyphenate adjectives when they modify a color before a noun:
light blue eyes; dark brown hair; bluish green eyes, but blue-green eyes
- Do not hyphenate –ly adverb/adjective combinations before nouns:
a highly prized commodity
- Do not use spaces before or after hyphens.
- Use sparingly to indicate emphasis. Do not use bold or uppercase to indicate emphasis.
- Do not use with foreign words that are commonly used in English. Italicize foreign words that are not commonly used in English. (Refer to Merriam-Webster’s 11th edition, if necessary)
- Use to indicate internal monologue.
- Use for unfamiliar foreign phrases and words. If used often, italicize only its first occurrence. If used rarely, italicize each occurrence.
- Use to indicate the name of a book, periodical, newspaper, play, movie, television program, music CD/album/video, and radio program. Use quotation marks to indicate a short story, poem, or single episode in a television series
- Titles of long musical works such as operas require italics. Use quotation marks for songs.
- Italicize titles of paintings, drawings, statues, cartoons, and comic strips. Titles of photos are enclosed in quotation marks.
- Do not italicize the names of scriptures and other highly revered works, such as the Bible.
- Do italicize the names of specific ships and other vessels.
- Whole numbers from one through one hundred
- Rounded-off numbers to the hundreds, thousands, millions (e.g., “About five thousand people attended the concert.”)
- Any number beginning a sentence (If spelling it out would be odd or is an instance where the rule is to use numerals, rewrite the sentence so it doesn’t begin with the number)
- Simple fractions (But whole number+fraction can be done either way – just be consistent)
- Time of day, unless you want to represent a very precise time. Don’t use hyphens for minutes. (Three thirty, five fifteen, but 3:17 p.m.)
- Numbers used within dialogue, unless it is especially cumbersome or confusing (e.g., “The value of pi is 3.14159.”)
Always use numerals (except in dialogue):
- Dates, years (but centuries are spelled out and decades can go either way – just be consistent with them)
- Maintain consistency: if one in a series of related numbers fits the “numerals” rule, use numerals for all the numbers in the series
- Use numerals in technical contexts where numerals are traditionally used (e.g., 12-point type, 60-watt bulb)
The possessive forms of words ending in sibilants are formed as follows:
Texas’s; Rogers’s; the Rogerses’ (try to avoid this form wherever possible)
The possessive ending of an italicized proper name is set in roman:
The subjunctive is used when there is no possibility of a statement being true:
I wish I were in Prague. If I were you, I would do that differently.
But: If I was rude, I apologize.
Do not use the subjunctive after if when it means whether:
She looked out the window to see if it was cloudy.
But: Treat this china as if it were your own.
TRADEMARKED TERMS AND FAMOUS NAMES
Double-check the proper spelling of any trademark and famous name. Check the spelling of any brand name or any famous person you reference.
SINGLE QUOTE MARKS
The only proper use for a single quote mark ‘ ’ (rather than the double quote “ ”) is when you are quoting material inside quotation marks, as in quoting a line inside a line a dialogue.
Example: “I remember his exact words, Judge Judy. He said, ‘I promise I’ll pay you back for bailing me out of jail.’ ”
You cannot use a single quote to kinda, sorta indicate emphasis when you don’t want to use italics or full quotes. You can’t ‘sorta’ indicate emphasis that way. You must either use “full quotes” or italics to indicate emphasis. The use of “scare quotes” should be minimized in the text, and authors should opt for italics instead.
It is very important that authors use quotes properly in this way. The single quote ‘ is the same character as an apostrophe, which makes it extremely difficult to try to do a search/replace for improper ones in your manuscript.
- All right, NOT alright
- e-mail, NOT email
- good-bye, NOT goodbye
- good night, NOT goodnight
- Internet with a capital I
- Web site (two words, capital W) OR website (one word, lower case) both are now acceptable, but you must be consistent.
- Onto indicates motion on top of something; you hold on to something
- Farther indicates physical distance; further indicates time or abstract distance
- Should have/could have NOT should of/could of
- Might is the past tense of may
- Dared is the past tense of dare. Present tense: How dare she show up here? Past tense: How dared she show up at my party?
