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Manuscript Format: a few more details

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This subject comes up now and then.  There's even a sticky post with some very good advice.  But I thought I'd put a post up so the info is distilled all in one place.

I have to warn you up front that I have not been published, and therefore have not squeezed through the editorial wringer.  But I have read several respectable web-sites, and attended several conferences where they all give pretty much the same advice.  I've tried to combine their advice, and err on the side of caution and most recently recommended formats.

I use MicroSoft Word, and (for what it's worth) here is what I do:


•   Font: 12-point Times New Roman, or Courier New.  Black.

•   Margins: 1 inch, all sides.  Header: 0.5", Footer 0.5"

•   Indent Paragraphs:  ½ inch.  Use the automatic indent feature in MS Word.
For the love of all that is holy, never indent your paragraphs with spaces or tabs.
Never insert extra lines between paragraphs.

•   Double space. 

•   Align all story text “left justified”.  (a.k.a. “ragged right.") 
Never use the “Justify” format that gives you a clean, straight right margin.  It does look prettier, but it adds spaces between the words and actually makes it harder to read, if you’re an agent and are reading thousands of pages an hour.

•   Hyphenation turned off [set in Word at Format, Paragraph, Line and Page Breaks].

•   "Widow/orphan control" and "keep lines together" turned off [set in Word at Format, Paragraph, Line and Page Breaks].

•   Number all pages, except for the title page.
I accomplish this by inserting a section break right after the title.
Then when I create my header on the actual first page of the novel, I can set it so that the header does not continue from the previous page.
You can double-click the header, and then click the “Options” menu and find the check box for this.

•   Page HEADER:  Include:  last name, title, e-mail address – separated by slashes.  Right-justify.

•   Scene breaks:  indicated by a “#” centered.  (I prefer a “#  #  #” centered, with tabs between the octothorpes.)

•   Chapter Title:  Center it 1/3 of the way down the page (6 double-spaced lines). 
(some say only 3 double-spaced lines)
Hit Enter twice before starting text.

•   Page breaks between chapters.  (Do NOT space until you get a new page.  Hit Ctrl-Enter instead.)

•   Chapter Titles:  Capital letters.  Format:  “CHAPTER 1—TITLE OF CHAPTER”

•   End the manuscript with a “#” centered on a line by itself, then the words:  “THE END.”  (It lets them know they have the whole thing.)

•   Between Sentences:  Use one space.  (Actually, I prefer two because I’m a dinosaur touch-typist.  In the Proofing options, you can set it to check for one space or two so that you're consistent throughout the manuscript.)

•   Title Page should include:  (aligned left, and single-spaced):  Your Real Name, address, phone #, e-mail address.
Aligned right (preferably on the same line as your name):  word count, rounded to the nearest thousand.  (or the exact word count minus your contact info.)

I accomplish this by typing my name, then the word count on the line below it.
Underneath that, I insert a “section break.”
Then for that 2-line section, I make it two columns.
I can then right-justify the name in the first column, and left-justify the word count in the second column.
The rest of the contact info follows that mini section.

•   Center the Title about ½ way down the page.
      “by”  (on a line by itself)
   Followed by Real name, or real name with “writing as” pen name.
Example:  “Mary Ann Evans writing as George Elliot”

•   Do NOT use spaces around EM-space dashes or ellipses

•   EM-space dashes are for interruptions.  Ellipses are for the voice trailing off.

•    Convention:  “a.m.” and “p.m.” should be in small caps.  Quoted text from newspapers, signs, computer screens, etc., can be in small caps, but do not have to be.  Just be consistent.

#1 - February 15, 2016, 08:48 AM
« Last Edit: February 15, 2016, 07:03 PM by Steve Vodney »

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