Manuscript formatting woes

DAgent

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
274
So I decided to go down the rabbit hole of formatting your manuscript, and it was a deep, massive burrow of a rabbit hole at that... Everyone seems to have very different advice in certain areas, the one that stands out the most is the paragraphs as none of the advice I've found seems to agree beyond using Times New Roman font size 12. Everything else varies on having double spacing or single spacing and whether or not the chapter title should be at the top of the page or near the middle.

Now I've came across a new one I've not seen before, with at least one help guide insisting that the first line of every new paragraph should be indented!

Is there any industry standard instructions on this someone can point me to so I don't end up wanting to tear what's left of my hair out?
 

Steve Harrison

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
761
Location
Sydney, Australia
I haven't given this any thought for over 20 years, so I just had a look at my WIP and it's double spaced, Ariel font size 12, chapter titles are in the top left and I don't indent the first paragraph, but I indent every subsequent paragraph.

I have no idea if that is industry standard - or if there is an industry standard - but I have never had a single comment on this aspect of my writing from agents and publishers in all that time, so I don't care.
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
19,368
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
The only thing that matters is the submission guidelines. I usually end up with about four different ms if doing a lot of submitting.

My basic though is 12 point calibri font with double spacing, and single spaced for a synopsis. First line of paragraph = hanging indent.
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
13,516
Location
West Sussex, UK
Now I've came across a new one I've not seen before, with at least one help guide insisting that the first line of every new paragraph should be indented!
Is this a surprise? Almost every single trad published novel does this, and so it would make sense that people who are used to reading books would find it easier on the eye. I always find that having non-indented paragraphs with space between them just looks wrong, especially in sections of dialogue.
 

sknox

Member and remember
Supporter
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
1,984
Location
Idaho
Jo is right. The only thing that matters is your publisher guidelines (=requirements).

Two factors complicate this simple rule. One, different publishers will have different rules, which means you'll have to reformat for each. In general this means having your source document be as unformatted as possible. Then have software that lets you do things like add or remove formatting easily and reliably. That can be a time sink. One advice, always keep the original clean. Format for a submission and save as a different name.

The second factor is self-publishing. Amazon or B&N will save guidelines but will also have options. Choosing among these can be its own jungle, as is actually getting the format to work. The above rule applies here too. Keep a clean original.
 

msstice

200 words a day = 1 novel/year
Joined
Mar 27, 2020
Messages
770
From the comments here it seem's that Shun's format has fallen out of style? In any case, this is one of the reasons I followed the LaTeX model of keeping content and formatting separate and write in plain text (markdown) and use pandoc to convert to other formats. I was lucky that I found a workflow for the Shunn format though, because I don't fancy spending a few days making a template for other formats.
 

Susan Boulton

The storyteller
Joined
Mar 15, 2006
Messages
2,039
Simple: when submitting follow the agents/publishers requirements. Just have a basic draft you can alter when required.
Just a tip, don't over think every little detail that way madness lies.
 

psychotick

Dangerously confused
Joined
Apr 8, 2011
Messages
2,133
Location
Rotorua, New Zealand
Hi,

Also, just to add - be consistent. Readers won't care if you indent or not, but they'll notice it if you do it only some of the time.

Cheers, Greg.
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
13,516
Location
West Sussex, UK
Readers won't care if you indent or not
Some do. Or maybe it's just me. Submission guidelines aside (of course you should follow them to the letter, though I've never come across one that specifies non-indenting) I really don't get why some self-publishers don't format their books using trad publishing standards. To me it just looks amateurish, and like the author doesn't read widely. Paragraph indenting has been applied to >99% of published fiction for decades, maybe centuries. Granted, tradition shouldn't be followed blindly, but I would hazard that most people find equal line spacing with first-line indentation easier on the eye and smoother to read (unless they're used to reading only web text, but are those people in the market to buy books anyway?)
 

Wayne Mack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2020
Messages
1,749
Location
Chantilly, Virginia, US
I have found that the standard of not indenting the first paragraph of a chapter or following a section break but indenting all other paragraphs to be totally weird. I have seen this consistently applied, though, in the books that I read.
 

HareBrain

Smeerp of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
13,516
Location
West Sussex, UK
I have found that the standard of not indenting the first paragraph of a chapter or following a section break but indenting all other paragraphs to be totally weird. I have seen this consistently applied, though, in the books that I read.
I think this might have become standard about 1980; most (not all) of the books I own that were published before that date still indent after line breaks, those after don't. I think not indenting looks neater personally. In my own docs I set up a different non-indent style for "first paragraphs".
 

psychotick

Dangerously confused
Joined
Apr 8, 2011
Messages
2,133
Location
Rotorua, New Zealand
Hi HairBrain,

It sort of depends on what you read. If you read fiction mostly, no space and an indent is the norm. Scientific articles on the other hand have no indent but a line between paragraphs. I suppose it looks more serious!

Cheers, Greg.
 

Similar threads


Top