If you’re writing a book right now, then what you’re really writing, currently, is a manuscript. This is what the non-published text of your book is called. Knowing how to write a manuscript for a book typically means following certain formatting requests, having a complete edit of the narrative, and try to have some fun will getting the work done.
The first and most important rule to follow when writing a manuscript is to not worry about any of the following guidelines until you’ve finished your first draft. Just write from the heart. Let your creativity drive your story. There will be plenty of time to get everything polished up.
Then you’ll be ready to follow these steps to prepare your manuscript for review and possible publication.
#1. Get your margins right.
A manuscript should have a 1-inch margin set on all sides. Some publishers or literary agents may request different margins, but 1-inch is the industry standard. You can make the adjustments from the Layout tab in Microsoft Word or your preferred word processor.
#2. Make sure your manuscript has a proper title page.
Your title page should have a byline with your pseudonym or official writer’s name. It must also contain your contact information. Your title page should not be numbered. Reserve that privilege for the first page of text in your book: Chapter One, the Prologue, or a preface/introduction.
#3. Create a header on every page.
Your header should include your last name, the title of your book or a summarization of the title, and the page number. You may be requested to make the title be in ALL CAPS. Always follow the header guidelines if given, but rely on the industry standards if not.
#4. Start each chapter on its own page.
New chapters don’t begin at the very top of the page. You need to put the title of the chapter about one-third of the way down. Then add a couple of spaces and then begin the narrative once again. The title of your chapter should also be in ALL CAPS unless requested otherwise.
#5. Format your text properly.
Proper formatting for your actual text will generally be 12pt Times New Roman font. Double-spacing is also usually required for a manuscript. An indentation of 0.5 inches may be requested, though some publishers/agents want a 0.25” indent instead. You can make the font and spacing adjustments in the Design tab, while the indent formatting is found under the Layout tab.
#6. Indent your paragraphs.
Do not use the Tab button on your keyboard to create the indent. This command can leave coding within the document which may interfere with the printing or publication process. Manually set the indent instead. Every new paragraph should have the first line indented. The only exception to this rule is the first paragraph of a new chapter.
#7. Format your manuscript so that it is left-orientated.
When a language is read from left-to-right, such as English, then the document must be orientated on the left. This means every line begins with a character in the exact same placement. The right portion of the text will be left ragged based on the margins. For languages that read right-to-left, the opposite is true.
#8. Include any permissions as an addendum.
If your book contains an excerpt from a copyrighted work – this includes websites – then you must obtain direct written permission from the copyright owner to use that work. You will need a separate letter of permission for every printed formatted for your manuscript (hardcover, trade paperback, e-book). You may also be able to use the Copyright Clearance Center to request permissions if you do not have contact information for the owner.
#9. Note all public domain information.
Public domain information is fine to publish, but a publisher will often want to know where this data has been used.
#10. Use the same dialect of language throughout.
You could use American English or British English, but don’t switch between them.
#11. If you are asked for a chapter abstract of your manuscript.
A chapter abstract is 150-250 words which summarizes the content in the chapter. Some publishers use these abstracts to promote the work, provide SEO benefits, or be used as a media teaser.
There may be additional formatting or content requests made on your manuscript in addition to these. Make sure to include all requests in the final draft of your work so that it has the opportunity to be properly reviewed.
Want more writing tips to help you succeed? Check out this post on going from blogger to book author.