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.
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)