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Author Topic: 13 Lines
Denevius
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This is really just a very gentle suggestion. I mentioned this before, but it's been two years I believe, and so I'll mention it again.

Sometimes I feel stupid that I still don't understand what's meant by 13 lines, but then I realize when I'm reading posted works that I'm not alone, and I can't help but wonder why not a 13 lines *or* a maximum word count? Because in my mind, a maximum word count can't be confused. Either your excerpt is 170 words or less, or it's not. If it's 171 words, then that's too many and edit the opening accordingly.

I know some people grasp the 13 lines. To me, though, it remains this unnecessary issue that could be easily resolved if it was a maximum word count, which cannot be confused. But 13 lines. If I'm on my iPhone, it looks different from my iPad, which looks different from my Mac, which looks different from the Samsung I use at work. Then, it changes if I'm using Safari, or Explorer, or Firefox, or Google Chrome. If the window is maximized or minimized. It all could just look so different. And since it's not 13 sentences, but lines, I'm always like, "What?"

So anywho. I'll wait another two years before I bring it up again.

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MAP
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I think this is a Hatrack policy and not open to debate.
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extrinsic
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I fully grasp every contributing factor for the Hatrack thirteen lines principles; the formatting, the mechanical, and the aesthetic principles.

Format-wise, thirteen lines is based on Standard Manuscript Format, at one time a rigid convention of how a typewriter layout arranges a standard letter-size page of a first page. Vonda McIntyre's SMF PDF treatise details those exacting standards. Note that a monospaced typeface typical of manual typewriters, such as the predominant Courier New, is at root part of the SMF standards and thirteen lines principles. Proportionally kerned typefaces vary the width of any given glyph's cell. A capital M in a Times New Roman typeface, for example, is wider than a lower case I or period.

Mechanical-wise, BB and HTML source code for text entry boxes allows setting the box's dimensions in terms of column and row number values. Hatrack's Full Reply Form and Post New Reply Form text entry boxes are set to the same matrix dimensions as a manual typewritten SMF manuscript in a monospaced typeface: sixty-five columns and thirteen rows. Each cell accounts for one glyph, alpha-numeric, punctuation, and word and sentence space.

One appreciable difference between SMF and what actually displays in a web page is extraneous spaces do not display on screen. If a writer uses two spaces after terminal punctuation, only one will display, unless the writer uses the nonbreaking space entity.

Due to SMF print being paragraph indented rather than Online Standard Format's empty line paragraph break, empty lines do not count in the thirteen lines principles. Hard returns do not display regardless in print or online.

Doing the math: sixty-five columns and thirteen rows, the half page SMF real estate of an opening page, with blank half page sink, is exactly 845 possible glyphs. Typesetters' word count is 6.5 glyphs per regularized word, including word space, for a regular word count of 130, emulating SMF's standard page line count of ten words average. And not coincidentally a Standard Publication Format page line word count average. Hence thirteen lines.

Due to variations in diction and syntax, short-breaking lines of paragraph endings, actual word count varies by up to 20 percent. Typsetters' word count is used in print publication for estimating actual real estate consumed in SPF so that costs may be estimated: digest or book format. Standard Serial Publication Format uses a different word count estimate method, based on column inches, rather than line count, because SSPF formats lay out print and graphic media in multiple columns rather than single columns.

Aesthetic-wise, thirteen lines principles imitate the page layout of SMF in that thirteen lines is less alienating than a full-page twenty-five lines text wall. A half-page opening is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Formal composition ignores this principle; full-page opening page is standard formatting in scholastic writing. That signals a writer's style is academic rather than creative, and the manuscript content probably is too. Hence thirteen lines.

Aesthetic in that a screening reader might only glance at the opening page and reject on sight due to an immediate issue arising: formatting guidelines not followed; immediate, self-evident mechanical style shortcomings; little, if any, arousal of caring and curiosity; unsuitable subject and topic matter for the house; i.e., no fantastical feature evident for a science fiction and fantasy house or agent.

Aesthetic in that thirteen lines principles foster opening or at least fragment writing development skills in order to accommodate publishing culture standards and expectations. Standards and expectations that developed over a hundred or so years that are conducive to aesthetic, inviting appeals and least eye strain and most accessible for editing and publication design and layout.

Hence thirteen lines.

