Thursday, May 31, 2018

Manuscript Formatting (Part 1 of 3 Parts) blog post #287

Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
There were a lot of views of Don Morgan’s guest post, MOUNDS, but few comments. Let him know what you think of his writing.

Because I firmly believe that a writer dwells deep inside every reader, I want to try something different for this Blog. Writing consists of both presentation and content. A part of the presentation element is how to set up your novel, memoir, short story, a piece of flash fiction… almost any form of writing you can mention. In other words, manuscript formatting.

Regular readers know that I co-host the Wordwrights Writing class each Monday (other than holidays) at the North Domingo Baca Multicultural Center here in Albuquerque. In response to queries, I recently submitted a paper on formatting. I occurred to me that my blog readers might benefit from this presentation. (In view of the mantra I cite at the end of every post, perhaps that’s a hope rather than a thought.) I hope this does not chase too many of you away.


In response to requests for instructions on how to format manuscripts for submission to editors and/or publishers, I prepared this for my Wordwrights Writing Class.


This is a format that has worked for me. I do not claim this is the ONLY format or the CORRECT format, but the publishers, agents, and editors I’ve worked with found it acceptable.

The instructions for accomplishing some of the tasks named herein are performed specifically on Windows 10, Microsoft Word 2013. Mac users may find it useful but may not be able to exactly follow the instructions.

When you are ready to submit a manuscript, you will go to some source such as WRITER’S MARKET 2018 to select an agent or publisher. They ofttimes give specific requirements for formatting. For example, my present publisher requires manuscripts be spaced at 1.5 lines; many publishers require double-spaced documents.


Under Home, Styles, select a style. Agents and editors do not want extra spaces between paragraphs, so I click on the No Space style and use it throughout the manuscript. Others more adept than I switch back and forth between styles for headings and the like. I do not.


Margins for manuscripts (mss) should be set at one inch all around. (Layout/Page Setup/Margins- down arrow/click on Normal)

For long manuscripts, editors prefer that they have uniform bottom margins, something that is affected by the Widow/Orphan control, a default setting. This control varies your bottom margin by preventing a single line of a paragraph from appearing on a different page. To correct, go to Layout/Paragraph/Line & Page Breaks/and remove the arrow from Widow/Orphan control/hit Okay.

NEVER, never, never (did I emphasize that enough?) fully justify the body of your manuscript. It screws up the agent’s and editor’s estimate of word count. Yes, I know your computer provides an exact count, but that’s not good enough for some people. Under Home, Paragraph, go to the justify icons and click left justify (the one to the left showing a ragged right edge.)


The title page contains personal contact information, word count, genre, the name of the book or story and name of the author (which will not be the same as your personal contact name if you write under a pseudonym).

I prefer to insert a table at the top of the title page to contain personal and book information. After it is complete, I get rid of the lines of the table. Click on the spot on the title page where you want the table, then insert the table at that spot by going to Insert/Table/down arrow. A table appears (this is tricky)/place curser in the upper left square, hold down and move it one square to the right (you now have two squares highlighted) and move the cursor down a minimum of 5 squares (more if you include a website, Facebook or Twitter contacts). When you have the proper number of squares highlighted, release the cursor. IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE IN GETTING PROPER NUMBER OF BOXES FOR THE TABLE, HIT CTL+Z IMMEDIATELY. A table now appears on your Title Page, as follows:

NOTE: Right justify the second column by highlighting the second column (only)/ Home/ Paragraph /and clicking the third justify icon (with a ragged left margin and a uniform right one). Type in your required information, Once you get rid of the lines of the table (Home/Paragraph/ arrow to the right of small square like a window frame/click on No Borders), it looks as follows:

John Q. Graham
Word Count: 90,500
1111 11th Street NW
Genre: Historical fiction
Albuquerque, New Mexico 8700

Tel: (505) 000-0000


Space down so that your title and author credit are about halfway down the page, center using Home/Paragraph/2nd Justify icon showing lines centered (or use Ctl+E)


By Hope Less

NOTE: The name of the author in our example is different from the personal data at the top of the title page cluing the agent/editor/publisher they are to communicate with the name at the top, but the book is to be published under the pseudonym of Hope Less.

More next week.

I hope this was helpful to a number of you and didn’t drive the rest of you nuts. As you can tell, I’m passionate about writing and believe there’s a writer in each one of us. Bear with me.

Now the mantra I mentioned above: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. And keep on submitting your work to publishers and agents. You have something to say… so say it.

If you would like to drop me a line, my personal links follow:

Facebook: Don Travis
Twitter: @dontravis3

Here are some buy links to City of Rocks, my most recent book.

The next book in the BJ Vinson Mystery Series, The Lovely Pines is scheduled for release on August 28 of this year. Abaddon’s Locusts follows on January 22, 2019.

See you next week.


New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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