Manuscript Rules
Preparing Your
"Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea
hits you, and just before you realize what's wrong with it."
A Few Words on Formatting
I've talked to plenty of new writers over the years, and many let formatting and
chapter length and lots of other small details drive them completely nuts!  That's sad,
since the only thing that should be driving them nuts is how good of a story they are
telling.  That means worrying about the tough things, the important things, like
conflict, pace, characterization, plot, dialogue, point of view, grammar, and so on. (See,
there are plenty of important things that can make or break a story, that you really
should worry about.) Formatting is the easy part.

If you are a member of a writing e-mail list, or any writing group, you've probably seen
the battles over fonts, underlining, one space after a period or two, and some others,
at least once, if not thirty times or a hundred times even, depending on when you
began writing. If you've looked in how-to books or on how-to pages on the internet,
you are probably more confused than ever. I think a lot of that is because the old
standard isn't the standard any more for a growing number of publishers. The
standard was the standard for many years, even after the internet grew so large. That
being the case, it makes it hard to know when to use the standards of font size and
formatting, and even how to figure word count. That means it is more important than
ever that you check the guidelines of any publisher, agent or contest you are going to
send work to. If they don't have any suggested format listed, then the old standard
isn't going to hurt you.

You do want an easy to read font, double spaced lines, print on one side only, and
leave nice margins all the way around. My favorite font is Dark Courier set at size 12.  
(You can find a free download link for it below. I hope. It's getting harder and harder
to find downloads for it, so I hope I still have a working link up. If you download it, you
might want to save it to CD or something, so you'll have it if you ever need to install it
again.) The other Courier fonts like New Courier print off looking faded to me, so that's
why I like Dark Courier better. Of course as more and more things switch to email
submissions, who knows if it will even matter in a few years.

Don't worry too much over it all. If you are sending your work to a big print pub, an
agent, or an RWA chapter writing should feel okay to stick with that
old standard--unless they have guidelines up that list something else they want you to
use.  (Or unless there is a common new standard by the time you read this.) It's not
really that big of a deal, and no one who isn't brand new to the writing world will think
you are odd or not a pro for using the normal novel formatting rules if the publisher or
agent or contest doesn't list how they prefer things, or if you can't find a site that
shares that information about them.

If you are sending work off to a publisher, agent, or contest, look at their guidelines.
Almost every one of them will have some kind of guidelines up on their website,
especially if they want something different from the old standard. If they have any
formatting suggestions listed, FOLLOW THEM.  In fact, it's really simple--a complete
no brainer--if any publisher, agent or contest list a preferred font, size, formatting, or
anything else in their guidelines GO WITH THAT. If the publisher you want to send
your work to asks for Bookman size 18 font, 12 lines per page, on purple paper, with
chapters that are no more than six pages long, then that's what you send them.  
(Smile) If they don't ask, then I believe the old standard is a safe way to go for now.

If this is just all too confusing to you, and you really don't want to use the standard
and you are just going to have a heart attack worrying over it all. STOP. When it comes
to formatting, as long as the manuscript is easily readable and near the word length
the publisher is asking for, formatting isn't worth giving up writing your story over.

If you do want to stick with the standard or guidelines request you use it, it's easy,
looks professional, and you'll find all the information you need on it right here on this
page, just below this. Then you can let the important things drive you nuts, like
grammar, pace, plot, and all of that other great stuff. I promise you that the most
important thing you put on those pages you will be sending off
is the writing. The
best formatting in the world isn't going to make an editor buy a bad story, and even
bad formatting, as long as it's readable and reasonable like I said above, isn't going to
keep her from buying a great story either.

Okay, lesson over, pick some kind of formatting and get back to writing! I need a lot
more great books to read. (Smile)
First, Some Books to Help
Standard Format & More
Print work on clean, white, letter-size paper, 20 lb. weight.  Print on one side only.  Standard novel
formatting is using a font like Courier size 12, Courier New 12, or my favorite, Dark Courier 12.  All
print should be clear.  Using colored paper doesn't catch an editor's eye, it only shows how new
you are.  The same holds true for strange fonts or work printed too small or too large. The printed
manuscript page should look like a printed manuscript page, not the printed page of a book.
Editors need large, clear, easy to read print with plenty of white space between lines and in the
margins to write in notes and edits.

