In the process of formatting my work for submission, I've come across several resources that claim to be authorities on the subject. Most of the basic advice is consistent but each source seems to have it's own pearls of wisdom, as well. If you are a new writer, preparing your first manuscript, I’ll save you the work and summarize what I found most helpful. If you are an experienced writer, please let me know if anything here doesn’t mesh with your professional opinion!
- Check the specific publisher or agent’s guidelines first
- Print on 8 ½" x 11" white (20 lb) paper in black ink (I pity the fool who tried pink, scented, legal size)
- Left justify
- Use 12 point Arial or Times New Roman font (although I found one source that specified Courier)
- Double space
- Indent first paragraphs
- Number pages consecutively
- Use 1-inch margins all around (although I found a source that said 1.25)
- Print personal info (name, address, city state, zip, etc) in the upper left corner of first page
- Place the title, centered in all caps, halfway down the first page
- Include your by line under the title
- Begin the manuscript on the first page, two returns under the by line.
- Start new chapters halfway down the page
- Include pictures or cover art
- Include a table of contents
- Use three hole punched paper
- Bind the manuscript in any way
- Use colored paper or colored fonts
- Use faded ink (WARNING: I had a draft printed by Kinko’s that had faded ink in the middle. Always check the quality of the print.)
- Send in a manuscript with crinkled or stained pages
- Put an extra space between paragraphs (unless it is a formal break)
- Put a copyright on every page
- Send the MS in an envelope lined with bubble wrap or a box
- Use “The End” at the end
- If you want a word italicized in the final version, you should underline it in your manuscript.
- You can separate breaks within chapters by using extra lines, centering a series of asterisks, or centering a series of pound signs.
- I found two different recommendations about page numbers. The first was a right justified header containing title/last name/page #. Other sources simply recommended a page number in the footer. I decided to go with the first way.
- A couple of resources recommended having exactly 25 lines per page. I did not do this because I think this was old advice that had something to do with word count in pre-computer days. I have a gorgeous Mac who counts my words for me, so I hardly feel this is necessary.