Wednesday 21 February 2018

Let's have a little chat about formatting shall we?

Please notice the formatting
This is a random page selected for the
extraordinary book The Polar Bear Explorer's Club
by Alex Bell
I spend a lot of my time looking at manuscripts, whether it is submissions by students or aspiring writers. What amazes me time and time again is how few of them bother to format it properly. I really don't understand it because it means when they do have to submit it to an agent they will have to spend hours and hours re-formatting it. It must be so frustrating and it is all time they could save by making a few changes right at the beginning. If people could just get into the habit of when starting a document immediately set it out as if it was a book automatically.

Have a look at the photo opposite. This is a random page taken from The Polar Bear Explorer's Club, an excellent book, which just happened to be by my side. Have you noticed, the paragraphs are indented. There are no line breaks between paragraphs unless for a specific reason. Also, there are wide margins to make allowances for binding but when editing it is for editors to make comments! All easy and simple things to do - you'd think wouldn't you...

How wrong you could be and how rarely I see it like that.

Before you come back at me and say that Word's default is to automatically put an extra line in when you press return. I know, but you can override that by going to 'Paragraph' at the top and clicking on the box 'Don't add extra line'.

Irritatingly but blogger won't allow me to use tabs so I can't illustrate using this blog to show what it should look like - gotta love technology. However, you want your manuscript to look as much like a book as you can. It also makes it easier for your editor to read. It gives a sense of what it looks like and how the white space works. People often forget about the white space but it can be just as important.

HOWEVER, also before you say it to me I know a book is single line spaced. YOUR manuscript should not be. It MUST be double line spaced, again so it is easy for us, as editors and for you when you are self-editing.

Oh I feel so much better for having got that off my chest. Happy writing peeps ;-)

Found this song during a student's exercise last week. It is called 'Would you be so kind?'