Formatting your manuscript
Formatting your manuscript is a necessary step in publishing your book.
Whether you’re going through your first edits or sending it off to a publisher, a clean and well-structured manuscript is essential in getting it ready for success.
Why does it matter?
It shows your willingness to put forth the effort. Anything else is a giant red flag.
Poor formatting indicates that either you didn’t read their submission guidelines or can’t follow directions. You’ve gone this far to formulate an entire manuscript, don’t give up now.
More so, any errors will have to be fixed on the editor/publisher’s end, which will cost somebody more money.
Following the industry standard ensures that your work is ready for all manuscript assessments. I like to go ahead and format it from the very beginning. Doing this makes it all feel real and legit from the start. Besides, other writers who read it (beta readers) will expect and appreciate the effort.
- Use Times New Roman font, at 12-point size. Courier and Arial fonts may also be acceptable but play it safe and stick with Times New Roman unless otherwise specified.
- Left Align.
- 1” in. margins on all sides. Don’t stress; Word is usually already set to default these settings – double check before sending it through.
- Indent each paragraph half an inch. Use the “proper” way, not tab, and not space, space, space. Select your text in Word, then set indention using Format-Paragraph. Under “Indentation” and by “Left,” type .5 under “Special,” then choose “First line” from the drop-down menu.
- Double space lines – no extra space between paragraphs.
- One space at the end of sentences. (2 spaces are unnecessary and considered a thing of the past unless you are on an old typewriter that isn’t set to industry-standard spacing.)
Tip: if your manuscript has two spaces after a period, use your Word’s Find and Replace tool. Type two spaces into “Find” and one space into “Replace” then hit “Replace All”
Always check and double-check an agent’s submission guidelines. You never know. So, make sure it’s to their specifications! READ ALL THE SMALL DETAILS IN THE SUBMISSION OUTLINES.
Always include a title page. Keep the font and size the same as the rest of the manuscript.
(Times New Roman, 12 pt.)
- Your name (Real name), address, phone number, email, and website will be in the upper left hand of the title page.
- In the upper right hand of the page, type the word count and round to the nearest thousand. Simply type- Approx. 80,000 words
- The title of the novel is centered and about 1/3rd of the way down the page.
• Hit enter once and type- by (this is optional)
• Hit enter again and type your pen name.
- Copyright details, if applicable. Bottom of the page & centered.
Starting on the 2nd page and every page after should have your pen name and either a (-) or (/) to separate your name from the title and the page number. Ex: Name/Title/1
Type The End. Not only does this feel immensely satisfying, but it is also vital to let beta readers, editors, or agents know the story has ended and that there are no missing pages in the printer or cyber transit.
- Center-justified alignment after the last line of your story.
- Always start a new chapter on a new page. Don’t just hit the Enter/Return key until you’re there. Instead, use the “page break” function under the Insert tab.
- The title should be center-aligned. And 1/3-1/2 down the page. Usually about 4 double spaced hits on the return key.
- Start the chapter one double spaced down from the title.
- Generally, the first paragraph of any chapter is NOT indented.
- If you transition in time or scene break: make sure there is a transition line with three asterisks centered. Sometimes a hashtag is used.
- To format chapter titles, keep them consistent by clicking the style function at the top of Word. (Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.)
You can use italics where necessary (for emphasis or internal dialogue), but never underline or use ALL CAPS.
Send your manuscript as one document. And save them each with the name of the person you sent it to. You need to keep track of which version you’ve sent to who because, as always, there will be changes.
Most editors and publishers prefer Word documents over google or pages or whatever else you try to fancy. Make the people happy who are trying to help get your book on a bookshelf.
A.R. Garrett is writing her debut historical fiction series, Atalanta & The Amazons. As a writer of the ancient world, she excavates facts & dissects mythology to spotlight the most prolific warrior women lost in the shadows of our history books—adding a touch of fantasy for the daydreamer in all of us.
A.R. Garrett has a degree in Business and English with a concentration in fiction writing from SNHU, and is currently working on a double masters in Creative Writing and Ancient History. She’s been a freelance fiction editor since 2018 and created a platform to help other women writers on FB: www.facebook.com/groups/supportingwomenwriters
When she’s not wrangling her two boys in the mountains of Colorado and trying endlessly to understand the mystical world of algorithms, she loves handwritten letters sealed with a wax stamp, and appreciates a dang-good brownie.
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