Here's an SMF page matrix, sixty-five columns, thirteen rows. Using the BB code Code tag, which displays on screen in a monospaced typeface, Courier New I believe, X's represent individual cells: alpha-numeric glyphs, spaces, punctuation marks, etc., regardless, each glyph occupies only one cell:
code:
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX



[ February 12, 2014, 08:17 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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That question is why we have this topic in the Please, Read Here First area.

Go look at the topic on your phone or other device, and maybe that will help.

The last resort is to post what you think is 13 lines and let me treat it the same as I treat everyone else's 13-line attempts.

By the way, I usually give you an extra line if I can see that you've tried to cut it yourself, because of differences in devices and browsers.

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Denevius
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quote:
I think this is a Hatrack policy and not open to debate.
I suppose, but it does seem like a reworking of the standard would resolve what seems like an unnecessary confusion that's actually voiced quite often. If we were to go through every post that's needed to be cut by Kathleen, or every post where someone starts off by saying, "I hope I've kept to the 13 line count...", we may actually get up to 50%, or more. And if there's that much confusion, perhaps a different approach is needed.

quote:
I fully grasp every contributing factor for the Hatrack thirteen lines principles; the formatting, the mechanical, and the aesthetic principles.
I don't think it should be dismissed, but a maximum word count would simply resolve, I would think, any further confusion. 13 lines and no more than _____ words.

And Extrinsic, you know I value your judgement. But something about this reply seems a bit archaic. Publishing has changed, as well as the presentation of media in the digital age. For better or for worse, the reality is we're in a different age of print. So any answer that starts off with the typewriter seems like an answer that's a bit out of date.

We're at a point now when most reading the average person does is on their smartphone/phalet. Tablets are taking the place of textbooks in schools, in Asia at least. I would think most people under 18 have never seen a typewriter in real life, let alone used one. And digital media simply allows too many variations that almost nulls the age of the typewriter.

A 13 line opening to a story one day can be full of hyperlinks going to videos and music or cams or what have you, and without clicking on these links, it'll be impossible to figure out what's going on. This is just where we are now. The typewriter and the rules that sprung from it are mostly dead. Again, for better or for worse, it's just the reality of our present.

And aesthetic-wise, when I check Hatrack on my phone, it's usually this really long column of text no matter the actual length of the reply. I think I mentioned this before, but I haven't touched a physical novel in almost six months. Everything is on my iPad, and I've maximized the print fairly large so that any "look" the publisher was going for is totally lost.

I suppose if the answer to this is, "This is the way we've always done it, and this is the way we wish to continue to do it", okay, groovy. I guess, though, after being on this site for more than two years and seeing the continued confusion, I'm not entirely sure why it's preferable to do things an old way whether or not it's the most efficient way.

I totally understand why it's just the opening of a piece. I just don't quite get why a novel approach can't be used to understand when your opening has gone beyond the desired length.

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Denevius
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quote:
That question is why we have this topic in the Please, Read Here First area.
:)Ok. [Smile]
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extrinsic
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Answers to why manual typewriter parameters inform SMF, etc., and thirteen lines principles, they translate directly to source machine code's diction and syntax and layout.

Your machine reading is an example of the impediments and shortcomings current machine-reading technology ergonomics create. Machine reading rate is generally slower than for print reading, by a margin of as much as 50 percent, appropriate for textbook learning, but frustrating for fast paced and high comprehension entertainment readers.

This ergonomic factor derives from eye movement across text lines. One eyeblink takes in on average five regularized words, half an SMF or SPF line. Human vision focal length and binocular vision at half arm's length define these proportions. Print book formats create less eyestrain, less manipulation of the medium, less interruption of the reading spell because they have an ergonomically proportioned line width and page dimensions.

SMF's manual typewriter monospaced typeface legacy likewise causes less eyestrain for screening readers, editors, writers, and publication designers who stare at pages for hours on end, day in, day out, weeks, months, years teasing out those pesky mechanical style glitches grammar checking software doesn't catch.

Manipulating machine reading controls is mostly second nature for proficient users, frustrating for inexperienced users, and in any regard more conscious control is needed than for print books. Those characteristics interrupt the illusion of reality and participation mystique spell. That's a law breaker in my estimation. Third law of creative writing: Do not interrupt the reading spell.

