When I was young from time to time my sister would break things. She would place the broken pieces back together again and place them strategically so it would look as though the object was not broken. Sooner or later, usually during Saturday morning cleaning, I would pick it up and discover a broken toy or favorite ceramic kitty. She spent the entire week hoping that nobody would notice.
This week several people arrived at our writing group with pieces formatted in non-traditional ways and outside the guidelines of the group. Single spaced 10 point font, and the like. I guess they hoped nobody would notice. But, as our finite time came to a close and the restaurant was ready to send us home and close the doors, several people had not been able to present their work. These writers hoped that nobody would notice that their formatting gave them more time. Hey, man, it’s five pages.
Since then there has been a flurry of emails within the group. Some reminded everyone of our guidelines: double spaced, 12 point font no longer than five pages maximum. You can imagine that five single-spaced pages took an inordinate amount of time to read. Some called for more frequent meetings. The discussion continues. The bottom line is that all of the recreants will receive a second chance, the group will go on, and the responsible critiquing will continue.
Editors are not this forgiving. You may be the next Roberto Bolaño or Jonathan Littell but your manuscript is going to be tossed without even one page being read if your formatting does not meet editorial guidelines.
I continue to suggest that as a practice you start writing your story in correct format so that you become accustomed to seeing it in manuscript form.
For more details see the post from February 4.