I remember the first time I tried to format my manuscript on Microsoft Word. Meh, Looks easy enough, I thought. I was wrong. There was so much conflicting advice I was tempted to take the easy way out and get someone to format it for me. But hey, I’m meant to be a writer? I should know this stuff. And so should you. Thankfully after blood, sweat and many cups of coffee, I know how to format manuscript…with style! *Jazz hands* OK, maybe ditch the jazz hands. But I would like to save you stress by providing you with as easy guide which I have chunked down for you. I’m kinda nice like that. Here are my top tried and tested tips for getting the job done.
Say No To Fancy Fonts
There’s lots of discussion about the different types of fonts you can use when formatting your manuscript. Play it safe by using 12 point Times Roman, left justified (right ragged). It may not be the prettiest, but Times is professional and easy on the eyes.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. No fancy colours please, plain black fonts on a white background. No graphics or cover suggestions on first submissions either.
1” margins are needed all around, with no spaces between paragraphs. Your text should be double spaced, so you won’t need them. You need a header on each page, simply stating your name, title and page number. You can justify these to the top right corner.
Ditch The Typewriter Training
If you use a pseudonym you can put that under the title, but print your real name on the top left corner of the first page. You can do this by clicking on the header/footer option in MS Word.
If like me, you began as a trained typist, you may double space after a period / full stop. Wrong, one space only please. Double spaces belong in the days of yore, much like my typewriter.
Do not underline for emphasis, another habit reserved for typewriters only. Use italics for direct thought, or emphasis. If you are unsure, check the publisher’s guidelines.
Be Bold, But Only In Titles
Indent the first line of every paragraph, with the exception of the first in each chapter or section.
When writing dialogue, use a new paragraph for each new speaker.
Use all caps, bold and centred for chapter titles. Lower case, bold with initial capitals left justified for sub-headings.
Use good quality A4 standard paper. Print on one side only, and do not staple your pages together (hence why your name needs to be on top of each page).
Your title page should contain your name, address and full contact details. Provide your word length rounded off to the nearest thousand. Ensure your title is in capitals.
Make A Scene
Begin your text half way down the first page, and don’t indent the first word.
Scene or section breaks — drop down two double-spaced lines, insert and center the # character, drop down two more double-spaced lines, and begin your new scene.
Put the word ‘End’ centred at the end of your manuscript.
Fasten your manuscript with a strong rubber band or clip. Use a strong, excellent quality envelope when posting your work to ensure it turns up in good shape.
They Know Your Mum Loved It
Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you want your work returned to you.
An interesting tip is to include a pre written self-addressed stamped postcard, stating your manuscript has been received.
Don’t forget your full-page synopsis. Don’t try to tease the reader by omitting the ending and telling them to read on to find out. This does not go down well.
Enclose a well written cover letter stating who you are and why you are qualified to write your piece. Explain why it is right for your publisher, but no apologies, and they don’t need to hear how much your mum loved it!
Above all, check with your publisher before sending. Many have their own preferences when it comes to layout, and these can be found on their sites. If they state ‘standard manuscript format’ then you should be safe to follow the guidelines above.
I hope you have found the information helpful. I will be blogging more about synopsis and submission letters later. If you know any good jokes, or have anything constructive to add, please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.
My little disclaimer: As always, my blogs are here to help and entertain. I can’t take responsibility if things don’t work out for you, sorry.
Credits: Image, creative commons.