>Formatting Your Manuscript: Section One, Traditional Format


Manuscript

Don't wait! Format your manuscript now!

>When I began writing, it was on paper.  Ten sheets of crazy written notes in chicken scratch handwriting, filled to capacity on both sides. I even had teeny notes in the margins and running around the edges!  Beautiful to have the ideas down, ugly to look at.  I transferred it to the computer, started fleshing out those ideas, making them bigger, scrapping some, just writing.  However, I was all over the place with fun word fonts tiny print sizes, not to mention right justified margins.  There was nothing to distinguish between one chapter and the next, and it had random headers and footers for chapters and notes.  With an eye on future publication, I knew I needed to get my writing into manuscript format, both for my own organization, and eventual manuscript submissions.

So, I dove into the search to find the best manuscript formatting advice.  And there is a crazy amount of information out there!  For this first segment I’m going to concentrate on traditional publishing formats.   After reading two books with content on the subject, and twenty websites, I came up with a good  answer, and a couple of links. Depending on the publishing house, there are many ways to format a manuscript, and each one has its preference.  There are, however, some prominent commonalities.  The following list should get your writing in good order, and when you get to the finish line, your manuscript will be properly formatted aside from front page.

Get organized, get formatted, get going!

The following format applies to Traditional Manuscripts only:

  • A one inch margin all around is the industry standard.
  • Margin should be left justified, resulting in a ragged margin on the right edge.
  • Most prefer no header or footer
  • Type size should allow for editing and ease of reading. Size 12 or 10 are best, but trend leans toward size 12.
  • Most Editors and Agents prefer to read fonts in New Courier, but Times New Roman is  acceptable.  This can vary widely between Agents, Editors, and Publishing Houses.  Check before you send your manuscript!
  • Double space your lines.
  • Use a .5 inch indentation for a new paragraph.
  •  To begin a new chapter, insert a page break, but check with the Publishing House guidelines as this varies highly.
  • Another option to indicate when one paragraph starts and another stops is to use a pound sign # centered at the start of a new chapter, but once again this varies highly by Publishing House.  Check their specific guidelines!
  • Words that you want to emphasized should be underlined.  Do not use italics.
  • Number your pages at the top of each page!  Make sure they are sequential, starting from 1, 2, 3, etc. each page getting a number to the end page which will have the highest number. There are specifics as to where each Publishing House will want the numbering, but for writing purposes top right should do.
  • There is a lot of conflicting information as to whether or not to print your name at the top of each page.  But from researching this, it is better to skip it until you have selected an agent or publishing house, then apply those guidelines. 
  • Want more information about formatting you manuscript or a front cover letter? My usual go to guy, Author Nathan Bransford and this nice clear information from Moira Allen, editor of Writing World.com Moira Allen, Manuscript Format
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