Part I: Basic Formatting
As I was writing this section, I realized how long it was getting when I'd hit 6 pages on Word and had only gotten as far as formatting for your paper book. So I decided to divide it into 3 sections to make it an easier read.
I: Basic formatting II: Formatting for your self-published physical copy III: Formatting for your ebook
Now that we’ve covered the absolute joy that is editing, we can move on to formatting. Insert big, dramatic sigh here. Why? Because formatting can be frustrating, and time consuming. However, there are some tricks that will help make this less painful. Unfortunately, those tricks are something you needed to do before you began writing.
Thanks for telling me now, you’re thinking. But I figure you have already completed—or at least mostly completed—you manuscript before you began searching out information about editing, formatting, and publishing. Just to keep everyone happy, though, I’ll go back and add a note to the first of these posts letting future writers know to come here first.
The main thing is to begin by removing most formatting rules before you begin writing. This is because once you’ve finished your manuscript then you go in and remove all formatting it also deletes all of your italics. Then you’ve gotta try to remember where they were, or make a copy of your manuscript before removing formatting, then go back through and add them back in. The other option is to go through and remove each piece of formatting. I personally think both would be just as time consuming as the other.
The reason for using loose formatting when you begin writing is that it’s much easier to go back and add formatting than to try to remove it. I’m going on the assumption that now, or at some point, you will be submitting as an ebook. It requires a very different kind of formatting, so that’s why we begin with the loose formatting.
Let me begin by saying this all refers to Microsoft Word. This is the program I use, am familiar with, and is probably the most used program by writers because it is so accessible. Of course, if you have a Mac, then this section may not help you—other than that most of the rules are probably the same. If you have a PC, and don’t have Word, invest in a copy now! Notepad just isn’t going to do it for you. This is also mainly for those of you who think you may decide to go the self-publishing route. If you plan to try to find an agent, and then a publisher, then formatting may not be quite as important, other than you’ll want it to look as good as possible when someone does read it. If it’s a mess, it may hit the slush pile before the potential agent/publisher gets to the good part of your story.
So, here are the nuts and bolts of how you want to set up word before you begin. We’ll get to re-formatting soon enough. If you’re doing this on a document which you’ve already started, then place your cursor somewhere in your document, and hit CTRL+A. This selects all of your text, and will apply changes to the whole document.
Before you do one single thing on formatting, turn your formatting marks on, otherwise you may as well be formatting with a blindfold on. Sometimes Word is tricky—what you see is not always what you get. No matter what step in the formatting process, you should always have this on. Of course you won’t want it on when you’re writing—that would be annoying. But you MUST have it one for anything formatting. How do you do that? you ask. Easy peasy. Find the little button at the top of your page that looks like a little paragraph mark. On Word 2010 it’s in the third pane over on the home page. On all you can find it under “options”. On all of them it looks like this: ¶. Keep in mind you need to set everything like this, no matter what size of book you’ll do later. We will go over specific formatting later.
1. Paragraph (in 2010 this is under Home)
a. Indents and Spacing: Alignment: Left, Indentation: Left, Special: First Line, by: .25 or .3, Spacing Before and After: 0, Line Spacing: Double
b. Tabs (bottom corner of dialog box): .25 or .3, Alignment: Left, Leader: 0
c. Line and Page Breaks: Everything should be unchecked except: Don’t hyphenate
2. Page Setup (in 2010 this is under page layout)
a. Margins: 1” all sides, Gutter: 0, Gutter position: Left, Multiple Pages: Normal
b. Paper: 8.5” x 11”
c. Layout: Section start: New page, Headers and Footers: everything unchecked, both set at .5”, Vertical alignment: Top
3. Proofing, or Word Options (in 2010 this is under File>Options)
a. Proofing: This is something of a personal thing. Whatever auto corrections you want Word to make as you type can be set here.
b. Save: You can set your Auto-Recovery here. I suggest it be set for no longer than 10 minutes. 10 minutes of work lost is better than 10 hours of work lost.
c. Advanced: Again, most of this is personal preference. The exception is for Cut, Copy, and Paste. On this, I suggest you change Pasting between documents and Pasting from other programs to: Merge Formatting. That way you don’t have to reformat something you’ve copied & pasted from somewhere else to match your formatting.
d. This is also where you can customize your ribbon and toolbar.
