In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, there is only Word

At least, for writers trying to submit electronically to markets. Micah explains the problem.

For markets that take paper submissions, submitting in Standard Manuscript Format is not a big deal. You can use whatever wacky production process you like and print the thing out. Done. Heck, I even wrote an extension to Sphinx to produce sffms-latex from reStructuredText. It even works! Mostly.

But as time goes on, this “analog hole” will go away. As electronic Standard Manuscript Format becomes the defacto format, all of us crazy hippies really will be forced to use Word. For reals. Or possibly Scrivener, which does a pretty good job of exporting to Word. Actually, come to think of it, that doesn’t sound too grim-dark, does it? Although I do have it on good authority that Scrivener creator Keith Blount sustains his decaying body by sitting on a great cybernetic throne and draining the life-energy of a thousand psychics every day. So there’s that.

6 thoughts on “In the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, there is only Word

  1. I dunno. I don’t think it’s as bad as that.

    I think it’s more likely that HTML 5.x will become the de facto standard.

    .rtf isn’t a standard; it’s a collection of about seven variants. I don’t even try to keep up with them all these days.

    On the Mac, TextEdit is pretty decent at saving .rtf, .html, and .doc and .docx.

    I’m hoping that the next book contract will let me use Pages, personally. If not, I’ll go buy MS Word. But I live in hope.

  2. Hiya Lisa! Boy, I hope HTML becomes the de facto standard for fiction submissions. “Here’s some clean markup with headings and paragraphs, Mr/Ms. Editor. You can display it any way you like. Go nuts.” That would be a dream come true.

  3. The HTML technology stack works well for this use case, especially as it was originally envisioned. Imagine if each slush reader had a personal stylesheet attached to their reader that rendered everything in their preferred format, no matter how it looked on the author’s screen. It’s good to dream.

  4. Honestly, there are *lots* of ways to getting to an RTF file that imports cleanly into Word. I write in Markdown, then convert to RTF via HTML (in order to pick up a CSS file that gives me double spaced paragraphs with a .5in indent and because Markdown has no native way of centering text). Editors, AFAIK, haven’t had any problems with the RTF files I submit (at least since I stopped using OpenOffice to convert to RTF).

    [BTW, slush readers can read everything in their preferred format now. If you've given them an RTF or DOC file, they're reading your story in a word processor. It takes 3 seconds to reformat your text if they care to. Appearance is not a problem as long as you've met the standards of professionalism. My current experience is that if you can get to RTF, you've done that at least for the minimal demands SMF imposes. If you have a complex document with tables, footnotes, graphics, etc., all bets are off.]

    The problem is that it seems every editor on the planet will mark up edits to your story via Word’s Track Changes feature. At that point, you pretty much have to use Word or some other word processor that tracks changes in a compatible manner. I lucked out in that both Pages and Nisus Writer Pro do that. That meant I had to make every change twice since the Markdown text is what I version control. **sigh**

  5. Forgot to mention, *The New Yorker* sidesteps the formatting gone amuck issue by requiring PDF for its electronic submissions. I have no idea what happens if they buy the story. (Presumably, at that point, you send them a RTF or DOC file? I suppose they could mark up the PDF instead. That’s what I do when I crit.)

  6. If certain markets take PDF, that’s good news.

    If SMF in RTF/DOC really means, “something reasonably clean that our slush readers can reformat,” that is great news.

    I am very intrigued by your Markdown to HTML to RTF scheme. What’s your preferred method for getting from HTML to RTF?

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