Click here or here to get a free Dark Courier download. To find out how to install a new font --
Click Start, Windows Explorer, Help, Fonts, and then Adding to Your Computer.  There should be
step by step instructions there. (I hope one of the font links work. It's getting harder and harder to
find free downloads of Dark Courier. The last time I downloaded it, I put it on a CD, so if my
computer crashes or I get a new computer, I know I have a copy of Dark Courier to install.)

A few fonts just for fun.  --
Thundrune's Free Fonts --  Gnome FONT Database

Leave at least a one inch margin on all sides.  You might find one inch is fine, or you might need
to set your side margins a little larger.  You want your lines on the page to come out to about 10
words each...and for once I am talking about using the word count you get from which ever
program you are writing in.

header should be on each page, giving your manuscript's title, name, and page number.

A COWBOY'S WILL                                      DILLON 1

A COWBOY'S WILL/Dillon                                      1

Title Page.  This is your info dump page.  A lot goes here.  I've seen this done two ways, and have
been told both are fine.  
1) At the top left of the page list your full real name, your address, phone
number, and e-mail address.  On the top of the other side of the page, list word count. About
halfway down the page, center the MS title in caps, the word "by" goes below that, and then your
name.  If you wish, you may add your pen name below your read name.  
 2) Go half way down the
page, center your MS title in caps, the word "by" goes below that, and then your name, just like
above, but instead of your name, address, phone number, word count, and the rest, going at the
top of the page, with this type it goes at the bottom of the page, in the right corner.

On the first page type
Chapter One about half way down the page.  Center it.  Skip a line, and
start your story.  Each new chapter should start on a new page, and be set up the same way.

Chapter length.  Most chapters kind of find their own place to break, where something major is
about to happen or where there is some kind of question left hanging.  A place where the reader
won't be able to put the book down for at least a few more pages.  A good length to aim for though
is somewhere between 15 and 25 manuscript pages.  The 15 being for shorter novels, say 70,000
words, and the 25 better for novels around 100,000 words.  In the end, you'll feel what is right for
your story and for each chapter, and that's what you should go by. There is no set rule for chapter
length. You might very well have a seven page chapter someone in your novel and a twenty-six
page one some where else in there.

Word count. Each full page should hold 25 double-spaced lines -- all but the first and last page
of each chapter.  An editor will count each page, full or not, as 250 words.  {Of course this is for
standard MS formatting -- a courier 12, 25 lines per page, 10 words on each line = 250.}  So a 400
page manuscript is a 100,000 words.  To get those 25 lines, if you are using Word, instead of
clicking on double space, click on exactly, and then 25. (Find step by step info on setting up Word
at the bottom of this page.)
Word Count by Page
PLEASE NOTE:  This word count only works if you use the standard MS
formatting of a courier 12, 25 lines per page, about 10 words per line. If you
are using some other format, or font, then you'll need to figure your word
count with another formula or use the work count from your computer, which is
the count many, if not most, publishers request now days.
340 pages = 85,000 words
360 pages = 90,000 words
380 pages = 95,000 words
400 pages = 100,000 words
420 pages = 105,000 words
440 pages = 110,000 words
460 pages = 115,000 words
480 pages = 120,000 words
500 pages = 125,000 words
160 pages = 40,000 words
180 pages = 45,000 words
200 pages = 50,000 words
220 pages = 55,000 words
240 pages = 60,000 words
260 pages = 65,000 words
280 pages = 70,000 words
300 pages = 75,000 words
320 pages = 80,000 words
Please note: We live in a changing world, and the publishing world has changed a whole
heck of a lot in the last few years. Plus, there are all kinds of publishers out there today.
Even some print publishers take email submissions now, and so might ask for a different
kind of format.  So, as you read over my below hints for formatting, remember that you
might find a publisher or even an agent, that wants things totally different. If you've
checked them out and found them to be good, then how ever they want you to format
things, or sub things,
that's the right way.

For many print publishers you don't
italicize words.  If you have text that should be
italicized, they have you underline it. Like everything else, check the publisher's guidelines
and italicize or underline depending on which they prefer. Most print published writers I
asked a couple of years ago, still used underlining instead of italics. If you are going to
enter your MS into an RWA writing contests, most judges will expect underlining. (But like I
said above, if the contest, agent or publisher you are targeting ask for it to be done some
other way, do what they ask -- and e-pubs and small presses almost always ask for some
other way.) In the end, the publisher or agent or contest rules, is always right, so if they
offer a format they prefer, that's the right format. (And italicize might be right even for big
pubs by the time you read this, so check and double check.)