An argument may be raised that, because contemporary format modeling and templates derive from happenstance past traditions, the formats are that way because that's the way readers became and are most familiar with. The old ways have a more sublime and profound basis and influence on contemporary ergonomic publication design than just because that's the way it's always been done. One that is as unchanging as the basic organizing principles of dramatic structure.

Aesthetically pleasing layouts disappear down to the glyph level. Their disappearance accompanies the illusion of reality spell, etc. The bookshelves, the book, the page, the layout, the words, the letters, the alpha reality itself, disappear. Readers transport into the secondary-reality world of the text. Magic.

These aesthetical design characteristics relate directly to the Golden Ratio: 1:1.618 roughly. Glyphs, punctuation marks, spaces, glyph kerning, line leading, page dimensions, book dimensions, every micro and macro publication design element is apportioned from the Golden Ratio. This proportion occurs across nature and human artifact. This ratio is familiar, warm, inviting. It is the proportions of human facial features, of our bodies, our personal own most of all. It is beautiful to us. It is magic.

Machine reading is yet an infant technology. Future developments will take these ergonomic and aesthetic features into account. Until such time, print reading will remain the most aesthetically pleasing, immersing, and appealing reading experience.

My approach for evaluating my fragments's length, yours and others too, is to input the text into a wordprocessor page formatted to SMF's exact dimensions and standards, including monospaced typeface. Flawless every time. I compose that way too. My eyesight isn't what it was.

[ February 12, 2014, 10:09 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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extrinsic
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Addendum:

The manual typewriter, the computer keyboard, personal digital telecommunication devices are but installments on the path of written expression, beginning with scratches in sand, formalized at first by stylus scribing in wet clay.

The very alphabets of languages are stylized expressions of natural and artifact world images. Take lower case A. It began as a symbol for auroch, the cattle food-species of the ancient Mediteranean world. Auroch's are now extinct, but they were the most valuable commodity of ancient pastoral cultures.

Phonecian scribes accounted aurochs by inscribing in wet clay a circle with two horns, on its side because righthand scribing came most natural for most scribes. The two horns and bowl of contemporary lower case A glyphs retain that auroch-Phonecian symbolism. The category numbers then were counted by straight swipes; later, four swipes with a diagonal slash swipe meant five items for counting ease. This is why A comes first in English alphabets: because aurochs were accounted first.

Capital case A, capital case glyphs generally, were introduced by Roman stone carving scribes, as well as rudimentary punctuation marks.

On the thirteen lines fragment submission guidelines, this too has a function in dress rehearsing for the exacting at times submission guidelines of publishers. Even to the fact that Hatrack's fragment submission guidelines ask for writer research, looking them up in the "Read Here First" forum, as any reasonable writer seeking publication ought as a best practice do for a prospective publishing house's guidelines.

[ February 13, 2014, 06:43 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Reziac
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On Another Forum[TM] the limit is 200 words. Same basic principle, less exact for space considerations. And someone has to count 'em. It's easier to eyeball the post and note whether it appears to be about the right size or not.

Kathleen, do you count blank lines between paragraphs??

Side note: if you've resized the input form, or have zoom set at anything other than 100%, what you thought was 13 lines might not be by the time the forum spits it up on the web page.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Blank lines between paragraphs don't count as any of the 13 lines.

The "Add Reply" box is too small for 13 lines, but if you use the "Full Reply Form" box, it's the right size.

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walexander
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Not to be the devils advacate but first thirteen never decides a good book only how good an author is at a start. Plenty of great books that are not quoted first line, yes a great start could sell but word of mouth is everything. Look how many authors were long dead before the dollars so ask yourself what that means about opinion.we drive ouselves crazy believing others know whats good. We can only hope they really know what they are talking about. I'm still waiting on my opinion.

Believe in yourself. Good is good. Know it inside first. Im my own biggest critic.

Best wishes

W.

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Pyre Dynasty
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Getting them to turn the page is the first step. If you can't get them to do that then nothing that comes after matters.

Anyway, the intent isn't to only workshop the first thirteen lines, it is to only workshop the first thirteen lines here. The Hatrack isn't the only place in the universe. Think of it like a dating service. You post a little about your story and if people are interested you take it to email so it isn't so published. Why should someone buy your story when it is free here on the open internet?

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