Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–FORMATTING ISSUES


I changed the wording of this feature title. Writing Newbie Mistakes Monday, the previous title, could be misconstrued as WAYS to write some newbie mistakes…maybe I’m overthinking it, but I had to change it!

This Monday, I thought I’d talk about FORMATTING those rough drafts/MSes, queries, and proposals. 

The format I started out with was exactly what I’d learned in college (which was ______ years ago…). Single-spaced lines, no indent, double-spaced paragraphs (It’s how I’m writing right now). Oh, and I chose whichever font best captured the vibe of my book, so for my modern paranormal, I used a font kinda like this. CERTAINLY agents would want to read Otherworld with the font that evoked the mysteriousness of the big purple house on the hill, right?

As I moved along in this writing process, joined a critique group, and got feedback from an editor, I realized that I wasn’t looking too professional, sending my stuff out with the wrong font and format.

I also tended to comment on fellow writers’ (or agents’!) blogposts with my favorite, carefree-yet-artsy girl way of writing (NO CAPS! AT ALL!). It looked…well, lazy. Not as artsy as I was thinking (but I still love you, e.e.cummings! And I don’t capitalize things properly on twitter, in homage to you!).

So I started paying attention to my IMAGE when I wrote. And I decided to try to follow the rules for sending in queries/manuscripts and proposals, which as I currently understand them ARE:

1) Use Times New Roman font, size 12.

2) Indent every paragraph.

3) Double-space every paragraph.


Therefore, what you write will look more like this. It’s hard to envision until you’ve done it, with the double-spacing of every LINE, but it does work well for agents who have to read loads of words every day.
There are other formatting things, like keeping 1″ margins all around, header/footer/page number rules, as well as specific tabbing practices. But those are hurdles you can cross when that MS undergoes serious editing.
You can choose to ignore the rules, as I did for an alarming period of time. But then you’re just going to look, quite honestly, like a newbie writer. 
Thankfully, at your own blogspot, you can write however you want (as long as it’s consistent), which is what I do here. I revert back to my old spacing (except the one-space b/t colons and periods–I try to keep it uniform now). 
I hope this has been helpful—I only wish someone would’ve shared this stuff with me at an earlier stage in the writing process. Then my queries, partials and fulls wouldn’t have screamed, “Hey, I’m a writing NEWB! I have no clue what I’m doing!”

(but i can’t promise that i might not show up in your comment box, writing sans capital letters, just for the sheer joy of it all….)

*****What about you? Do you write your books in the correct font or just have fun? Have you run into any of these issues?*****

11 thoughts on “Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–FORMATTING ISSUES

  1. Seriously? Single space after periods and such? I'm not sure I can do that! I'm trying right now and my fingers automatically do two taps on the space bare.My mind is overwhelmed! Not sure I can change. Man I have a ton of formatting to fix. Thanks for the tips. I"m overwhelmed but very thankful.

  2. Jessica Faust on her Bookends LLC blog had a great post about proper formatting. The one thing I wasn't doing already was to set the first line to indent automatically a half inch (rather than using the TAB space). This makes it easier for and agent to read on an e-reader in case the agent wants to take the MS to go instead of at their computer.[Okay, I swear, this is my third time trying to post this. I hate Blogger's new comment moderation.]

  3. Very informative post! I'm like Neanderthal woman when it comes to such things… LOL! Seems like I'll have to call you up the day I'm ready for these technicalities… *chuckles*

  4. I was a total Neanderthal myself until I started getting edited, Mish! And I know, I hate the comment moderation, but like to have it on. Is there some way to go back to the old one-word verification? I'm gonna google that!

  5. First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog the other day :DYou know, I've never NOT put a single space after punctuation. I've only recently heard of people using double spaces after periods. Am I weird? Never mind…don't answer that!I am very conscious of my writing "image". I'm the annoying person who texts in complete sentences with capitalization and punctuation taken into consideration. Anal? Maybe. :DHappy Wednesday,Jen

  6. HA–Jennifer, I don't think you're weird, you're probably just YOUNGER THAN I AM! Grin. The two-space rule was something I learned in HS/college. And it's not bad to be anal about writing. I am, too, in some ways.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s