Now that the rough draft of my novel is complete, I decided to get it ready, technically, so that when I finish my revisions it will be polished and professional looking. I’ve read the general guidelines for the proper format of a novel several times before, but somehow I didn’t let it sink in. As a result, my first draft is a mess.
My entire manuscript is currently in block paragraphs, single spaced, with no headers. (Do not do that!) I had no idea how to keep the chapters starting on a new page, so I just let them go where they wanted. This came about because when I put each chapter in a separate file, and then made revisions which changed the chapter numbers, and then put the revised chapters into separate files, I ended up confused.
While I may sound lazy, it’s actually a matter of preference—I preferred to do it my way and figure out the right way later. Silly me. Good thing I’m revising the whole thing anyway. But today I’m attempting to fix things. (It’s much easier to do it the right way in the first draft than to change it later.)
The following sites explain the nitty-gritty details of formatting a novel. They do it so well that I’m not even going to attempt to summarize. If you’re interested in this, check these out.
Edit 2/29/12: If I had realized when I wrote this post that it would consistently be the most visited post on my blog, I would have spent more time explaining what to do instead of talking about how I messed up my first draft! If you don’t see what you need to know about formatting in the links I’ve listed, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question.
Basic Manuscript Formatting, by Kaye Dacus:
Formatting a Novel in Word 2007, by Catherine Chant:
Format Tips for Queries, the Synopsis, and Manuscript, by Agent Query staff
Preparing Your Manuscript, by Charlotte Dillon
Sample Manuscript (includes title page and prologue), by William Shunn
EDIT 9-23-09: Today I found another excellent site that explains formatting for novels and short works very clearly. Holly Lisle’s advice includes how to handle a title page, and when it is needed. Take a look:
EDIT 10-6-09: I found another good site. Besides covering the format for paper submissions for novels, short stories, articles, and contest submissions, Moira Allen also goes over how to format a manuscript for submission via email.
How do you keep track of your story? Do you have everything in one large file, or do you have a different, easier method? If it’s all in one file, how do you find what you are looking for? Do you keep all your revisions until the book is done, or delete the earlier ones once you’ve made several major revisions? Would you like to fix my novel?