Tag Archives: MS Word

Formatting a submission-ready manuscript

Félix_Vallotton_Nature_morte_à_l_assiette_bleue_1922 Félix Vallotton [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsMost editors have a great deal of work in their in-boxes, and don’t have time to deal with badly formatted manuscripts and these submissions are not even considered.  All agents, editors and publishing companies have specific, standardized formatting they want you to use, and these guidelines are posted on their websites.

If you intend to go the traditional route and submit your manuscript to a Big Publisher such as TOR Forge, you will want to make sure your work is submission-ready, and that it conforms to the exact standards they have laid out on their website.

But what makes a manuscript submission ready? TOR Forge clearly says: Standard manuscript format means margins of at least 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text; and Times New Roman in 12 pitch. Please use one side of the page only. Do not justify the text. Do not bind the manuscript in any way. Make sure the header of the ms. includes your name and/or the title of the book as well as the page number (on every page).

Publishers who accept electronic submissions will most likely want them formatted similarly. For the most part this formatting is basically the same from company to company, so once you know what the industry standard is, it’s easy to make your manuscript submission-ready, at least in the area of formatting.

First of all, running across the top of the page is something called the ribbon, and this is your toolbox. Everything you need to create a manuscript is right there, waiting for you to learn to use it. On the right hand side, by the question mark is a tiny arrow for expanding or hiding the ribbon – and we are going to expand it so we have access to all the tools we will need.

First, we must select the font. I use Microsoft WORD, and like every other word-processing program, it has many fancy fonts you can choose from and also has many sizes.

You don’t want fancy. Stick with the industry standard fonts: Times New Roman or Courier in 12 pt.  Most say .11 is fine – for me, in a printout .10 is too small for my elderly eyes, I prefer .12. These are called ‘Serif’ fonts, because they have little extensions that make them easier to read when in a wall of words.

If you are using MS WORD, here are a few simple instructions: to change your fonts, open your manuscript document, and Click on the tab marked ‘Home’.  In the upper right-hand corner of the ribbon across the top of the page in the editing group, click:

select> select all. This will highlight the entire manuscript.

With the ms still highlighted, go to the font group, on the left-hand end of the ribbon. The default font, or predesigned value or setting, will probably say ‘Calibri (Body)’ and the size will be .11.

You can change this by clicking on the menu and accessing the menu. Scroll down to Times New Roman, as it is the easiest on the eyes. Click on that and the font for the entire ms will be that font. Any errors can be undone by clicking the back-arrow.  Once you are satisfied with your changes, click save.

fonts post 2 of word series


Now we are going to format our paragraphs and line spacing. Editors and publishers want their copies double-spaced so they can insert comments as needed in the reviewing pane, which will be on the right side of the page when you receive your work back for revisions. Having it double-spaced allows for longer comments, and makes it easier for reading.

Remember, TOR Forge says they want a standard manuscript formatted with margins of 1 inch all the way around; indented paragraphs; double-spaced text. Do not justify the text. In justified text, the spaces between words, and, to a far lesser extent, between glyphs or letters (known as “tracking”), are stretched or sometimes compressed in order to make the text align with both the left and right margins. This gives you straight margins on both sides, but this is not the time or place for this type of alignment.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: Do NOT ever use the tab key or the space bar to indent your paragraphs. You have no idea what a crapped up mess that makes out of a manuscript.  You will have to go in and remove these tabs by hand and it’s a tedious job, but do it now, if you have been using the tab key.

Instead of the tab key, a professional author who is writing in MS WORD uses the simple formatting tool:

On the home tab, look in the group labeled ‘Paragraph’. On the lower right-hand side of that group is a small grey square. Click on it .  A pop-out menu will appear, and this is where you format your paragraphs.

  1. On the indents and spacing tab of the menu: Use standard alignment, align LEFT. The reason we use this format is we are not looking at a finished product here. We are looking at a rough draft that will be sliced, diced and otherwise mutilated many times before we get to the final product.