- T-shirt (Capital T, hyphen, shirt). NOT tee shirt, t-shirt (lower case t). Although tee by itself is acceptable
- Okay – NOT OK
- Gray – NOT grey (unless you’re using British spelling and usage)
- interstate, not Interstate—lower case
- Awhile = for a while and is an adverb. A while is a noun. I sat awhile. I sat for a while. I sat for quite a while. It’s been a while since I was there.
- Under way, not underway (unless it’s used as an adjective)
- Like instead of as if/as though. Like is a preposition and should be followed by a noun/noun phrase:
She looked like an avenging angel. As if/As though are subordinating conjunctions and can introduce a subordinate clause: She looked as if she would chop his head off if he said another word.
- Every day = each day. Everyday = common. She wears her everyday shoes every day.
- God. God is capitalized whenever it’s used as a name. And saying “Oh God” during sex is invoking the name. You don’t write “Oh jesus” or “Oh christ” so don’t write “Oh god.”
- Blond/Blonde: Use blonde as a feminine noun only:
She was a blonde.
She had blond hair.
That blonde has blond hair.
- Toward, not towards (also upward, backward, etc) Hamaca Press style is to omit the s from the end of these words
- Too vs. , too (with a comma) at the end of a sentence. Example: I love you, too. Vs. I love you too. Either usage is acceptable. You just need to be consistent in the manuscript.
PART III – STYLE ISSUES
The following are issues of style that authors should try to adhere to in order to strengthen their writing. Most are not grammatically wrong, but their use can create weak, bloated, or clichéd writing.
Avoid extraneous details. Ask yourself, how is this detail, sentence, paragraph, or scene important to the emotional framework of my novel OR how does it advance the plot? If it’s not crucial, delete it or shorten it drastically. If it is a significant emotional moment, make sure that the feelings that you want to convey don’t get clouded by the surrounding details.
Always focus on emotions, especially in a romance. Ask yourself how you would feel in a similar situation or how the character feels, and convey that to your reader.
Can be used, along with narrative insights, to draw the reader into your character’s world. Let the reader be privy to the character’s feelings and thoughts with this method. These thoughts should be in the first person, present tense, and are indicated with italics. These are potent tools but if used too often can disrupt the flow of the narrative.
Can be used, along with internal monologue, to draw the reader into your character’s world. Let the reader be privy to the character’s feelings and thoughts with this method. These thoughts should be in the narrative voice and should not be italicized.
Commonly used words that don’t need to be used in most cases.
- Out of vs. out (she looked out the window vs. she looked out of the window)
- Up and down (Most of the time, you don’t need the up or the down. Examples: Stand up, sit down, look up at the ceiling, look down at the floor. There are times when it makes sense to use up or down, but most can go)
- Inside of (especially “inside of her/herself”)
- Shrug shoulders
- Nod head yes
- Shook head no; shook head back and forth
- Chase after
- Continue on
- But then is often redundant.
- Common adverbs such as: really, very, actually, suddenly, instantly, immediately are usually just fill words and should be used sparingly
COMMON CLICHÉS AND OVERUSED TERMS
Please try to remove these from your manuscripts.
- A single tear trickled down her cheek. (And no wiping them away with a careful thumb.)
- She spun on her heel. (Unless the character is in the Ice Capades, she can just turn around.)
- She made her way across the room. (Too vague to be useful, and also overused.)
DIALOGUE AND DIALOGUE TAGS
Dialogue is probably the single most common place where punctuation errors and poor style choices occur. Some specifics to keep in mind:
- Remember that simple is best for all dialogue tags. The most common tag you should use should be said plus the character name or pronoun.
Example: “Hello,” she said.
- Minimize the use of fancy tags (sometimes called bookisms), especially tags that are out of step with the tone of the dialogue or the moment. Tags such as: announced, inquired, stated, queried, or pronounced suggest something other than a casual line of dialogue, and they feel out of step if used within a more casual conversation.
- Do not treat actions as dialogue.
Incorrect: “Hello,” she smiled. (She smiled is an action, not a method of speaking.)
Correct: “Hello.” She smiled. OR “Hello,” she said.
