FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subject!!

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Teresa Edgerton, Mar 27, 2010.

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  1.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Although some online publishers have their own guidelines, there is a standard format for manuscripts submitted to agents or publishers, which you should use unless specifically stated otherwise.

    For the body of the manuscript --

    Send loose pages; do not staple, paper clip, or bind. If sending an entire book manuscript, you may use rubber bands.

    Margins: 1 inch, top, bottom, left, and right

    Header: On every page but the first, includes title (possibly abbreviated if it is very long), your surname, and the page number

    Font: Courier12 (this is safest, although some publishers don't mind Times New Roman 12)

    Do not justify the right hand margin.

    Double space

    Indent at the beginning of each paragraph
  2.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Good-o. I shall line up my questions now (and apologies if they sound stupid):

    Does it have to be a header, not a footer?

    Does the header come within the 1" margin, or must there be a clear inch under it?

    When starting a new scene/chapter I start the first line at the margin, ie I don't indent. Is this acceptable?

    The indent, I've read that it should be 5 characters wide, but I prefer 1cm as it gives a better feel to the page. Is this acceptable?



    PS Your second post crossed with mine, which answers one of the above. This will sound even stupider than the others but the word count always goes immediately under the name etc details? (I thought I'd read they were in opposite corners, which is why I ask.)
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
  3.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    First page --

    Upper left hand corner: Your real name, address, phone number, email (each on a separate line).

    Upper right hand corner: Word count. If sending a nonfiction article or short fiction the next line should tell the rights you are offering. (Usually First Serial Rights.)

    Title centered about one third of the way down the page. Thus:

    Title

    by

    Name or Pseudonym​



    Then go down several lines, left justify, and begin your story.


    First page of chapter --

    Starts about one third of the way down the page.

    Chapter number

    Chapter title or short epigraph if you have one




    Do not begin each chapter with a new page one. Numbering should be consecutive from the beginning of the manuscript.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2010
  4.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Sorry, Judge, I binned that post so I could center the titles (can't do that in edit mode), and started again. Yes, the word count goes on the right. When I said it was on the left that was because I wasn't paying attention to what I was typing.

    Yes, the header can go in the top margin. And no, you can't use a footer instead.

    Indent should be five characters. (It doesn't matter what you think gives a better feel to the manuscript. If everyone started making that kind of decision they would be choosing their own margins, fonts, etc. and there would be no standard format.)

    I have heard British editors ask that you start the first paragraph of a chapter at the margin without the indent (as it usually appears in the published book), but I have not yet heard this from an editor in the US. I'm still using the indent, but you are in England so I think the way you are doing it is proper.
  5.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    If you are dividing a novel into books (I am not talking about dividing a long story into a multi-volume series, but divisions with a single volume -- The Lord of the Rings is divided into three volumes of two books each, making for six books in all), begin about one third of the way down the page, centered, thus:

    Book One

    Short epigraph if you have one.*​

    The rest of the page is blank.



    *If the epigraph is long enough to spill over onto another page, then do not put it here. Give it a page of its own.
  6.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    That's how I do it, but for no good reason other than I've seen it in published works and it marks new chapters/sections that much better.

    So Teresa, forgive my ignorance, but if you're submitting a novel, you wouldn't have a separate title page - you'd just launch into the first chapter/prologue half to two-thirds of the way down the very first page?
  7.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    I've seen it done both ways. For that matter, I've done it both ways. But once you get into using a separate title page, your word processor could start playing fun and games with the formatting and printing. So it's OK to do it that way, but do it at your own risk.
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    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    At the moment I pretty much do it as I want to - submission is so far in the future it's not really worth worrying about, but it is useful to know these things. If I ever do finish something, it's going to be a fun day I spend stripping and re-applying formatting!

    I'm looking at one of my manuscripts now. I've got a title page with series title over book title over my name, halfway down the page. Then a new page with a quote, halfway down. Then a new page for my prologue, starting from the very top. When that's done, a new page for 'Part One' over the date. Than another new page for chapter one, which isn't your traditional chapter anyway (rather a geographically-themed collection of short chapters or scenes), again starting at the very top. Yep, looking at it and imagining the disapproving shake of your head, Teresa!
  9.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    You can put your series title over your book title on the first page, that's acceptable.

