Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The dummy manuscript

Recently, I submitted a children’s book manuscript to one of my publishers. With the way the manuscript was formatted according to guidelines for children’s books, the manuscript came in at 10 pages. The submission guidelines for this publisher stated that the children’s books they publish must end up being at least 35 pages long. (Wow, the page length for children’s books sure is changing these days! Gotta wonder how long a child would sit still for a looong children’s book.) I wasn’t worried about this page length, though, because, after all, the draft I submitted to my publisher may have been the final draft but it was not the only draft.

Actually, with a manuscript, I can end up having several drafts of that one book. And one particular draft can be the “dummy manuscript,” what I call the draft of how a book end up MIGHT looking like when it is published. This is a draft I put together for my own use, though, not for the editors or publishers.

I create dummy manuscripts because it helps me get a better idea of how the final book will (or should) look. I did this for the children’s book, and it ended up being 65 pages long! It probably won’t be that long, but at least it gave me the reassurance that it will be at least 35 pages long. Also, these “dummy pages” will come in handy for my illustrator, because they help her decide where exactly she wants to do her illustrations. She can see how the manuscript will possibly be arranged and figure out what should go where. (This information will help the publisher, as well, as she does the layout for the book.)

This process of creating a dummy manuscript could be helpful in either preparing the manuscript for submission, getting a better idea of how the story will turn out or organizing everything.

That last one is the case with the haunted cities book. I have a “dummy manuscript” for this manuscript, and it is only because there are so many pictures to complement the stories. I created this draft to help me keep track of what goes where and to ensure everything that needs to be there is included. I also add captions and footnotes so that I will have them on hand and where they should go when final production of the book is going on and the publisher needs those pieces of information.

For Shadow of Samhain, a book I have coming out any day now, I created a dummy cover for the novel. Sometimes, envisioning the cover for the book helps me to work on it better. I don’t know why, but it just does. The dummy cover somehow helped me to “see” the story better and bring it more to life.

So I either have a dummy manuscript or a dummy cover. But using these are not dumb. (Hah!) They are useful in the creation and organization of a book, whether it’s a novel, children’s book or nonfiction.  And as long as it works, it’s something I’ll keep doing with all the books I write. Other authors may have a similar method or something completely different, but for me, this is what works.

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