Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: How To Submit Your Writing...

From This... (Pic via Pixabay)
Whether you’re sending off your novel, or entering a writing competition, the first thing to do is RTFM. That’s customer-service-speak for Read The Flipping Manual.

As part of my day job, I’m a Reader of Manuscripts. I love helping other writers—especially the ones who make my job easier by following the rules for submission. These are designed to ensure a writer's work is easy to read.  

Generalisation is usually a bad thing, but after reading hundreds of  manuscripts in my time here's one I've found to be true:

People who can't be bothered to follow instructions can't be bothered to write a good book.

Well-presented work suggests a writer who pays attention to details. They're more likely to put into practice the things they've learned from writing workshops, courses, and how-to books. 

Make sure your Reader smiles rather than groans when they pick up your work by following these tips!

Overture and Beginners
Once your work is as good as you can make it, go through it again. You want to be absolutely sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. 

Then check the requirements of its destination, whether that’s going to be a publisher, agent, or competition. Remember—these are instructions, not an invitation to improvise. 

You’d be amazed how many people see clear instructions as a challenge, rather than rules. Their online entries are deleted straight away. If they’ve sent in a paper copy their work will be shredded without being read, unless they’ve included return postage. The same goes for those who either forget to include their contact details when submitting to publishers or agents, or conversely make their competition entries identifiable. That’s tough, but fair on all those who have taken the time and trouble to do as they were instructed. 

...To This! (Pic via Pixabay)
Be the One in Ten...
...who gets it right. If a competition has a thousand entrants, up to 90% of them may have sent in work that’s unreadable, poorly formatted or exceeds the required word count. No matter how brilliant their work, it won’t be considered.

That means a perfectly-presented piece will make it straight into the Top 100 before any judge has picked up their marker-pen. 

Give yourself the best possible chance of being on that initial long-list by using an easily-readable font and type size (Times New Roman 12 Point is a good starting point). Unless otherwise instructed, give your work a good margin all the way round, and use double line spacing. Whether you’re submitting on paper or online, number the pages consecutively. 

There—with hardly any effort on your part, you’ve made it onto a professional reader’s desk. How much further you get depends on your writing talent, and that one little thing nobody can guarantee.


Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

You can catch up with her at, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at


dstoutholcomb said...

fortunately, I'm a rule follower and have never had a writing entry rejected for failure to meet the requirements.


Christina Hollis said...

Thanks, Denise, you've restored my faith in human nature!