Your Manuscript Should Be A Professional Presentation
When you send your story to an editor or submit it to a contest, it should look as polished as it reads. In other words your manuscript, even if it is an electronic submission—perhaps especially if it’s an electronic submission—should look like it was produced by a professional writer, a creative person who takes his or her work seriously. The big risk of a poorly prepared, difficult-to-read manuscript is that it may tempt a busy editor or contest judge to dismiss its author as a lightweight before he or she even reads the first sentence. At the least, it creates a poor first impression.
Rule Number One is to make sure your work is divided into reasonable paragraphs. A story comprised of a single paragraph or a few super-long paragraphs is very difficult to read.
Secondly, use quotation marks for your dialogue, tag your dialogue with the speaker’s name in all cases where the identity of the speaker is not obvious—”Let’s get out of here,” Jane said—and create a new paragraph each time a different person speaks. If this is confusing, pick up just about any published novel or short story and make note of how the author structures dialogue.
Also, always double-space your manuscript, even when submitting electronically. Single spacing is hard on the eyes.
* Provide margins, and keep your text column narrow enough to be read comfortably.
* Check your spelling.
* Punctuate properly!
Lastly, give your story a good, evocative title—this shows you take pride in what you’ve written—and make sure your name and contact information is readily available to the editor or contest judge. Good luck!