How many
spaces after the end of a sentence? I get asked about this a lot too. I know
authors who use one space after the end of a sentence, and I know authors who use two.
I thought most e-pubs used one space, but a writer wrote me and asked if I knew an easy
way to switch the one space to two because she had one and had just sold the MS to an
e-pub who wanted it changed to two.  It used to always be two spaces, so many of us, us
older ones hehehe, are used to automatically skipping two spaces at the end of each
sentence and then starting the next. I think there's one good thing about using two spaces.
If the publisher you summit to asks that you use only one, it's easy to do a find in Word for
two spaces and then a Replace All to one. Much harder to do a search and change one
space to two, since that would be every space, without the risk of messing up a lot of
things.  (By the way, this means the space between one sentence and the next. Not the
line spacing between lines. So far I think that is still mostly doubled spaced for everyone,
but always check.)

Skip a line for a
scene break.  If it falls as the first or last line on a page, I show it with
three pound marks.  In fact, I place those marks between every scene break.  That way if
things move around, say I reformat or do a rewrite, I don't lose those breaks.  Example...
                           #                        #                          #  

You should NOT
submit a query letter, or even chapters, until the manuscript is
completed and ready to go; unless you already have a couple of books published like it.
There are just so many people who start novels and then never finish them, that
publishers and agents like to deal with completed works until you have proven yourself,
sometimes not even then.

How to submit.  After that finished manuscript is polished and ready to go, it's time to
send out a
query letter to an agent, publisher, or both.  Some publishers and agents
will take chapters, but most want only a query letter and a short
synopsis.  {You can click
on the highlighted words here to get to my pages on them where you will find samples and

A query letter often gets you a quicker answer, even when a publisher or agent will take
chapters.  If the query and synopsis are good enough and the editor thinks your story
could fit her needs or the agent thinks she could find a home for the story, you also might
get to skip being asked for the first three chapters and get a request for a complete
instead.  With waiting times often being months, sometimes nearly a year, and sometimes
even much longer, who wants to wait that long to hear on three chapters, and then wait
again just as long, or longer, to hear about a complete.  

If you send in a query and short synopsis, (and I do mean SHORT) they can be folded and
placed in a normal size business envelope -- don't forget the SASE.  If you send in
chapters or a complete, of course you are going to need a large envelope for this.  The
large brown kind works well for chapters, or even a short manuscript, but for a long one
I've found the larger Priority envelopes you can get for free from the United States Post
Office are great.  

Do not staple pages.  Bind them by placing a large rubber band around them.  If the
manuscript is long, you can place one rubber band length ways, the other width ways.  
Don't forget an SASE that is large enough to have the work returned to you.  (Or a small
SASE for a reply, with a note saying they can recycle the MS.) When you send that
manuscript, don't send it in a way that will cause the editor or agent to have to sign for it.
Either send it with a simple delivery confirmation slip, or enclose a SASP (Self addressed
stamped postcard) that the editor can place in her out box to be returned to you.  Note that
your SASP might not come right back though, since the package might not get opened for
a long while.  Depends on the house. Check out this page for more info on
mailing a
Some Links that Might be Helpful
Some Things You Should Know
SASE -- Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.  One should go off with every submission.  
Make sure if you are sending chapters, that there is enough postage to get it back to you.

SASP -- Self Addressed Stamped Postcard.  You can enclose one with your MS.  On the
back write something like,
Your MS reached us on _______  
Signed _______
That way you not only know your MS made it to the publisher or agent safe and sound, but
the date it was opened and who has it.

Guidelines -- Most houses offer guidelines that only cost you the price of a letter and a
SASE to get them sent to you.  Many houses, if not most now days, even post this info on
their websites. If you can't find them on the internet, write and ask.  Guidelines are important.  
They list wants and want not's, names of editors, and lots of other stuff that will help you
know which house is right for your story, how to format it, what to send, ect....  If your MS is
100,000 words, why waste time and money sending it to a house that only wants MSS that
are less than 80,000 words?  The same goes with love scenes.  Some lines want too hot to
touch, and others want sweet as candy.

