The 2012 Royal Ascot is Complete
Please look for the 2013 Royal Ascot early next year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

EVEN MORE FAQ's: Why not .docx?

I've had several people ask me what .docx is and why they shouldn't use it.

If you don't know what it is, then you probably don't need to worry about it. This is the file extension for the new format of Word 2007, so if you have Word 2007, you might want to check to see if your document extension is .docx and not .doc

Why can't we use it? Well the older versions of Word can't read it, and a lot of people have chosen not to update a program they see as working perfectly well for them. I actually bought a version of it, but it's been sitting in its original box since last summer, untouched, uninstalled. I don't want to go through the problems it creates. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine version, but if nobody can read it, why don't I just stick with my favorite, WordPerfect, which I already have to convert to send to people? Why go through two conversions?

There is a conversion package you can get. But I will be much better off as the coordinator if I don't have to solve this problem in addition to others that are bound to come up. So that's why I'm asking all contestants to save their entries in .rtf format. Then we all can read it. If you happen to make a mistake and send it to me in WordPerfect or Word as a .doc file, I'll just convert it for you and send it on to the judges. But if you send it as .docx, sorry, I'll send it back and ask you to fix it.

If you don't know how to save as .rtf, I'll be happy to help you do it. It's easy. But I can't do it for you because I can't open your .docx file. No, I have no clue why Microsoft did this and I probably won't ever know.

Maybe next year.


I've had a few more questions I'd like to share with you. Most of them seem to relate to format, but there are others.

1. You don't say I have to double space my entry. But if I single space, I have far too many words. Why didn't you just say to double space?

We're trying not to get into the old format wars that have dogged so many notable contests in the past. And we know sometimes double-spacing isn't really double, for various reasons. But at the same time, we want to give all contestants an equal chance.

So rather than concentrate on formatting issues, we've set a word and page limit. We hope you'll be kind to us and use a standard font and font size, reasonable margins and a nice healthy space between lines.

2. Okay, fine. Why don't you tell us what you would use?

Okay, you asked. But keep in mind you don't have to do it my way.

I'd set my margins at 1 inch, use Courier 12 pt, and 25 lines per page. To do this, I actually have to set line spacing at 1.85, not double. Sometimes I use Times New Roman but it's really difficult for me to spot typos, so I set it at 13 pt. Most people would go to 14 pt, which means it uses up more space than Courier. Times New Roman 12 pt. should NOT be set to get 25-26 lines per page. This gives far too much word density, since TNR's normal double spacing is 21-22 lines per page.

3. But if I do that, I can only get one chapter into the contest. I want to send three chapters.

The Royal Ascot was originally a "First Chapter" contest. We've always limited it to 30 pages including synopsis. We want to keep it that way but also realize for some writers the "beginning"
can include more than just the first chapter.

Regardless, try to find where your first major "hook" is, and stop at that point. If it falls outside the 30 pages, especially with the synopsis included, you probably will do better in contests if you condense your first chapter. I think you'll find that contests expecting three chapters will tend to run about Golden Heart-size length, 55 pages.

4. I want to get the judges to the point where the action starts to sizzle, but it doesn't fit within the 30 pages. What do I do?

Edit. Like crazy. Throw away those first few chapters that don't sizzle. Personally, I want my action jumping right out of that frying pan sizzling from the first page, but I know other people prefer it a little slower. Whatever your style, the point where the action "sizzles" is where your story starts.

Everything before that is backstory, not story. Move it or delete it, but don't put it up front because your readers have come for your story, not your words- no matter how beautiful your words are. Do your best to keep your lead-in to a page or two.

Please go read my post on February 26, FINDING THE RIGHT PLACE TO BEGIN:

It explains this concept more thoroughly.