Thursdays Tips: Formatting

It was such a pleasure to meet some of you at the recent American Christian Fiction Writers’ conference. Whether we met at the conference or not, perhaps you’re gearing up to submit a query through our on-line system (the only way to do so). Here’s the main link for submissions to Pelican Book Group: Once there, choose the imprint you’d like to submit to:

White Rose Publishing: Christian romance 

Harbourlight Books: Christian non-romance

Watershed Books: Christian young adult (YA) fiction 

When I was first writing full-length manuscripts and getting ready to submit them to houses, I wondered how to format them. Back then, there were few resources for finding out. But here are some tips for you, in case your editor asks to see your manuscript:

~ MARGINS: One-inch margins all around. Also, turn off “widow/orphan control” in Word so we truly get that one-inch bottom margin. 

~ NO TABS: Please do not use tabs (or repeated spaces) anywhere in your manuscript. Instead, for first line indent, highlight the entire manuscript and find the direction for Indentation: Special: First Line. Now, go back through, highlight scene separators (# or ****) and chapter headings and just pull the top margin marker back to be flush left so the element is truly centered. 

~ NO END-OF-LINE HYPHENS: Please allow your word processor to determine line length. Do not right justify and do not hit “enter” or “return” until you’ve reached the end of the paragraph you’re typing (or for chapter headings and scene breaks). Please do not go through and insert end-of-line hyphens on words. With different formatting, they could end up be-ing off.

~ PARAGRAPH SPACING: Normal paragraph spacing involves a block of text and an “enter” or “return” command followed by another block of text. There should not be an extra space (empty line) between paragraphs. 

~ END-OF-CHAPTER HARD PAGE BREAK: Immediately at the end of every chapter, insert a hard page break (CTRL+enter in Word on a PC). This will help ensure the layout stays correct throughout.

~ CHAPTER HEADINGS: Begin the chapter heading halfway down a new page. Use “Chapter One” (and so on) for headings. Titles are fine. Just center the title below the chapter number. Then, drop down two "returns" and begin the text. If we contract the title, we’ll change that a bit, but for ease of reviewing, this is a helpful format.

~ FONT: Use Times New Roman 12-point font. Exception for me is that while I was reading at conference, Courier New 12-point font was the easiest to read in that condensed amount of time with distractions all around. 

~ OVERALL SPACING: Set the entire manuscript (by highlighting all) to double space.

~ AFTER PUNCTUATION SPACING: Use one space after punctuation like periods, colons, question marks, etc. 

~ QUOTATION MARKS: Insert punctuation before quotation marks. Use double quotation marks (“ or ”) for dialogue, or to set information apart that is not in dialogue. If you’re already in dialogue and need to set something apart (an additional quote, for example), use single quotes. Do not use single quotes outside of dialogue. 

~ NO BOLD: There should not be any bolded text anywhere in your fiction manuscript. 

~ NO UNDERLINING: Fiction manuscripts should be void of underlining.

~ ITALICS: Use italics sparingly. Use it for present-tense introspection and the occasional emphasized word. That said, it’s best to write the sentence and surrounding sentences so the reader automatically emphasizes the key word. 

~ NO REPEATED WORDS: One of my personal pet peeves is repeated words within a short span (say, four pages). Use a thesaurus or rework the entire sentence in order to avoid repeated words. Lack of repetition is the sign of a strong writer who has learned to take the time to find those synonyms that keep the writing fresh.

~ AVOID REDUNDANCY: Nearly the same as the previous tip, but this one involves expressing the same thought in another way. If our heroine has already ruminated on something once, don’t reword the worry and include it again and again. Dig deeper and give us something more that relates with the heroine’s angst, or move on with the action.  

All that being said, we know that when you cut and paste your first chapter into our online system, the formatting will not match these requirements. However, if we ask you for the full, it’s important that it does. 

Having these elements in place helps us in the review process by making our time more efficient. We look forward to seeing your submission!

1 comment:

  1. Great formatting points. I get your post as an RSS feed and on the screen when I click your entry I don't get this page I get a lot of formatting code. Initially I thought it was a joke, but I'm glad I moused through to get to this excellent article.