January 2012 | Proper Manuscript Format | William Shunn
January 2012

Formatting a children's book

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A reader writes to ask:

I'm preparing a manuscript for a children's book. Should I use the same format [as for adult fiction]? Or is there a different format for this type of book?

Yes, when submitting a picture book, chapter book, or other work of children's literature, you should use the same format you would when submitting any other book manuscript. If the book is to be illustrated, your publisher will most likely recruit the illustrator for you.

For much more detail about the kinds of children's books out there and how to sell them, consult a book like The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books. It will have far more useful information on this segment of the publishing business than I can provide.

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Which Courier to choose?

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A reader writes to ask:

Quick question: which font do you use when writing a manuscript - Courier New or Courier Final Draft?

Good question, though those two fonts are hardly the only Courier variants available to choose from. One could also try Courier10 BT, Courier Std, Courier Stylus, Dark Courier, and no doubt many others.

But you asked which font I use. It's Courier New, but that's really only because it's the default Courier font that comes with Windows. Courier New prints a bit light and thin for many people's tastes, so if you have Courier Final Draft (which comes included with Final Draft screenwriting software) you're probably better off to use that instead. It's a somewhat heavier and darker font than Courier New, and it looks better printed.

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A reader writes to ask:

I am a bit confused about scene changes. I know that they have to be denoted by a single line with a "#", but if I use them at every scene change my plot will "unglue" a bit. There is something a bit Proustian to the flow of my novel that I don't want to interrupt, and the only breaks that I want are those between chapters. For example, suppose the protagonist is writing about his home. Then he starts to reminisce about another era, when he lived in a much poorer home in another country. From everything I have read online, it seems I'd better note this scene break between his actual home and his subsequent reminiscence of the old residence; but I feel something of quality will be compromised if I do it. Should I do as I wish with little fear of making some agent raise his eyes towards heaven, or should I be punctilious and proper and leave a blank line with the # at every line change, irrespective of how I feel about it?

You are under no obligation to indicate a flashback or other shift in time or space with a scene break. A scene break is simply one of many stylistic tools you can use to make such an indication. If you feel that an uninterrupted flow is best for the effect you want to achieve, then that is perfectly fine. If you do your job properly, then the reader should have no trouble following the change whether or not you call attention to it with a skipped line.

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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 info at format dot ms. 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.

About January 2012

This page contains all entries posted to Proper Manuscript Format in January 2012. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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