Formatting Your Manuscript

By Anita Nolan,
Pearl S. Buck Writing Center Write a Novel in a Year Workshop

Put a header on every page. The first page header should include your name, address, phone number, email address, website, number of words in the manuscript, and the genre. (Don’t include a page number on the first page.)

Put your name, address and phone number on four lines set flush left in the header:

Ima Writer
123 Street Rd.
Perkasie, PA
(xxx) xxx-xxxx

 Then put the following information set flush right in the header:

genre/age range
number of words
email address
website (if you have one)

The header of all other pages should include the title and your last name on the left side, and the page number flush right on the same line.

The Great American Novel/Writer                                                  2

To put a header on your pages, click View on the MS Word Toolbar and then Header and Footer. It will give you a number of choices. Choose “different first page” to have different information on the first page.

I use Arial 9 pt. as a header, but the main thing is for it to be a different typeface or italics. I would not use bold. The important thing is that it’s easy to read and obviously not part of the text.

Start each new chapter on a new page, down about 1/3 of the page. (The Great American Novel, below, should be about 1/3 down the page.) Center the Chapter Numbers.



Every new chapter should start on a new page, about 1/3 down the page. Only the first page of a manuscript should have the manuscript name above the chapter number. All others have the chapter number, centered.

General Formatting Tips:

One-inch margins all around. All manuscripts should be double-spaced. The easy way to do this is to click on Paragraph and set Line Spacing at double. The traditional way to do this is to use exactly 25 lines per page, and the way to do that is to set the Line Spacing at Exactly 25 pts.

Use plain white paper. Most publishers want the print on only one side. A few accept print on both sides. Do not do this unless you know that the publisher accepts it, and if you do, use a paper that is a heavier weight.

Use Times New Roman, 12 point, left justified.

Indent the first line of each paragraph about a half-inch or about 5 spaces. Typically you can just tab over.

Don’t staple the page. Use a binder clip or rubber bands.

When you start a new scene within a chapter, use  #  or  * * *  on a separate line to separate the scenes.

DO NOT try to make your manuscript look like the layout in a book.

You’ll also need a synopsis. I typically write both a short (about 1 page) synopsis and a longer synopsis. You should single-space a short synopsis and double-space a longer synopsis. I CAPITALIZE the first use of every name in the synopsis.

Check out my other posts on the PSB Writing Center blog under Resources: Building a Synopsis Step-by-Step, Books & Websites for Writers, and Submission Dictionary.