The picture below has it all clearly marked out:

paragraphs post 2 pof word series

  1. Indentation: leave that alone or reset both numbers to ‘0’ if you have inadvertently altered it.
  2. Where it says ‘Special’: on drop-down menu select ‘first line’. On the ‘By’ menu, select ‘0.5’
  3. ‘Spacing’: set both before and after to ‘0’.
  4. ‘Line Spacing’: set to ‘double’

Now we need to make the “Header.”  This is the heading at the top of each page of a word-processed or faxed document, usually automatically inserted and, in this case, consisting of the title of the book and your name. Publishers and editors want this because when they receive a print copy, each page is clearly marked with your name and/or the title of the book as well as the page number. Remember, they want it UNBOUND. Accidents happen: if the ms accidentally falls off a desk, it can easily be reassembled and the editor will always know that brilliant work was written by you.

We insert this by opening the “insert” tab, and clicking on “page number.”  This opens up a new menu. We add the page numbers using this menu:

This is how it looks:header with page numbers

Now your manuscript is submission ready, and is

  1. Aligned left
  2. 1 in. margins
  3. Double-spaced
  4. Has indented paragraphs
  5. Header contains title and author name
  6. First page contains the author’s mailing address and contact information in upper left hand corner

This may seem like overkill to you, but I assure you, if you are really serious about submitting your work to agents, editors, or publishers, it must be in as professional a format as is possible.

I hope these instruction will help you find the way to format properly in other word-processing programs. MS WORD is most commonly used, and is the one I use, because it is easy and has all the tools I need. Just don’t get too fancy with formatting your novel before you submit it  because no matter how pretty you make that manuscript, if it doesn’t follow the submission guidelines for the place you are submitting it, you have wasted your time.


Filed under blogging, Books, Fantasy, Humor, Literature, Publishing, Self Publishing, WordPress, writer, writing

Version Control, or The Name of the Beast

Anne_Anderson05 - Beauty sat down to dinner with the Beast illustration PDArt - Wikimedia CommonsThis is the 1st post in the series “WORD—A Shifty Beast,” focusing on helping authors of both fiction and non-fiction get the most out of using Microsoft Word, if that is your chosen word-processing program.

I use MS Word as my word-processing program. It is a reasonably priced thing, although if I could afford to buy a different program I would use  Corel WordPerfect. It is much easier to find the hinky formatting errors in your manuscript with WP, but that is a blog post for another day.

Microsoft WORD is a versatile program and has many wonderful tricks for writing letters, making awesome presentations and pretty brochures. It is good in a business setting.

However, for the author, Word is a shifty beast at best. One must learn how to make it work, and there is a learning curve. Just like every other product out there, WORD is the creation of many layers. It has had many incarnations, and some were more successful than others, and there are inherent flaws in the design. All that aside, of all the versions of WORD I have used, I like the 2007 – 2010 version best.

Most authors are using some form of WORD, whether it is the free version, or the inexpensive student version I use.  I’ve had to do a lot of desktop support for various clients via chat and cell-phone lately, so today we begin a series on using MS WORD as your word-processing program.

When we first begin to write seriously we learn how critical it is to have proper naming of our files to ensure version control.  The most recent file will usually be the best edited unless you have accidentally saved an earlier version over it.

Oh, the Agony….  Experience is a hard teacher.

ALWAYS use a separate file-folder for each version, and ALWAYS use consistent file labeling practices to avoid this tragedy!

You would be amazed at how many authors I meet who don’t know how to properly save files, and the reason they don’t know is they have never worked as an office manager using WORD, so they have no concept of how easily something that should have been simple can veer out of control.

I am a structural editor, and as such I deal with a lot of different authors and am responsible for saving their files in a consistent and manageable way. I spent many years as an office manager for a charter-bus company, and here is where my hard-earned knowledge of how to use my word-processing program comes in:

  1. I create a master folder for each individual author in my CJJASP Editing folder. That folder is inside the CJJasperson Writing folder in my dropbox account, which is what I write from at all times.
  2. I never use the documents library on my computer for saving anything important. I use dropbox because my work is always saved into the cloud and I can access it from a computer at the public library if my computer is toast for any reason. My work is also always available on my desktop if the internet is down so I can save it to a thumb drive, and when internet access is reestablished, the files I have changed will be saved automatically. GoogleDocs is also free, and many people use it successfully.

