Formatting a Fiction Manuscript? Check These 7 Things


I’m working on the finishing touches of my novella before I send it off to an editor. Fixing copyediting issues, checking the tags, changing the tags—reviewing, tweaking, picking, agonizing, self-doubting, teeth-grinding, and rinse-and-repeating…

Between all of that, I realized that I hadn’t spent a whole lot of time on the big picture. I don’t mean the big picture of the story, I mean the big picture of how this manuscript should be presented, the aesthetics, how it looks to the eye.

Sure, I knew chapter headers should be center-aligned “Chapter One,” for example. But what else?

Come to find out, there’s plenty else, enough to make a manuscript looking amateurish if they are not done. And if that’s the case, could it be enough to keep a book from leaving an agent’s slush pile?

Possibly. So why take the chance?

I did some internet digging and found this great article on how to clean up and properly format a fiction manuscript.

Want to skip the following details? (Because sometimes, ain’t nobody got time for that.) Scroll down to see an example.

Title Page

  • The title page announces the name of your book, your word count, who wrote it (you!), and your contact information.
    • Less than halfway down the page, center-align and ALL-CAPS YOUR BOOK TITLE, double-space, then…
    • Center-align and type by, double-space, then…
    • Center-align and type your name or pseudonym, double-space, then…
    • Center-align and type Approx. ##,### words (insert your word count where I have the # marks), then…
    • Toward bottom of the page, give yourself enough room for the contact info. Flush-right-align and type your real name (not pseudonym), single-space, then flush-right-align and type your address; next line, type your email; next line, type your phone number; next line, type your website URL, then…
    • Center-align your copyright Name © Year info on the last line.

Chapter One, Page One

  • This is your first real page of text after your title page.
    • Insert a page break after the title page, then…
    • Double-space x 4 from the top, then…
    • Center-align and type in all-caps: CHAPTER ONE (or CHAPTER 1 or CHAPTER I if you’re doing the fancy roman numeral thing), then…
    • Double-space and start your first paragraph—no indent for the first line of the first paragraph.

Page Numbers

  • Create a header, then in the top right-hand corner of the page…
  • Add your Last Name/Psedonym’s Last Name, then a dash or | sign, then your Book Title, then the page number

Body of Text

  • Single-space (not double-space) after a period at the end of every sentence.
  • Everything, including the first page, should be Times New Roman, 12 pt. font size.
  • Line spacing should be double-spaced between lines and between paragraphs.
  • Indent paragraphs, except the first line of each new chapter, which stays flush-left-align.
  • No underlining or bolding.
  • One-inch margins all the way around.

Section Breaks

  • Double space x 2 above a section break, add a # sign or ** , then…
  • Double-space x 2 again and start the new paragraph without an indent, just like you would treat a chapter break.
  • There is no page break between sections, as there is with chapters.

Chapter Breaks

  • For every new chapter, follow the same format as the Chapter One, Page One section above.
  • Remember to insert a page break to keep the formatting from getting all wacky.

The End

  • Full disclosure: I didn’t realize that I needed to type THE END at the end. Doh! To the author, it’s obvious. But an agent or editor doesn’t know for sure. THE END ensures that he or she isn’t missing any pages. Yep, makes sense.
  • At the end of your manuscript, double-space after your last paragraph, center and all-caps the words: THE END

When that’s all done to the manuscript, it’ll look shiny and pretty.

And here’s the pièce de résistance, um, the example.

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 5.40.48 PM

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 5.55.03 PM

Do you have anything to add? Please share in the comment section.

Looking for other novel-writing tips? Check these out.



Published by Rene Penn

Author. Blogger.

2 thoughts on “Formatting a Fiction Manuscript? Check These 7 Things

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