Pam McCutcheon aka Pamela Luzier


Manuscript Format for Fiction Novels:


 Use white 20 lb paper, 8 " x 11"

 If you use fan-fold paper (not recommended), separate the pages and remove the edges

 Use 1" margins top, bottom, left and right

 Use laser, ink jet, or letter-quality dot matrix printer (with dot matrix, make sure ribbon is fresh)

 Double-space your manuscript and synopsis (a synopsis may be single-spaced only if it is less than two pages)

 Type on only one side of the paper

 Use a ragged right margin (don't full justify)

 Turn off the hyphenation function

 Indent each paragraph five spaces

 Use a 12 point nonproportional spaced font (like Courier, not Times Roman)

 Do not use italics or bold font (that's the typesetter's job)--instead, underline for emphasis

 Don't use fancy fonts or graphics--it makes you look like an amateur

 Put a slug line at the top of each page with your last name, the book title, and the page number.   It should look something like this:

McCutcheon/The Writer's Brainstorming Kit                                                                         Page 1

(for a synopsis, you might want to put the word "Synopsis" in the place of "Page" to differentiate page 5 of the manuscript from page 5 of the synopsis in case the editor drops the whole submission)

 Start each chapter (or the synopsis) one-third of the way down the page, center the chapter number (or title in the case of the synopsis), then drop down two double-spaced lines and begin typing the manuscript

 Turn off widows and orphans to give you a more accurate word count

 Indicate scene breaks with a single pound sign (#) centered on the page, no extra lines before or after

 If you follow these directions and have 25 lines/page, estimate 250 words/page (don't use the word count in your word processing program)

 Spell out numbers in your manuscript except for years

 Use a double dash (--) to indicate an em-dash--these are preferred in fiction over colons and semicolons

 For ellipses (...) and double dashes (--), do not put a space before, during, or after

 Use two spaces after each sentence

 Go easy on the use of exclamation marks and underlining--use only when you must emphasize a word

 Separate the synopsis from the manuscript with a blank piece of colored paper

 Include a manuscript cover sheet with your name, book title, address, phone number, and e-mail address (include the same information for your agent, if you have one) plus the word count

 If you have a prologue, start numbering it at page one, and number the rest of your story where the prologue left off--don’t start renumbering with chapter one

 Don't put copyright information on your novel--it makes you look like an amateur

 Do not staple or punch holes in your manuscript--use clips or rubber bands to bind it

 Spell check!

These are the standard practices I've come across in the industry, which may or may not correspond with a particular style manual. Though some of these preferences might vary depending on your editor, you can't go wrong following this format. And, some of these instructions might seem very obvious, but after seeing some clueless contest entries, I've come to the conclusion you can't be too specific.

Some of these things may seem rather nitpicky to you--they are--but it's hard enough to get published these days. By ensuring your presentation is spotless, you won't give the editor any reason to reject your manuscript out of hand...and it will let your writing shine through. THAT'S what's important.

(Copyright 1997 by Pam McCutcheon)

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