Follow Directions

There's been some discussion on a writer's list I'm on about the many different guidelines for submission required by editors of print magazines and e-zines. And by extrapolation, this transfers to agents and editors for book-length manuscripts as well.

One side of the argument is the writer has to do all the work and the time spent on reformatting a short story manuscript for each zine eats up valuable writing time. It would be so much simpler to have universal guidelines all the way around.

The flip side is each venue is different and the editors - for whatever reason that is unique to each one - need the manuscript in the format they ask for. And that some editors ask for a laundry list of items to see how well the writer follows directions. This, in turn, gives the editor an idea of how easy the writer will be able to work with during the editing process.

As you might guess, the discussion died a natural death because the proponents of each side stuck to their guns.

My own personal opinion is it's sometimes a pain in the neck, especially for the more unusual requests, but part of the process. Get over it.

We learn early in life to follow directions. At least most of us do. Some of us never learn. Or we choose to ignore them for one reason or another. Or we want to do it our way no matter what.

I didn't plan to write about any of this here, but a real-life situation occured a few minutes ago that exemplifies the importance of following directions.

My niece is staying with us here for three weeks to go to driving school. She lives in a tiny town and her parents wanted her to learn to drive in an urban environment. They completed all the necessary forms and returned home. Today, my niece went to take the test to get her driving permit.

Neither my live-in handyman nor I looked at the forms. Her parents are adults. She's 17 and soon going to be driving a hunk of metal and fiberglass on our roadways. There wasn't a need to check the homework.

But maybe there was.

A prominent line on the form said all information must be typewritten or printed in black ink. No ifs, ands, or buts. Her father completed it in blue ink.

Request for testing denied.

Simple as that.

The State of Texas has its reasons for requiring black ink just as the zine editors who require single spacing and no paragraph indentions have their reasons. The same as agents have reasons for requiring the first 2-3 pages of the manuscript be pasted at the bottom of a query.

Accept it. Deal with it. Get over it.

Remember . . . you also have reasons for the things you ask for in your life. And some of those things might seem just as preposterous to others as black ink sounded to my niece's father.

So, now we'll meet Mom on the road, have lunch, and get everything taken care of. Tomorrow, my niece will go back for the test. It was an unnecessary complication that could have been easily avoided if her dad had read and followed the directions.


I'm trying to imagine how long my offspring would have held something like that over my head. Forever.

Good luck to dad, daughter and you. A teen in the house. Oye.
Carol Kilgore said…
For today, all is forgiven. She got her permit this afternoon.