Formatting Your Manuscript

“How do I format my novel manuscript?” I see this question a lot. It’s simpler than you think. There’s no need for special expensive software. The ‘trick’ is to follow the standard (read: boring). Chances are these are guidelines you’ve used since you learned to use a typewriter or computer keyboard.

Formatting The Body of the Manuscript:

Using word processing software like Microsoft Word or OpenOffice to …

  • Type your manuscript (ms) in Times New Roman, 12 point.
  • Double space your 8 1/2 by 11 inch document
  • Create 1-inch margins all around
  • Align to the left (not justified)
  • Leave only one space after the period, question mark, or exclamation point
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph one half inch (use the tab key to get this spacing correct).
  • Number each page consecutively in the footer*, starting with the story (not the title page)
  • Include your last name and title of work in the footer* like so Name/Title
  • Indicate scene breaks within your chapters by the pound sign (#), centered and separated from the rest of the text by a blank line before and after.
  • End your work with The End typed after the last line of the work
  • Begin chapters on a new page; centering the chapter title (ex: Chapter 1), one third of the way down the page
  • Use italics for italicized words (don’t underline them)

*Note: Some editors might want to see the page number, name, and title in the header instead of the footer. Check with the publishing house or editor regarding their usual practice.

Formatting the title page:

It’s easier for me to demonstrate the correct way to format a title page by giving you a free download.

Note: If you are not sure about the genre your novel falls within, Google fiction genres. Also, a typical novel should be between 75,000 and 100,000 words. Use your word processing software to determine the word count.


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