Proper Manuscript Format : Administrivia
            

The short story manuscript template for Microsoft Word that I recently added was apparently quite a success, at least to judge by the number of requests I've received to add a version for novel manuscripts. Accordingly, I've created that novel template, and you can now find both templates at this page:

http://www.shunn.net/format/templates.html

Even more exciting, at least to me, are the macro-enabled versions I've created of both those templates, which allow you to update your word count, insert a line space, and begin a new chapter with simple keystrokes. You can find the new macro-enabled templates here:

http://www.shunn.net/format/advanced.html

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At long last, after more requests than it should have required, I've corrected a long-standing oversight and created a short story manuscript template for Microsoft Word. You can find it at this page:

http://www.shunn.net/format/templates.html

After you customize the template with your own name and contact information, you'll be able to create properly formatted manuscripts with ease. And the template even includes a wordcount field that updates on request, rounded to the nearest hundred.

The template should work for all versions back to Word 2007. If anyone is interested in a template suitable for older versions of Word, please let me know. I'm sure I can kick one out sometime in the next decade.

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I wrote the original version of my manuscript formatting guide in 1993, modeling it after a much older two-page guide I received from Damon Knight in 1985. Back in those days, even for those who'd made the switch to composing prose on computers, the goal of formatting was to produce a document for submission that looked as much as possible like it had sprung to life rolling through the platen of a typewriter, offspring of holy intercourse between paper, typebar, and ink ribbon.

The world of writing and publishing has changed plenty in these past seventeen, or twenty-five, or God knows how many years. A manuscript used to be the mere blueprint for a printed book or story, instructions in a coded language to the typesetter who would laboriously rework the entire thing into clean, finished type. Now the gap between manuscript and book has shrunk to the size of a computer file. Electronic submissions mean that the only physical keystroke in the life history of a given letter in a published work may well be the one executed by the author himself.

The accepted and acceptable standards of manuscript formatting have evolved to reflect this. Proportional fonts are used more and more in manuscripts, while typographical tricks that were necessary on typewriters now no longer make sense. More and more writers are submitting manuscripts that would have looked unacceptable a decade ago, and more and more editors don't mind this one bit. With the almost complete dominance of the word processor, topics like word-count approximation and end-of-line hyphenation are no longer relevant to most of us. It was long past time to update my format guide to reflect this new reality.

You old-school writers and editors, don't worry. I won't abandon my Courier font and double sentence spacing (more on that topic in a future post) without a fight. If I have my way, the manuscripts I produce fifty years from now will look the same as the ones I produce today. But I did want to acknowledge that mores are changing, and that not everyone agrees anymore about what proper manuscript format even means.

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The format to come

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Welcome to FLOG, my new blog on all aspects of manuscript formatting.

For well over a decade my formatting guide "Proper Manuscript Format" has been available online, with the result that I've fielded hundreds of questions on the subject from writers around the English-speaking world. For years now I've wanted to share those letters and my responses to them online, on the theory that for every question I receive there are probably ten times as many writers with the same question who don't email and would find the discussion helpful.

I don't consider myself more than a de facto expert on manuscript formatting. I do, however, believe that after mastering a few basic principles, most of the rest is common sense. For instance, I recommend (as I was taught) using a Courier font for your submissions. But if the guidelines for a particular market state that they prefer to see submissions in Times Roman, it's only common sense to do as they say when sending something there.

It's clear that the further we advance into the Digital Age, the more writing, editing and publishing practices are changing. Flexibility and adaptability are important. Some posts here will address that fact. Others will offer thoughts on more mechanical aspects of formatting and manuscript submission. But the bulk of my posts will no doubt come as answers to your emails, both newly posed and mined from my archives. (To submit questions, please send email to format at shunn dot net.)

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Looking for Bill's original properly formatted article on proper manuscript format? Click here.
Proper Manuscript Format Illustrated - Click here.
FLOG is Hugo- and Nebula-nominated author William Shunn's blog on manuscript formatting and preparation for fiction writers. It features formatting questions from real readers and writers like you. Submit your questions to format at shunn dot net. Identitying information will remain private. We regret that we can't always respond individually to submissions, and that we can't answer every question we receive.

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