Multiple or simultaneous submissions -- This means offering the same story to more than
one house at the same time.  Most publishers don't accept these.

MS or MSS -- Manuscript or manuscripts.

Partial -- Usually a query letter, short synopsis, and the first three chapters.

Query letter -- See info and samples.

Synopsis -- See info and samples.

A complete -- Means the whole MS.

Turn around time -- This is the amount of time that you should wait to hear back from the
editor on your submission.  It is different at each house.  One rule most cases, if
they list two months, that could mean six or more.  Sometimes they live up to the time frame,
but not often.  I've also noticed that form rejections come faster than personal ones.  That
might just be my luck.  I've waited a year for a rejection on a complete, and I'm not alone.  I've
also gotten one back in as little as seven weeks.  Just don't hold your breath.  This is what
makes that deal about not accepting multiple submissions really suck.

Follow up -- If the house's guidelines say three months, and four or five have gone by, it's
okay to send a letter asking about your MS.  Include the date it was sent, and the title.  If it
was requested work, mention that as well.  Don't forget the SASE.  I've even sent an SASP
instead, with something on it like,               
Your manuscript is still under consideration __
Your manuscript has been rejected __
We enjoyed your manuscript and you'll be hearing from us soon __
All the editor or agent has to do is check one, and toss it in the out box.
Meet Word
Word is standard. (And so far that much shows no sign of changing.) It's the program that most
writers use and that most editors ask them to use or send work in or from.
Office Home and
Student cost only a little more and comes with Word, but also other useful programs like One
Note. I really like One Note. It's a great help and lets you keep notes, pictures, all kinds of stuff in
one easy place under different tabs. Makes keeping up with characters, plot points and time
lines a breeze.
Office Home and Business offers even more, but the price is more too. It has
Word and even more stuff, including One Note and Publisher. The top of the price list is
Professional. Depending on what you do with your writing, and if you use your computer for
other business stuff too, you might want to put out the extra money. The only thing you really
need is Word. If you have a few extra bucks, I'd go with Office Home and Student so you can get
One Note. Anything over that, and it's just a matter of choice and what all you need and do on
your computer. Just click on the picture or highlighted words above to find out information on
how to buy it if your computer didn't come with it. You can find other helpful programs and tools
on my
Writer's Store page.
Setting up Word - Step by Step
I have two different computers and each has a different brand of printer, but I use the same
formatting on both.  On some computers, or with a different Word program, you might
have to play with these numbers a little.  I say use what ever works to get what you need.  
Once you find those numbers, save them, so you can set your next manuscript up the same
way each time. This should work with Word programs before Word 97.  Some of it should work
with Word 97 too, but things may be located in different spots.

If you have some pages already in Word, just do this.... Click on
Edit, Select All, Format,
Paragraph.  In Paragraph click on Indents and Spacing.  If you are starting out fresh, with a
blank page, you can skip the click on
Edit and the Select All steps, and just start out by
clicking on
Format, and follow on from there.

After you click on
Paragraph, a box will open.  That's were you add the below info.


0"  or 0.1"  or 0.2"  (Depending on the margin you want, which should be around 1 inch..)

0 pt
After: 0 pt

Outline Level: Body Text

Special: First Line

By: 0.5"

Line Spacing:  Exactly

At: 25 pt

Now click on Line and Page Breaks.  Make sure the box next to each thing is left unchecked,
Widow/Orphan Control.  Click OK.

To make a header for your MS, click on
View, then on Header and Footer

Type in your title, last name -- like -- MISTER MAGIC/Dillon

Next, use the space bar to move to the right, near the end of the header space...but not all the
way.  Now click on the first square you see in the box below.  This will be the
Insert Page
button.  You can right click to get rid of that green line if it pops up between your
name and page number. The sixth button in that box looks like an open book, it's your
.  Click on it, then on Margins, and make sure your Top margin is set to 1", then click
OK.  I've found if it is bigger than one inch, you can get less than 25 lines on each page.  Click
Close and you're done.  I hope this set up works for you.

This link takes you to a site that has lots of info and tricks on using Word. I have some more
links and info you might helpful on my
Articles page.
Copyright © by Charlotte Dillon.
  All rights reserved.