    I'm only shaking my head because of all the time you are going to have to spend reformatting. I also format as I please while the book is being written, but I don't go too crazy because I know everything will have to be changed later.
  10.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    That's okay, I plan to find an agent or publisher who is so wowed by my raw talent that they'll forgive my formatting faux pas' (apologies to the French for stealing that phrase and then not knowing how to make it plural). I think that's a pretty realistic assumption.

    EDIT:

    Possibly not acceptable if you're not sure you have enough material for even one book!
  11.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Presumably by the time you send your manuscript in you will know if you have material enough for more than one book! However, titles change. Book titles change. Series titles change. You can use a working title if you're stumped for something good. They won't turn down your book for a title they don't like, because if they buy the book they'll just make you give it a new name that they do like.

    By the way, I hope this doesn't become the "Teresa Lays Down the Law" thread, and that some of our other professionals will lend their own advice.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
  12.  
    Culhwch

    Culhwch Not actually a dinosaur. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Oh, very much a working title. I'm bad at titles. But I like the series name I coined, so on it went!

    And many thanks as always for the kind words. That last sounded like a command, and who am I to disobey a Goblin Princess...? (Oops, gone with the edit, but the sentiment remains!)

    I fully expect some of other experienced members will be along in short order to expand upon your excellent start, Teresa!
  13.  
    Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Also - do *not* put copyright notices on your manuscript!!

    You will simply insult the intelligence of the agent/publisher, and make you look amateur and needy*.

    * Carol Blake, London literary agent, From Pitch to Publication.
  14.  
    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    I think I'm going to be like you, Culhwch. Keep the formatting that is easy on my eyes (ugh, headers; double-ugh those tiny 5 character indents!!) while I'm working, and have a separately formatted file everything gets moved to when it's submitted.

    Meantime another question for our experts: synopses - double or single spaced? I've read it's single if it comes to a page or less, double if over. Since (presuambly) the rationale of needing to make notes between the lines has gone, this sounds sensible. But is it right?
  15.  
    anthorn

    anthorn Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    So I have my COver letter.

    I go like this.

    Name
    Book name and series name.
    Address
    Mobile num
    Home num
    Email.

    New page
    Dedications.
    New page
    Acknowledgements.
    New page
    Epigraph
    New page
    Prologue
    New page.
    Book one road of bones and epigraph.
    New page
    Chapter one.

    I'm formatting it normally, with the page format you get on the officeword documents, the one with the border around it, which I think is the correct all the way round right?
    My question is. Outside the border on the right hand side is where I should put my name on each page?
  16.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Brian --

    Ah, the great copyright notice debate -- it still rages on, does it?

    Some agents and editors are indeed put off by the copyright notice. Some don't care. But how are you to know which category the agent or editor you mean to approach falls into? Best to leave it off.*

    *I continued to use it for a long time, as did (and perhaps still do) other writers of my acquaintance, being of venerable years and determined to go on doing things the way we were taught to do them back in the Jurassic. For new writers, though, it's best to go with the times.

    The Judge --

    I was always taught that the one-page synopsis is single-spaced. But it's been a while since I had to send one out. Perhaps you should check for more up-to-date information.


    anthorn --

    If you will check your format, as you have just described it, against the format I have outlined above, you will see that it is not the same. I have no idea what the officeword documents say about formatting, or whether their suggestions apply to novel manuscripts sent out to print publishers, or whether they are meant for business documents only. If they differ from what I have described above, then you should not rely on them.

    And to answer your specific question: After the title page, your name on each page goes in the header. (See what I said above.) How you align the header -- left, right, or center -- doesn't really matter.


    As for acknowledgments, dedications, and other such front matter, leave them out of your manuscript when you send it out. To the agent or editor they are just so much clutter that they don't want to read or leaf through. If you sell the book, you can include them when you send back the edited ms.
  17.  
    anthorn

    anthorn Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Whats Inch in cm? i'm in openoffice.org writer. It has a margin all around it, y'know the kind you get on all word documents, like microsoftword? It says they're 2.00 cm all round
  18.  
    The Ace

    The Ace Aye fur Alba

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    One inch is 2.54cm, your 2cm is as close to three quarters of an inch as makes no difference.
  19.  
    anthorn

    anthorn Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Thanks Ace.

    So leave it as it is then?

    At the moment I'm trying to find some examples online so I can copy how they've done it.
  20.  
    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    Re: FORMATTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT -- Read this before starting a new thread on the subje

    Actually, I don't know, since I use Appleworks instead of Word.

    However, if an inch is 2.54 cm, then you want to adjust your margins to something as close to that as possible, and it is better to go a little over than a little under.
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