Dropbox is free, gives you as much storage as a thumb drive and is always accessible.

DB screenshot

I have an icon on my desktop that takes me directly to a standard library of files (menu) when I click on it. But I can access this menu on the main website from any computer by going to dropbox dot com and entering my email and password. Yes, it is password protected, and a good 6 to 8 combination of letters and numbers is best.

  1. I use a specific sort of naming system. For any new master-folder, the file-name will ALWAYS be:  Book_ AuthorName_script.doc .   This is the main file folder for this book and this author! every thing pertaining to this book will be in this file in sub-folders.

There will be at least two sub-folders in this file, and there may be up to eight. (One for each step of the editing process.) Version control is critical, so proper naming of the files is absolutely essential.

First: The original raw manuscript in its entirety is saved in this folder. Lets use Joan Hazel’s wonderful book, Burdens of a Saint for example:  I will name it this way:

Burdens of a Saint-JHazel-script  (It will look like Book_ AuthorName_script.doc)

Word will automatically add the .doc as the extension.

There will be 2 folders for every step of the process this manuscript goes through with me: One folder will contain files from the author’s desk to me, and the other will be from my desk to the author.

  1. Inside of the master file is a folder labeled:  1st Round Edits JH (Book initials>version>author initials)

I will copy and save each individual chapter to a new document, and I will give them a specific name. Yes, I am separating each chapter out of the whole ms, but we will not lose their order because we have a reliable system for naming files and will ALWAYS use it!

save as screen shot

First of all, be sure to save it as an actual Word DOCUMENT and not a Template.  If you save it as a template, you will keep getting a warning the document is read only and it won’t let you save it.

I will do each chapter one at a time, saving them and closing them out. Any time I am confused as to what chapter I am supposed to be on, I look at the library of files to see what I have already saved, and go the next chapter.  (Libraries are the menus you get when open “Save As” and are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder, or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.  The picture below is of a Windows Explorer library.)

As I save each chapter, they will automatically sort themselves into the proper order as long as you name them this way:

Book title initials>Chapter # > author initials  –  it will look like this:

BOAS chapt 1 JH submitted.doc 

This  tells me: it is chapter 1 of Burdens of a Saint, by author Joan Hazel, and is the raw unedited version. This is important to save it this way, in case we need to refer back to it. This file will remain unaltered.

Each consecutive raw chapter will be named in this way and the list will look like this:

Folder shot

Inside  BOAS beta 1st Round Edits JH,  I create a second folder, this one labeled: 1st Round Edits CJJASP complete. It will be at the top of the list and will look like this:

These are the first edits of the individual chapters, with my comments and suggestions in the right-hand column, and are what I send to the author for their consideration. These I will name like this:

BOAS beta chapt 1 cjjasp edit 1.doc   Again, each consecutive chapter will be named in this way, and the library will look the same as the one in the image above.

  1. The Author will make the changes or not as they see fit, and will send me each corrected chapter back.  When those chapters come back to me, that is the beginning of round 2.  The files will be named with the number 2.

BOAS 2nd Round Edits JH  (sub-folder name for files submitted by author)

BOAS chapt 1 JH rnd 2.doc   (document name for each document in the folder)

BOAS chapt 2 JH rnd 2.doc   (see the pattern here?)

2nd Round Edits CJJASP complete (folder name for files edited 2nd round)

BOAS chapt 1 cjjasp 2nd rnd edit.doc (and so on)

You, as an author, will create many versions of your manuscript. YOU MUST manage your versions with meticulous care, or you will lose files, have to rewrite sections you just wrote (and which were brilliant) or any number of horrible, irritating situations will arise.

These situations were not caused by your word processing program, so don’t blame Bill Gates.  They were caused by you not knowing how to prevent them from happening.

But that’s not a problem now, right?


Filed under Books, Fantasy, Literature, Uncategorized, writer, writing