Thursday, July 26, 2007

Writer Tip #26 -- Formatting

When you're getting ready to submit your manuscript, you want to make sure it's in the proper format. I actually prefer to start it from the very beginning in the proper format -- it makes me happy to open the document and see everything how it should be, plus it helps me to visualize the final product. It's like fixing my hair without my makeup on. It doesn't matter how cute my hair actually is that day -if I'm not wearing my makeup yet, I can't see past the face to the hair. I always do my face and then I can see the hair more clearly. Which is obviously more than you wanted to know, but it helps illustrate my point, which is, if you've lost the thread because of my rambling -- the proper format makes your manuscript look clean and professional.

To properly format your manuscript, begin with your first page. Marching down the left side, put:

Your Name
Your Address
Your Telephone Number
Your E-mail

Straight across from that, on the right side, put:

Your name, with copyright mark, and the year
Word count
All Rights Reserved

Note: Since posting this blog, I have received additional input from LDS Publisher, who had this to say -- thanks for helping me keep up-to-date, LDSP!

Then, centered 1/3 of the way down the page, put:

Your Book Title
Your Name
Chapter One

Notice how we schooched down 1/3 of a page before putting in the title, etc. Now you start typing out the book, so essentially, your first page is a little less than 1/3 of a page. It's really helpful if you can put a hook right at the start so it falls on this first page.

When you reach the second page, that's where your page numbering starts. Don't put a page number on the very first page.

Go to your second page, and go into headers. On the left side, say:

Your last name/Title of book

Then set your numbering to fall in the right corner.

Once you've programmed your name and title into the header, and told the computer to insert page numbers, it will automatically do it for the rest of the manuscript.

That's how to set up your basic page, but here are some other things you need to know.

1. Always use double-spacing. If you're not sure what you're using, look at page set-up and check it. I thought I was using double-spacing once and Josi pointed out that I didn't. Oops, it was 1 1/2 -- thanks for that catch, Josi!

2. Always indent your paragraphs to the first tab. I've seen a lot of new authors just write, without paying any attention to paragraphs, and may I just say, it's so hard to read.

3. Just hit return/enter once between paragraphs, and now they're saying to just space once after the period. I was taught two spaces, but that was (literally) twenty years ago. I still automatically do two (old habits die hard) but then I can go in and do a find/replace and take out the second space.

4. Some publishers like you to start your new chapter on a new page, and some don't care. If you do it wrong, they won't reject you for it, but if you can find out, say from an author who already publishes with them, you can present it the way they prefer, which is always impressive.

Taking the time to make sure your manuscript looks as sharp as it can is well-worth it. When you present yourself professionally, it shows that you are serious about your craft and that you're willing to do what it takes to succeed. You wouldn't go to a high-powered business meeting in your pajamas, trusting that your message is strong enough to knock their socks off, would you? Dress your manuscript professionally as well. It deserves it.


John Ferguson said...

I let Word handle the formatting for me. I do this by opening the Styles and Formatting sidebar. I then select the "Normal" style and change it to be double-spaced and with an indent. I also create a new style called Chapter Title which is bold, a bigger font, and includes a page break.

Each time I need a new chapter I click the Chapter Title style and type the title. Then hit enter and select Normal and continue my writing.

I also setup a style for my name and stuff on the first page. I use headers and footers for the page number, title, and my name on each page.

As I type my manuscript I never ever hit tab, and I never put more than one return between paragraphs unless I'm changing POV. (I have taken to creating a Change POV style now, so I can easily change between 3 blank lines and using three asterisks depending on style.)

Then when I find someone that doesn't want page breaks before chapters I go into the styles and modify the Chapter Title style to not include a page break and I'm done. Or worse yet, if I have a first reader who wants the manuscript in 1.5 spacing (because they want to reduce the printing costs) I can easily change the "Normal" style to 1.5 spacing and it's done.

I also heavily use the Outline view which allows me to easily collapse my manuscript down to just the chapter headings to quickly navigate around.


Stephanie Humphreys said...

I was always taught not to use copyright symbols on a manuscript. Are the rules changing again?

Tristi Pinkston said...

Wow, John -- I didn't know it would do all that. It looks like I need to go in and experiment -- I've been doing it the hard way!

Stephanie, I've always learned to put the symbol on there, but I admit to being clueless. I just popped an e-mail over to LDS Publisher -- she'll help us set it right. :)

Stephanie Black said...

No copyright symbol. It's unnecessary (you already own the rights to the work--you wrote it!).

Tristi Pinkston said...

I can most humbly admit my wrongness. :)

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