Your draft is manual scrap

Tuesday 6 September 2011, 1.45am HKT

IF there’s anything more laughable than calling yourself a writer, it is calling yourself a writer and then presenting your ‘draft’ to others.

Even worse, ‘draft manuscript.’

That is how you make Messrs. Gutenberg and Cox spin in their graves fully 600 years after their printing revolution.

More than 250 years of collective experience in modern editorial management, and we really have to wonder why there are still so many people with the nerve to submit ‘drafts.’

It’s no mistake that ‘manslaughter‘ is spelled the same way as ‘man’s laughter,’ namsayin’?

Let’s remind those of us who still needed reminding what a draft is and isn’t.

Isses and Isn’ts

PAY ATTENTION! I need you to be focused!

Is different

Draft IS different from a manuscript. If in calling yourself a ‘writer’ you don’t know (or can’t seem to know) the difference, then you’re an embarrassment running on fumes and autopilot — basically, life isn’t worth living and not worth the ‘writer’ description you claim for yourself.

Is ‘before eyes’

Draft is that thing on sheets of paper or on your porn-addled computer that you dreamt up, imagined, scribbled, wrote, typed, dictated, regurgitated and even defecated on your own BEFORE your editor has the mother of all misfortunes to get first dibs to read, much less work on.

Is single-sided, single-sentenced

A ‘draft’ consists almost entirely of SINGLE-SENTENCE paragraphs of roughly 20 to 30 words — typed or printed out SINGLE sides in SINGLE linespacing (double-spaced being actually optional nowadays) — that is the PROPER DRAFTING TECHNIQUE.

That proper drafting technique allows for manual edits and recasting — even reorganisation — by scissors and tape (paste being too messy and the editor may be tempted to drink it in times of great emotional distress).

Somewhat like all this stuff you are reading here right now. Almost nearly, but not quite. Nearly exactly but not almost. Mileages vary variously.

And if you’ve never known THAT drafting technique, then your description of yourself as a writer will get seriously challenged. The ensuing laughter you hear ringing in your ears will—

(a) last a long time,

(b) become unusually widespread into areas that you never thought possible, and

(c) cause quite a bit of resentment in you in a rather short space of time.

Alas, you believe in manly qualities (even if you are female) and prefer a ‘go it alone’ policy because that is supposedly ‘characterful’ — so you brazenly persist in the bizarre and perverse habit of writing in overbearing, overwhelming but under-meaning 450-word sentences in paragraph form so that they spill over from one page to the next two pages (depending on trim size) in a mind-numbing, soul-destroying sea of type, relieved only by ungainly rivers of white space because that habit of yours soothes your manifestly soulless, amoral penchant for typographical recidivism, underpinned by your intellectually acquired revanchist reactionary position on readability — rather like this sentence here. (110 words)

Even arcane writings on the occult instantly become paragons of clear, concise writing compared with yours.

And then you outdo yourself and really kick it in for hardworking typesetters by using two character spaces after the full stop (UK) / period (USA) / full point (printing), when only one character space for any and all punctuation is the only correct way for typesetting.

When you’re not in the printing business, you shouldn’t argue with typesetters and printers, since you’ve already embarrassed yourself by calling your work a ‘draft.’

After a while of these antics of yours, you don’t have writer’s block — instead suffer from what we in the publishing and printing business famously classify as “writers blocked.”

Is still being worked on

What your editor says about your work…

Draft is what you need to work on, mess around with, rewrite, re-edit, recast — choose the words you like best — late into the night or early into the morning sun, with heartache or in blissful ignorance, into some semblance of human (and humane) literate English (or any other language you fancy) before any plant, animal or mineral or any other assorted editorial cattle gets to see it.

Draft is the one thing you don’t (and shouldn’t) inflict on or show to anyone, even if accidentally, on earth as it is in heaven, unless you have a distinct deathwish to embarrass yourself and upend your ancestors’ good names in front of others — to say nothing about the potential reputational damage for your descendants (since, more often than not, they share your DNA and you should be kind to those who have no choice in the matter).

Is pre-‘sub’

Draft is anything that’s pre-submission (certainly to your editor and way-way before to your publisher, absent-minded professor or whimsical colleagues or even your comatose students) — and never the twain shall draft and submission meet.

Alas, that is often in its breach than in its observance.

Draft is something an editor will refuse take in or work on (if the editor still has any professional or personal sanity left) because it is YOUR job as the draft’s fatuous AUTHOR to sort out and remove all your silly grammatical, punctuational, typographical, material and mental nonsense as much as possible beforehand.

Ultimately, draft is something that you submit to others if you don’t mind paying through your nose when the editorial invoices start hammering in.

Editorial billing is the earthly version of divine punishment that you befall yourself to so that you may understand that turning in drafts is a sin.

Isn’t a legal draft

Draft in editorial work is a totally different ballgame from draft in the legal sense, and this is the usual cause of much confusion and drama (to say nothing about hilarity) in the minds of writers and non-writers alike.

Draft in the legal sense is something not finalised or legislated, so it doesn’t mean the copy is still in an illiterate, illegible or unintelligible state, which — alas — is the default state for most writing (including legal writing) even after publication — but that’s another story.

Assuming you’re not gormless and have the gumption to actually finish and clean up your draft, and finalise everything ready for submission, you now have in your hands a manuscript.

And that, my furry little friend, is the long and short of the differences between a draft and a manuscript — as if you needed reminding as a WRITER.

Editors work only on manuscripts, dumbo

Since, however, the manuscript is the only thing an editor can work on, and if an editor even remotely detects your manuscript is a draft in disguise, then you are in for a lot of trouble.

(Editors are incredibly capable mindreaders if they have to, by the way.)

The Draft Masquerading As Manuscript Syndrome

Getting your Draft Masquerading As Manuscript returned — or thrown back at you — is the least of your problems, mainly because your editor can continue to work on your fatuous copy in the manner of a ghostwriter — and billing you for it as appropriate in the most INAPPROPRIATE ways imaginable.

The look on your face will be PRICELESS when that highly inopportune billing date comes, and the sight of you weeping blood when you finally make payment will be recounted with much fondness by all till YOUR dying days, harr harr.

And if you still don’t appreciate draft vs. manuscript, you are irrelevant (a.k.a. an irrelephant).

So, where’s your draft then?


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2011.

Updated 04 June 2013 (reformatting).
Image via c4c.

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