- Do not use transitive verbs that require an object in order to be grammatically correct.
Incorrect: “Hello,” she greeted. (Greeted is a transitive verb and requires an object in order to be used correctly.)
Correct: “Hello,” she said. OR “Hello,” she greeted her guest. (Her guest is the object)
Other examples include: she thanked, she defended, she introduced.
- Do not use redundant tags. A redundant tag is a tag that describes the dialogue. Here’s an example:
“I’m sorry,” she apologized.
Others include: she explained, she begged, she argued.
You can use a redundant tag occasionally for special emphasis, but it should be a rarity in your writing and only done for a specific reason.
- Try to minimize the use of tags. You do not need a tag with each line of dialogue, especially during conversations between two characters. If it’s clear from context who is speaking, then you don’t need to use a tag.
- Minimize the use of special ways of speaking. Limit the whispers, shouts, hisses, etc.
If you’ve done your job at setting the scene, then we know from context that your characters are speaking softly to each other during a love scene, for example. You don’t need to have them whisper every line.
- Avoid emotional adverbs in your dialogue tags. Do not use dialogue tags to try to convey emotional context. Example: he said angrily, he said happily, he said sadly.
Also, do not take a poor, innocent adjective and try to force it into living its life as an adverb. While technically exasperatedly, thrillingly, and questioningly are all words, that doesn’t mean you should use them in a dialogue tag. Find another way to let us know that your character is exasperated.
- Try to minimize the use of action in your tags. Keep the action separate. It’s not grammatically wrong; it’s just usually a weaker style choice.
Example: “Hello,” Mary said, smiling brightly.
“I’m home,” John said, walking into the room.
Better option: “Hello.” Mary smiled brightly.
John walked into the room. “I’m home.”
- Please note the proper way to punctuate dialogue that is interrupted by a character’s action and then continues is to use em dashes. Example:
“That guy over there”—Julie stopped to catch her breath—“he just tried to mug me!”
PART IV – MISCELLANEOUS
The manuscript deadline is the date that authors are expected to turn in a final, completed, clean manuscript. It is not the date that you hurriedly finish your first draft. If you are having story problems with your manuscript, you should contact your editor for advice or assistance long before your deadline.
The manuscript you turn in to your editor should be, in your opinion, clean and ready to go to print. It should be a complete and finished story. It should meet minimum word counts. It should be under maximum word counts. It should be proofed and free of careless errors.
If your manuscript is incomplete or filled with typos and errors, it will be returned to you for correction before the editing process begins.
If you need a small deadline extension – one or two weeks – contact your editor directly to see if it’s possible. If you need a longer extension, contact the publisher or production manager.
Authors who consistently fail to meet their deadlines or who regularly turn in obvious rough drafts that are filled with line-level problems will not have their future books placed on the publication schedule until after they have turned in acceptable manuscripts. That would mean your next book would not be published until at least a year after your turn-in date, and perhaps as long as two years later. Therefore it is important that you only submit polished drafts.
HAMACA PRESS STANDARD REFERENCE BOOKS
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.
Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition.
SONG LYRICS / LINES FROM POEMS
Authors may NOT use copyrighted song lyrics or lines from poems in their manuscripts. Not even a single line. It is a violation of copyright protection to do so.
In theory, it is possible to secure official permission from the copyright holder to quote lyrics, but authors should be aware of the following:
- Authors are solely responsible for securing all official releases to use the material, including researching license holders and paying all fees.
- The fees for quoting even a single line are shockingly high, and depending on the copyright holder, could involve separate British and American releases and fees.
- The process takes months to complete, so by the time you have turned in your manuscript for editing, it’s too late to even try to start the permission process and use the material.
Aside from the legal issues, authors shouldn’t use song lyrics, lines of poetry, or musical references to try to set a mood in manuscripts. Instead of copying the words that some poet or songwriter used to create a perfect emotional moment, write your own words. Create your own moment.
Hamaca Press editors edit in English only. They do not edit any foreign language material. ANY use of foreign language in your manuscript must be copy edited by a qualified foreign language copy editor.
Authors are responsible for providing foreign language copy editing.