4. Specialized formatting: If you have somewhere within your text a letter, or note that you’re showing, you’ll want to italicize it, then highlight the specific paragraph and format it as follows:
a. Paragraph: Indents and spacing: Indentation: Set Left and Right the same, usually 1” works well
If you have a dream sequence, you should italicize it, but keep the paragraph boundaries the same as the rest of your text.
5. Extras: Make sure you’ve added all of your extras (which should probably be done when the manuscript is completed and not before):
a. Facing title page: this is where you can list previous works. If you have no previous works, you can omit this and just begin with the title page
b. Title page: Full title and author’s name. If you are self-publishing, and have created a “publishing company” you can list that at the bottom of the page. The title should be centered horizontally. No punctuation on this page, unless it’s a specific part of the title, or your name (example: M.D.).
c. Copyright page: This is an important page! You don’t have to go out and apply for a specific copyright. Books are considered the intellectual copyrighted property of the author and/or publisher without any official copyright. Make sure you use the © symbol, year, and your name. Example ©2011 Cindy C Bennett. You also put your ISBN on this page. Your ISBN will be different for a paper book and an ebook, so you will want to just put the letters for now, and add the numbers later as your format for each type of book. Any credits for the cover design or cover photos belong here. Most books will also use this page for “Printed in the United States” or wherever you are having it printed.
d. Dedication page: This is where you dedicate your book to the nice person who wrote a blog teaching you how to format! :o) All right, fine, go ahead and dedicate it to someone you love/admire/are grateful to.
e. Contents page: This is completely optional, and will depend on whether you want it in your book, or not
f. Preface or acknowledgements: If you want a preface, it goes here. You would then want to put your (optional) acknowledgments page at the end. If you have no preface, you can choose to put an acknowledgments page here, or at the end. Or nowhere, if you don’t want one.
6. ¶ You’ve turned this little guy on, right? If not, do it now. You page will suddenly be filled with all kinds of strange marks. This is good; it means you’ve done it right. Now, you need to go through your entire manuscript looking for inconsistencies in your formatting if you’ve already finished the manuscript, or are even just a few pages in.
a. The beginning of each paragraph should have this exact same mark ¶ (called a pilcrow, if you care). It should never have an arrow. An arrow is caused when you’ve returned/entered, then manually hit tab rather than having your document formatted to automatically tab for you. If there is an arrow, you haven’t set up your formatting correctly. Set up your Indents and Spacing (below) then back space all those arrows out. A note: if you are using numbering or bullets for something, it will show an arrow between the letter/number/symbol and your text. That’s the way it should be for that.
b. There should be no more than ONE dot between each word. It looks like this: · sort of a period hanging mid-air. If there is anywhere you have two or more, remove those spaces. Former college student who was taught to put two spaces between sentences? Change those habits now! It looks bad in a book to have more than one space between words and/or sentences.
c. The end of each chapter should have no more than 8 hard returns. This will show as 8 of the pilcrow (or paragraph) marks. DO NOT put in page breaks, section breaks, or anything else at this point. If you can’t stand not having the page breaks, that’s fine. Just know you’ll have to go back and undo them all when you are formatting for ebooks, and change them to section breaks when formatting for a paper book.
d. Keep this feature turned on as you are doing specific formatting as well.
So now you have your basic formatting. And that truly is basic formatting. Save** your document then make a copy of it (you’ll have to go to your documents folder for this step). The basic formatting is going to be the preferred formatting of most agents and publishers. However, if you are going to submit, read their specific formatting requirements first then format your copy accordingly. Once this is complete, you’re ready for specific formatting.
**A note on saving: Give your doc a name at the very beginning, when you first start, and train yourself to hit CTRL+S as often as possible, preferably every 10 minutes. Save yourself the heartache of a crash or shutdown that loses your manuscript!
Have a happy week, and a joyous formatting experience!