This is by no means a statement of how it must be done, but a good jumping off point for you. You may find that you prefer something slightly different, or altogether different even. The main thing I try to remember is to keep within commonly accepted parameters—I don’t want to have to change too much if I end up sharing my work files.

Miscellaneous Helpful Tools

When setting a new doc or template, the first thing I adjust is my font, which means Styles first. Let’s pretend I’ve already set my Styles for the Chapter Heading, Scene Divider, and the Body Text. I also have Styles set in case I want to write a Flashback scene or a Letter. I don’t know yet where the Muse is taking me, so best to be prepared, right? And if I end up needing something else, I can set that as I go. Not everything has to be in the template. Also, if you’ve set a Style for your body text which includes your non-standard font of choice (Merriweather for me) it’s really simple to modify that Style with a few clicks of your mouse for file-sharing. You can be confident that your whole ms conforms with editor/agent/publishing house standards by modifying your Styles.

Now for a few other things that not only make a manuscript look good but are functional as well.

Cover Page: Since we rarely send out physical manuscripts anymore, I don’t have a problem with leaving this out. I usually already have this info by the time I receive a manuscript. Others might feel differently, and you should go with what’s expected by the person you’re sending your manuscript to. A cover page will generally include the Title, Author, Word Count and Genre. I even made one for you to see.

Headers/Footers: This makes it easy to see at a glance which manuscript is open on my screen, and what page I’m on. You can put everything at the top as Name/Title/Page Number. Or the page number can go in the footer. Abbreviate the title if it’s really long so your header doesn’t stretch across the page.

No thank you–too long!
This is about right, and the page number is in the footer (though it doesn’t have to be).

Word has pre-set headers/footers; all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Page Breaks: If we were in Word, you could turn on the Show/Hide feature on your toolbar (that symbol is called a pilcrow. Fun, huh?) and look on the ‘previous page’. You’d see a line just under the final text that says Page Break. (and also a wandering space before my carriage return. oops.)

These are super handy for starting new chapters on a fresh page without hitting enter twenty times. Not only do they keep everything uniform, when it’s time to turn your manuscript into a formatted book or e-book, your life will be so much easier! But that’s a post for another day, and probably another editor. Create a page break by holding down the Control key and then press enter (carriage return, if you’re old-school. I go back and forth between the two).

Detailed Styles with instructions: Totally not imperative/mandatory, but reasonably standard. These are the ones I can think of now. You’ll probably come up with others as you need them.

  • Normal Body Text
    • 12 pt. TNR, Left aligned
    • Indentation Special, first line at .3 in,
    • Line spacing 1.5 or Double, no spacing before or after
  • Chapter Header
    • 14 pt. TNR (or 16 if you want to be really bold)
    • Center aligned, No indentation
    • same spacing as Normal
  • Scene Divider
    • 12 pt. TNR
    • Center aligned, No indentation
    • (use simple *** for manuscript, save special character for book formatting),
  • Flashback/Dream Sequence
    • same as Normal, but italicized
  • Letter/Journal entry
    • 12 pt. TNR, Justified,
    • Indentation both left and right at .3 or same as your normal first-line indent (will look like a centered block)

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