What’s up with Formatting, Anyway?


lolcat Edit

Usually I'm not a fan of lolcat pictures. However, this one seemed to fit nicely with my topic.

Let me start by saying happy April Fool’s Day! I’m not good at pranks, so I won’t give a lame attempt at one right now, haha.

What I would like to discuss is formatting your manuscript. Formatting is obviously a big deal when it comes to writing books. It gives the book a clean, professional look; and it helps the reader to know that either the writer has a good team, or they know what they are doing and are taking the time to make sure their book is actually completed.

Now, I don’t particularly know if there is a “standard” or “professional” look for the font and spacing of a book. But, I would like to think that the writer should have some sort of creative control of it. (Except if it’s an academic paper, but that’s entirely different, of course.)

Font: One of the main things I can never seem to decide on is my font style and size. I always change it several times, even when I’m writing the first draft. For some unknown reason, the change of font every now and again sometimes helps me to keep writing. I almost wonder if it’s because it’s just something new. It gives me a new style to look at so that I don’t get bored of looking at the same letters for 70,000 words. Perhaps I’ve stumbled upon a new kind of inspiration? Who knows.

Spacing: It would appear that Microsoft Word thinks it’s pretty funny to add a space after each paragraph. Well, when I first started self-publishing I didn’t even seem to notice this. So, my formatting was quite messy and I had to spend that extra time fixing it. Grr. Luckily, I found a way to change it right from the start so I don’t run into that problem again.

Then there comes the technicality of how far to space the font. Single space? Double space? 1.25? I did a quick Google search yesterday and the general consensus seems to be 1.2 is the “standard” font spacing. This helps make it easier to read, and can help bulk up the page size. Now, of course content should matter more than how long the book is. But, for me at least, I’m generally attracted to books that are a bit longer in length. It helps me to believe that there’s a good, long story in there that will keep me engaged, and it helps me to know I’m not wasting my money on a book I’ll finish in an hour.

 Chapters: During my Google search, I also found that sometimes people like to always start their chapters on the right page. This seems unnecessary and is a waste of paper. While it is another way to bulk up the page count, I don’t think it really impacts the story or book in any significant way that it just wouldn’t be the same if some chapters started on the left page.

What about you? How do you like to format your books? Do font and size affect how much or how inspired you are to right? Do you  have to have your book formatted a certain way?

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18 thoughts on “What’s up with Formatting, Anyway?

  1. The king of font I use seems to affect my creativity. For example, if I use Arial or Times New Roman my writing is stiff and not really creative (probably from writing all those school papers/essays, haha) but if I use Calibri or Andalus my writing flows better…I always change the font several times, just to see what it the story looks like wearing different “clothing”. 🙂

      • Indeed…words just look different when they’re in different guises and garbs…some fonts work better for other stories…I find Andalus looks best for fantasy, but that’s my personal preference. 🙂 Do you have favourites you always use?

      • I downloaded a bunch of fonts from when I tried starting a clothing line, so I have some that aren’t standard in Word.
        Currently my manuscript is at size 13 Centaur font. Which, I only have one more chapter left to write!

      • That’s a lovely font…congrats on being so close to finishing! I can never seem to finish stuff, but I’m going to really focus on doing that in the next couple months for ROW80. Are you doing ROW80 this year? (You’ve probably heard the other writers talking about it…)

      • Thank you! I’m hoping to get the last chapter written today, and then do a full read through in the next two days. Then it’s off to the editor! And then more revisions, and then back to the editor… Haha. Fun!

        I’ve heard of ROW80, and I know a few people whom are taking part. However, I don’t entirely know what it is. I understand it has a sort of cult following, though?

      • Yep. It’s a writing challenge that runs over 80 days, starting tomorrow…but you get to set your own goals (unlike NaNoWriMo). Everybody writes posts on certain days of the week and links them to the official ROW80 blog. Great way to meet other writers.

      • Oh wow, that sounds pretty great! It seems like a good way to get some writing done, keep inspired, and it’s good networking. How often do they do it?

      • I believe it’s done 4 times a year…runs all year long. 🙂 This is Round 2 we’re starting now.

  2. When I write I will use single space size 10 font but will change that when putting it into book format I’ll change it to 12. For some reason I hate double spacing, I don’t know why I think maybe I’m just hater. I like to start a new chapter on the right side, not to bulk up the size of the book but to make it look neater. I like the clean look you get when starting fresh with a new chapter and keeping the chapters starting on the same side consistently throughout the whole book. We read from left to right and starting on the right (and sometimes leaving a blank page on the left if that’s how it happens to fall) because it gives the reader that breath or pause before beginning a new chapter. As far as font goes I like to use a different type for the chapter headings, one that is personalized for each book. I like the body of the book in Times because I think it’s easier to read than the other fonts. I think the hardest part of formatting is accounting for that first lone blank page at the very beginning. It always throws me off 😛

    • You make a lot of valid points! Plus, I completely understand what you mean about the first blank page throwing you off. It happens to me ALL the time, haha.

      • When I’m formatting I’ll stick in an extra page at the beginning and mark it ‘delete this later’ because it helps make everything look like it would when it is printed. Damn that bratty single page…

  3. I’ve always been told in writing classes to use Times New Roman or Arial 12 and to double space EVERYTHING….taking out the extra space that Word insists on putting between paragraphs lol.

    It’s kinda become a habit now and I do ALL my writing like that :o)

    Xx

  4. I am pretty sure there is a standard manuscript format, it seems to be: 12 point Times Roman, left justified, 1″ margins all around, double spaced, paragraph indents, no space between paragraphs, with a header on each page giving your name, the title or a short form of it, and the page number.

    Most English majors used to be required to get one or two books that focused solely on formatting of various documents, grammar. I still have both of mine (probably out of date/out of print by now). I will have to check them to see if they contain a standard ms format. On my blog, when I post a new scene from my story of course the wordpress software has its merry way with the format. However, in MS-Word I shoot for Courier, 12pt. Single space, blank line between paragraphs, indent first line of paragraph.

  5. When it comes to indentations and what not, I always do that. One thing I can’t stand about Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men is his lack of quotation marks. It makes it a little difficult to read.

    Perhaps he should get some lessons in formatting!

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