Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Manuscript Formatting

Hey everyone, it's grammar day here on Seriously Write. Annette here. I work as an acquisitions editor, so today, I thought we could focus on a topic which comes up now and then with submissions: manuscript formatting.

I remember years ago when I had no idea what to do with manuscript formatting. I wanted someone to show me examples. I knew formatting was key to being taken seriously and I was ready to pitch, but I didn't know exactly what editors (and agents) were looking for.

First, let me begin by saying EVERY HOUSE/AGENCY IS DIFFERENT. If you're interested in pitching to a specific house/agency, please check their guidelines and follow them completely. Here on Seriously Write this week, my purpose is to give you general formatting guidelines so your work appears as professional as possible (in case you can't access the house's guidelines, or they don’t address every question you may have).

Let’s begin:

Margins: You should use 1” margins on all sides.

Spacing: double-spaced throughout the manuscript itself (other materials, single-spaced—i.e. in a proposal, the summary would be single-spaced, etc.).

Font: Use Times New Roman or Courier New in 12-pt font.

First page: centered halfway down the page: manuscript title, author name beneath (after double space). Then, lower, right-hand corner: Author Name and contact info (so the editor/agent can request the full manuscript!) *smile*

Following pages: Beginning of Chapter One centered halfway down the page. First paragraph not indented. (Note: The first line in printed books is normally not indented. See below for more info on indenting.)

Each new chapter: begin halfway down the page with the chapter title: Chapter Two, etc.

Widows and Orphans: To help with spacing, select all, then click into formatting and line spacing and uncheck the box marked “widows/orphans.”

Indentations: No tabs! Instead, select the entire manuscript and go to formatting. Change “paragraph” formatting to “first line.” This will automatically indent new paragraphs for you as you hit “return/enter.” No need for tabs in fiction writing. Of course, doing this will indent every paragraph, including chapter titles, scene change symbols, and first lines. If no direction is given on this in the house’s guidelines, don’t fret. Just select all and “first line” indent all. The editor will take care of the rest later. Automatically indenting paragraphs is preferable to tabbing. We hate tabs. *grin*

Immediately at the end of your chapters, hit control/enter for a hard page break. Don’t space down to get to the next page, (which would mess up the spacing later when changes are made to the ms).

Finally, there is no need for bolding or underlining in a fiction manuscript. Use italics to set off specific words. 

These are just some basics, but they make a big difference in being taken seriously and helping the editor or agent evaluate your work.

Happy writing and submitting!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the information. It is helpful.



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