How to Format Your Manuscript

Properly formatting your manuscript is crucial.

Whether you’re entering a mentorship event, submitting to an agent, or sending your story to an editor, formatting decides everything. It shows the reader that you have a level of professionalism and are serious about your writing.

Please note that while this is industry standard, always check the submission section of their website. They might have specific guidelines they want you to follow. This post is what most places will require, and is probably what’s best when you send your manuscript to sensitivity or beta reader.


BASIC FORMATTING

Word is the industry standard. If you want to submit anything, it’s through Word. It has excellent features that writers, editors, and agents can use, like the track changes tool. Even if you draft with another program like Scrivener or Google Docs, you should always be submitting in Word (.doc\.docx).

It can be expensive, but if you’re a serious author and want to write and publish multiple books, it’s a good investment. Waiting until Black Friday can get you a great deal if you want to save a little bit of money (I also use Honey which can help find coupons. This isn’t sponsored, I just like using it).

Document title should be professional. This is important, but often overlooked. The file name should be something easy to remember, probably just your manuscript name. When I was helping friends out with beta reading or editing there were times the manuscript titles would be so out there and crazy (granted, I’m not positive that’s what they used for submission). But better safe than sorry, make sure your file name is clean and easy to remember.

Page size should be 8.5 by 11 inches. This is something that’s done automatically no matter what program you use, but why not double check before submission?

One inch margins. Word should already do this for you, but be sure check. It should be one inch on all sides.

12-point font, Times New Roman, Courier New, and sometimes Arial. The agent \ editor might have a preference as to serif or sans serif, so it’s good to check their submission guidelines to see. I was always told Times New Roman or Courier New, and nothing else, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of people mention Arial as well, so consider that an option.

Where to find the double space settings

Don’t justify the paragraphs, but they should be aligned to the left. I actually see a lot of manuscripts that are justified, but it should be left leaning.

Lines should be double spaced (picture on the left). It can be found in the top bar, under HOME, to the right of the font size. It’ll be in a similar place on Google docs if you’d like to use that setting while drafting as well (I rather like using it).

Indent new lines a half inch. Again, this should be done automatically. You should only have to hit the tab key once.

example title page

The title page should have your name, address, phone number, email, approx. word count, and novel title. If you write under a pen name, then add both names on the title page (example: “Eleanore Wasilewski writing as Jane Smith”). The name, address, phone number, and email are in the top left, and the title, writing name, and word count in the middle of the page (roughly). The book title should be in all caps or mixed caps.

The first page after the title should be where the numbering starts. The title page doesn’t count in the number. Only the first page of the story.

Author name, project name, and page number in the top right corner. “Eleanore Wasilewski \ Clever Title \ 6” as an example, in the top margins.

Asterisks or a line with a hashmark signify scene breaks. I’m personally partial to three asterisks, but either of those are fine for scene breaks.

Only one space after a period. This is pretty self explanatory. I know plenty of writers who double space automatically, but one after a period is the way to go.

Chapter titles should be one-half or one-third way down the page. You should hit enter about three or four times. Center Chapter One or Chapter 1, with the chapter title underneath (if applicable).

END. The best word to write after laboring over a manuscript for months. Center it at the end of your manuscript.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Italics are fine. I’ve seen the occasional “writing tip” circle around the community saying not to italicize in your manuscript. This use to be true when they would underline to signify italics, but now you can just italicize.

Avoid adding in illustrations. If you have illustrations within the pages of the manuscript add a short description where they’d go, on their own separate line.

Example: Illustration: a cup of coffee on a porch.

The agency or publisher you’re submitting to might have special guidelines for illustrations, so check out the formatting page on their website to be sure.

If you have any additional questions feel free to ask, and I’ll answer what I can. Good luck with submission!

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