Sunday, 8 June 2008

Formatting Manuscripts

Formatting a manuscript for submission is easy. Double line spacing only; margins of at least an inch all round; pages numbered; indent all paragraphs but the first in each chapter or section, and don't leave any extra lines between them, apart from between sections: Left justify only; and preferably add some sort of header so that if several manuscripts get dropped onto the floor at once, it's possible to sort them out without having to have a nervous breakdown.

I prefer seriffed fonts like Times New Roman, as they seem more fixed onto the page than those without, but some people favour Courier. When you're reading several thousand words a day, every day of the week, you need something which is easy to read. Fancier fonts cause eyestrain, and cut down on the speed at which you can work. So, please: only use TNR or Courier, in 12pt. Yes, books are often printed in fonts other than TNR or Courier, but deciding which font to use is something that happens at the design stage, after a book has been commissioned and edited. Agents or editors want good writing, not bells and whistles.

Don't use fancy fonts; don't use multiple fonts; don't plaster your work with copyright symbols or demand that the people you're submitting to sign a contract with their own blood before you'll allow them to read your work. These things are the mark of the New and Inexperienced, and will do nothing but make sure your work is ignored. Just get the writing right, follow the rules, and send it in.

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