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How Do I Format My Manuscript?

There are a lot of different ways to format a manuscript, and a lot of different opinions on how to do so.  I've decided to share the way I do it, and then I'd like to open up the comments for others to share their preferences.  Note:  This is using Microsoft Word.

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General Page Formatting:

  • 1-inch margins all around (under File -> Page Setup).
  • Double space to "exactly" 24-25 pt (under Format -> Paragraph -> Line Spacing).

Title Page and Page 1 Header:

  • Different first page header (under File -> Page Setup -> Layout tab - Click "Different First Page" under "Headers and Footers." Exit).
  • Add left sided header including full name, address, and contact information (under View -> Header and Footer - align left).
  • Add right sided header including word count (under Format -> Tabs -> Tab Stop Position 6" aligned right, tab over to right side of page).
  • Title in capital letters centered roughly halfway down (about 12 Enters).

Page 2 and On Header / Slug:

  • Click on page 2 and create a left-sided header as before.  Include last name / title of work.
  • Tab right as before and add page numbering by clicking the # button.

Chapters:

  • New page for each new chapter by using a page break (Ctrl / Enter OR under Insert -> Break - Page Break).
  • Chapter title centered in capital letters eight Enters down.
  • Text begins two enters after chapter title.
  • First paragraph of each new chapter not indented.

Text:

  • Times New Roman font.  12 pt.
  • 1/2 inch indent (standard tab) for each paragraph.
  • 2 spaces after period.  Note: This is a habit of mine.  I think the standard is 1 now).

Scene Breaks:

  • Enter down twice from text, center ** or ## symbols and Enter twice again.

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I developed this standard based on Cynthea Lui's article "How to Format Your Manuscript" (she explains a lot of this better than me), Nathan Bransford's post "Formatting Your Manuscript," and my own preferences.  How do you format your manuscripts?  Any tips, tricks, or links you'd like to share?

13 comments:

  1. My way is very similar to yours except I use one space after periods. And, in the header I used my first and last name/title instead of just the last name. Not sure why or if this is standard, it's just the way I did it.

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  2. I have separate documents for my chapters. It makes it so much easier to maneuver through the documents without scrolling forever. When I'm done with the manuscript I paste all the chapters into one document, but I keep the individual chapters, too and do my edits there.

    One space after a sentence is standard now, but it's hard for us old dogs to learn new tricks. What I do is type it the way I always have then when I'm all done use the find/replace function to change the two spaces to one.

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  3. Great formatting tips. I never trained myself to do two spaces and every time I try I end up with a mixed bag of spaces and punctuation. One space works and is considered standard, thank goodness.

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  4. I keep my MS 1.5 spaces while I am editing so I can print it out (double sided) and do my edits on paper without killing too many trees. I recently sent out an MS to an agent without changing it back and the agent emailed me to tell me she liked the spacing! Double is still industry standard, but I wonder what will happen as prices for printing and such go up.

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  5. Helpful post -- Thanks! Nice to see how you do it.

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  6. I didn't realize that you didn't have to double space after a period. I have a feeling old habits are going to prevail on that one.

    Thanks for the overview on this, Casey.

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  7. This was such a helpful post. I am trying to train myself on the one space after periods. It is super hard because the standard for my job as an attorney is two spaces between sentences. Would you sometime do a post on how to format a query by e-mail, like do you include the agent's address like a regular letter and where do you put your contact info? Thanks for your great blog.

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  8. I'm curious about the last entry under chapters...Why don't you indent the first paragraph of a new chapter?

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  9. Lisa, I love the tip of finding and replacing one space for two!

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Glad you found this helpful. I plan on doing more how-to posts as I have time.

    Sharon, I'm going to post the answer to your question in a bit.

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  10. Oh and Natalie, I'll do a post on query formatting this week!

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  11. Thank you SOOO much for this. I just got a request for a partial and wanted it to look as professional as possible. Nate Bransford's blog just says make it double space and type, but I needed a bit more professional instruction. You are THE BEST, Casey!

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