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Writing Books/Manuscript formatting...and stuff


QUESTION: Hello and thank you SO much! My local critique group (now dissolved) insisted that formatting for submission be done 12 pt. courier new and that two spaces follow each full stop.  At 435 pages, my novel is likely too long, but is this spacing style truly the standard?  They also insist emphasized words and inner dialogue (thoughts) be underscored.  Yes, I need expert help.

ANSWER: The group was correct with one exception. Twelve-point Courier type double-spaced is standard, but space only once after a full stop. Yes, when we used typewriters, we spaced twice, but with computers, we space only once. It's easy to use the Find and Replace function to correct that flaw, but but it won't change the word count, and at 435 pages, the word count is obviously more than 100,000. Most publishers prefer novels to be between 60,000 and 100,000 words. Delete a few of the less important scenes to lower the word count.

Inner dialogue should be underscored, yes, as well as emphasized words; however, both these items should be used seldom if at all. Make the dialogue strong enough that the type style does not have to explain to readers which word to emphasize. Show the characters' thoughts through their actions and dialogue, rather than internal dialogue, too, whenever possible, and as a result, the story will become stronger.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Many thanks for the sound advice.
One other question: What's the standard for getting a word count?  My group says 265 per page. Another author says 10 words per line, 25 lines per page, and inch margins all around.

Those lengthy methods were necessary when we used typewriters (although the figure I learned was 250 words a page), but most publishers simply need an estimate, and the computer will give you an accurate enough estimate easily. Go to Tools and then Word Count, and voila, you'll get a figure that is close enough.

Oh, and yes, the margins should be at least an inch on all sides.

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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