Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Submitting The Manuscript, or Why LaTeX Suddenly Makes Sense



I've been accused of being pretentious for using LaTeX for writing my novels - and I can sort of see why. After all, LaTeX makes perfect sense from the word 'go' if you're writing a thesis with complex equations (or even just loads of references), but it's a much less obvious decision to use it for fiction. I can't remember why I started doing it, but the more I look at submission guidelines for publishers, the more I'm so glad I did.

Firstly, a quick introduction for anyone who's unfamiliar with the concept. LaTeX is designed for typesetting - it's a markup language (like HTML), so you type mostly what you mean, but with little bits and pieces of extra information. For example, in HTML you type <i>text</i> to italicise, but in LaTeX you'd type \emph{text}.

I write in Celtx which allows me to have one tab for each chapter - but I ignore most of its wordprocessing powers and treat it like a text editor, into which I type my novel with LaTeX markup. To make a PDF, I can then just process the LaTeX.

So why am I telling you this? Why should you care about my strange, geeky habits?

Well, the more submissions guidelines I read, the more glad I become that I've chosen to do it this way. Seems that every publisher wants things their own way; gone are the days of 'double spaced, single sided' being the simple requirement. Oh no. Some specify 1" margins, some specify 1.5". Some specify how far you have to indent your paragraphs. Not to mention all the standard things like typeface, font size, etc.

This is where LaTeX comes into its own. You can set up a "stylesheet" which controls all these attributes and more. For academic journals and conferences (at least in the sciences) it's common for contributors to be supplied with the appropriate stylesheet so that all the articles look the same. You write your text just once, and change the styling with a stylesheet depending on where you want to submit it.

So I'm creating a set of stylesheets to meet publisher guidelines, meaning I don't have to completely reformat my document every time I want to send it to someone new. The text file stays constant, I'll just create a new PDF for each submission. And any time I want to submit a new manuscript to a given publisher in future, I'll be able to reuse the same stylesheet. Once I've got some good ones and made sure they're working properly, I'll also make them available for other writers to download, should anyone wish to make use of this for themselves.

In the meantime, at least I feel I have an answer to anyone who wonders why I write my novels in LaTeX.

31 comments:

Kasia said...

Geeky! ;)
But frankly, having worked with LaTeX a little bit I think it's a good idea. What I hate most is formatting and styles in Word, so I guess when you are about to submit a paper/article/essay/whatever in a few different places with different requirements this is the way to go.
Of course you need to know LaTeX first ;)

Debbie said...

Well, I knew none of this! And this is why blogging is educational:)

lakeviewer said...

Oh yes! Good info. I shall keep this post handy for the time when I become brave enough to send my stuff out.
Thanks.

Toni said...

THey say that you learn something new every day and that's true.
Great tip since I'm starting to write my book Rachel - thanks for the information!

forgottengenius said...

I should have known it would be too easy if everyone had stayed with the old formatting rules. New ages, new problems -- and, of course, new solutions.

Good luck with sending them out, once you get to it. :)

Tabor said...

This is all new to me as well. I remember the old publishing software that was around in the late 80's and early 90's. Clunky and not malleable. This sounds neat and I am glad that you blogged about it.

Richard @ The Bewildered Brit said...

LaTeX! It's one of those things I've always *meant* to switch to but never quite got round to it.

It's definitely a sciences thing. I was faculty in the arts for about a decade and I was the only person who'd even heard of LaTeX (I was the nerd running Linux while everyone else had PCs or Macs...)!

I'm glad you're using it, though! It gives me hope that one day I'll make the switch too!

carma said...

makes sense if it saves time on submitting, but way over my 'lil 'ole head :D

Alissa said...

I use Celtx for screenwriting, and never thought about using it for novels. I used to use Word and now use Open Office. It isn't all that difficult to change the specifications on it, but I guess you do wind up with different versions of a file floating around.

"And so our stories go..." said...

Who'da thought. I learn something new every day.
Mary

Emily said...

I'm was just stopping by from SITS, but I'm so glad to have found your blog! Writing, travel and photography? You've found a perfect combination!

Louiz said...

Smart!

A Cuban In London said...

Piece of trivia first. When I tried to pop by your blog during my lunch hour there was a red warning telling me that your blog was not available because it belonged to the 'occult' category. Not to worry, though, I work in a school and the firewall picks up on any terms that might link to a humorous, pornographic or occultist website. But sometimes it goes over the top, as in your case.

What an amazing post. It's given me a powerful insight into another world. I just caught up with HTML a few years ago and it works wonders on blogger (as you well know) but this other programme is just great. And it saves you time. Many thanks.

Regarding my decision to leave Cuba, there's not a lot to read into it. I got married to a woman I love and we've been together for thirteen years, married for twelve. She didn't fancy living in Cuba (I can't blame her, having her letters opened before they reach her is testing her patience a bit too far) and we decided to settle here in London.

Have a great weekend.

Greetings from London.

Kevin Musgrove said...

new one on me, too

thanks for the tip!

Tracie said...

I had no idea.

Have a great weekend.

Tara said...

Stopping by to say hi from Friday Follow! I am a follower of yours now! ;-)

Don't forget to stop by for more Follow Me Friday Fun at the Trendy Treehouse

http://thetrendytreehouse.blogspot.com/2010/01/strapped-belts-feature-and-giveaway.html

Mom et al said...

Hi. Following via the Friday Follow.


mom-et-al.com

Mass Hole Mommy said...

Friday Following!

The Grown-Up Child said...

Wow! Good luck with the submissions! It does sound like a good thing that you are using LaTeX. The sylesheet concept sounds great.

Thanks for visiting my blog last week!

Emma said...

I've never heard of LaTex, but it sounds like a really convenient way to comply with all the crazy publisher standards. Good luck with your submissions!

Blackberry Jam Cafe said...

Hi, Stopping in from Follow Friday. What good info - I had no idea what LaTeX was. But for what you're doing it seems to make perfect sense! Thanks for stopping by my blog today for Rogue Cupcakes!

~Kristen~ said...

Happy Friday Follow!!! I am now following your blog! Would love if you would follow mine!

Audrey said...

Following you back :)
Have a wonderful weekend!

Coupon Clippin' Mommy said...

Happy Follow Friday, you can find me blogging here: http://www.couponclippinmommy.com

Chef E said...

I had to look some of what you are talking about up. Guess the advantage of your being waaaay younger than I...I look forward to holding your book in my hand one day!

Come back and check out my two other versions of Muse Monday this week...I tried to take them in other directions, still sci-fi but working on my style...

Dave King said...

Nah, that's stretching it a bit far for me, I think. HTML will have to do, for now at least.

Molly said...

that's interesting that publishers all have different requirements for submissions, you would think it would be the same for everyone just to make things easy all around.

thank you for your comment on my blog today, good luck with your PhD...and have a great weekend!

furygirl3132 said...

New follower from Friday Follow, hope you have a wonderful weekend and I look forward to reading your blog!

Eloise
Mommy2TwoGirls
http://mommy2twogirls.blogspot.com/

Sheila said...

Stopping by from Friday follow- http://runninlateagain.blogspot.com/

Christian Mommy Writer said...

Haven't heard about LaTex before. Good luck on your publishing journey.

Thanks for visiting my blog on my SITS day!

christine said...

and I thought latex was just for making "rubber" gloves for the washing up!!!!

Seriously, that's why some of your Charanthe words look strange, is it? Do you think I need to learn about it ... can you hear the panic in my "voice"???? oh dear, when uni's finished you can teach me, not til then:)

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