In the last couple days I’ve been converting my latest version of a WIP to manuscript format. A simple task in theory. I mean, I already wrote the book– drafted and added to and cut and changed and edited and critiqued and revised and revised and revised (and did I say revised?) it– how hard could it be to make sure the thing was double-spaced and had one-inch margins?
As I read through assorted manuscript format guidelines, it quickly became clear that spacing and margins are about the only thing most (yes– not even all!) sources agree on.
Then other issues began to surface:
- Scene breaks: hashtags or returned lines?
- How many spaces down the page should chapter headings be (and how many returns after it)?
- Can I call my chapters “ONE,” “TWO,” and “THREE,” or do they have to include the word “CHAPTER”?
- Should I include a dedication in the manuscript when submitting it to agents?
- Do I end the novel with “THE END,” “END,” a hashtag, or nothing?
You get the idea.
And for every picky question of detail, there might be two to a dozen answers: that’s Eenie, Meenie vs. Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo, Bob, Tom, Curl, Larry, George, Sal, Wally, and Cousin Chip.
As a first-time author, formatting your manuscript is not something you want to play guesses at. You want to get things right– and all of the conflicting sources out there can make this endeavor both difficult and stressful.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS. After an absurd amount of time and Googling, I realized a few things:
- Some agents specify manuscript format preferences right on their websites. BOOM. Guesswork gone.
- Agents that don’t specify how many enters before chapter titles or whether the Last Name/Title/Page Number header should be flushed left or right aren’t going to discount your manuscript for discrepancies in such petty details, and
- THEY ARE PETTY DETAILS.
Have you ever been stressed over a ludicrously small detail like this? If so, share below!