Consider While Writing: Manuscript Setup

June 5, 2015 by Amy Groening


When you’re working on a novel with publication in mind, there are a few methods to employ that will help the next few stages in the process—editing and typesetting—go as smoothly as possible. It can be tempting to cast all caution aside and just write, write, write, and in the beginning stages of your manuscript, but a bit of planning can help you avoid more than a few snags and back-tracking when you’re ready to get that manuscript published. To help you get your manuscript prepped and ready for publication, we will be featuring a monthly series of things to consider while writing.

Tip #1: Treat your word processor like a word processor.

Word processors offer a lot of creative shortcuts that will make formatting your edited manuscript a breeze. Get the most out of your word processor by avoiding the following:

Double spacing lines by hitting the “enter” bar twice:

Raw manuscripts need to be double-spaced during the editing process, and is often a requirement when submitting your manuscript to contests (like ours). Hitting enter twice looks fine, but there will come a point in the publishing process where your manuscript no longer needs to be double-spaced, and then all that work of yours will be time-consuming to undo. When your manuscript is ready to be pulled into a typesetting program, each of those line breaks needs to be deleted, which can slow down the typesetting process considerably. Use the doublespace function on your word processing program and you’ll get the same effect, without all that extra work.

Indenting a paragraph by pressing the space bar a number of times:

Using the space bar to create an indent can look just the same as hitting the tab button on a keyboard. However, the program doesn’t recognize that indent the same way. This means that when your manuscript is reformatted with the correct trim size and margins, the indents will need to each be manually adjusted to fit the new layout of the book (instead of simply inputting the correct indent measurement in the program). Also: unless you’re extremely consistent with that space bar, chances are your paragraphs aren’t all going to be indented the same number of spaces, which makes for ragged edges and inconsistent spacing.

Putting chapter titles and subheadings in all-caps:

It may seem like a great way of ensuring that your titles stand out, but often times when you’re in typesetting, the fonts that end up looking the best for your headers don’t look best in all-caps. What’s the big deal here? In order to put your titles and headings in normal title case and then add the fancy fonts, they will each need to be re-typed in title case. Not only is this time-consuming, but whenever you have to re-do something like this, you open yourself up to the possibility that an error could accidentally be inserted into this manuscript you’ve worked so hard on.

Tip #2: Include everything in one document.

You wrote the first chapter and saved it as Chapter 1. You wrote the second chapter and saved it as Chapter 2… 57 chapters later, your book is done—and you have 57 separate word files sitting on your hard drive. Now that you’re ready to publish, each of those single-chapter documents needs to be combined into one manuscript master document so it can be edited and typeset (ugh!). Save yourself the hassle and type all your chapters in the same document.

We hope these tips help you plan ahead and prepare your manuscript with publication in mind. Have any questions or suggestions of your own about what to consider when writing? Let us know in the comments section!

About this Contributor

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Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.