Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Converting and formatting manuscripts

Writing.

Every writer has their own preference. For example, I prefer to write with empty lines instead of indents. (There are some disadvantages to that method, but I just find it easier that way.)

Still, you might want to go for the 'official' format when submitting.


I. Format


1. Electronic versus printed

My original work, in Google Docs, has been formatted like this (I'll designate this as my preferred 'online' format), and I strongly prefer this format when reading novels online (on platforms such as Wattpad, Royal Road, Tapas, etcetera.)

I also prefer to write in this format, as it gives you a much better control over dialogue tags, and makes it easier to spot mistakes.



Publishers often prefer the work as a word document with indented paragraphs, looking like this:

2. What does the publisher really want?

Ask them! Some care, and some don't. So it's always best to ask.

The following settings are what I found on several websites, and you know it: everything on the Internet is true, until proven otherwise 😅


Industry standard

When you think about it... 'Industry standard' basically means at first glance things look the same but we all disagree on the details 😇


3. Don't bother

When you're still writing your novel, then don't worry about the format. You can always change it later. It's best to keep things as simple as possible, focus on writing, not on formatting!


4. Format


Links


Generic

Page format - letter (US) / A4 (EU)

Page Margins - 1" / 2.5 cm all around (this is the default in Word)

Line spacing - double spaced

Font - Times New Roman 12 pt

Italics - use italics if you need them, do not use underlined text to indicate italics

Indentation - 1" / 2.5 cm, do not use the Tab key but format your document

Note: some sites suggest 0.5" / 1.25 cm, personally I think that looks better.


Front page

Front page - agent information (if any, top left), novel information (center, use pen name), contact information (right bottom, use real name), no page number

Note: some sites suggest to put author information top left, I suggest to do the same, it simply looks better. If you have an agent he / she will tell you how to do it properly (and you wouldn't be reading this anyway 😉).

Note: some sites suggest to include copyright information, some say to leave it off as anything you write is automatically copyrighted.


Regular page

Header with author's name, title, and page number.

Note: some suggest it the other way around - title, author's name, page number.

Note: some pages suggest to align the header to the right side, some to spread the elements.


Chapter start

Keep roughly 30% of the page emtpy, then the chapter title or number, then one or more empty lines, then the start of the text.

On the page before the chapter start, use Ctrl + Shift + Enter in Word (column break) to enforce a new page.

Note: some pages suggest to use Chapter N - Chapter Title on the same line, most suggest to spread it over two lines


Scene breaks

A ' # ' sign centered at the line.

Note: some pages suggest to add an empty line before and after, this has my personal preference.

Note: some sites suggest to use * * * or - - - but this may confuse word processors. Don't.


Last page

A few empty lines, then THE END, centered.


5. Example

Click to enlarge.



II. Converting from one format to another


0. Word bug

There's an inconvenient bug in some versions of Word, that only plagues some users. If you're on of them, poor soul... Sometimes it shows up, and then it's gone again.

It affects the 'search and replace' functionality. If Word does not seem to recognize the special characters, such as ^p, then do the following:


Fix 1

1. Make sure 'wildcards' is switched off in the replace dialog

2. Add a few lines with each line a single character to the start of your document

3. Do a search / replace for ^p with ^p^p


From this point on it should work fine again.

If the above doesn't fix the problem, do the following:


Fix 2

1. Create a new document

2. Make sure 'wildcards' is switched off in the replace dialog

3. Add a few lines with each line a single character to the start of your document

4. Do a search / replace for ^p with ^p^p

5. Load your document, and try the replace again on your document


I know, it doesn't make any sense. But this fixed the problem for me every time...


1. From Docs 'online' to Word 'indented paragraphs'

I'll add more if I run into them...


1.1 Save as Word

Advantage: italics and bold stay in place

Disadvantage: complex formatting in Docs may confuse Word (but you shouldn't do that in Docs anyway)


Steps

1. Download as Microsoft Word .docx

2. Open the downloaded file in Word

3. Mark the whole text

4. Apply the 'Normal' style (Home ribbon / Styles / ...), you'll keep italics but may lose anything bold.

5. Right click the 'Normal' style

6. Modify

7. Format / Paragraph

8. Indentation / Special: First Line

9. Set indentation to 0.5" (check publisher's preferences)

10. Ok, Ok

11. Home ribbon / Editing / Replace

12. More

13. In the Find and Replace window, go to the Replace tab

14. Tick 'Use wildcards'

15. Find what: (^13)^13{1,}

16. Replace with: \1

17. Replace All

18. Check all pages for possible issues


Note: search / replace should also work with ^p^p to ^p


1.2 Copy / paste to Word

Advantage: no strange left-over formatting codes

Disadvantage: more work, you may lose bold and italics.


Steps

1. Mark and copy inside Google Docs

2. Paste into Word

3. Mark the whole text

4. Apply the 'Normal' style (Home ribbon / Styles / ...)

5. Right click the 'Normal' style

6. Modify

7. Format / Paragraph

8. Indentation / Special: First Line

9. Set indentation to 0.5" (or 0.25", check with the publisher)

10. Ok, Ok

11. Home ribbon / Editing / Replace

12. More

13. In the Find and Replace window, go to the Replace tab

14. Tick 'Use wildcards'

15. Find what: (^13)^13{1,}

16. Replace with: \1

17. Replace All

18. Check all pages for possible issues


2. From Word 'indented paragraph' to Docs 'online'

Disadvantage: you loose minor scene breaks (empty lines between paragraphs)

Note: you can simply copy from Word to Google Docs but you will lose your italics.


Steps

1. Load the document into Word

2. Select the whole document

3. Set line spacing to 1

4. Home ribbon / Editing / Replace

5. Find what: ^p

6. Replace with: ^p^p

7. Find ^p^p^p

8. Replace with ^p^p

9. Home ribbon, modify 'Normal' style

10. Format / Paragraph / Indentation / Special: First Line, set to 0.

11. Go to the front page (page 0)

12. Insert ribbon / Header & Footer / Header / Remove Header

13. Insert ribbon / Header & Footer / Header / Remove Footer

14. Go to page 1 (the start of your story)

15. Remove headers and footers here as well

16. Save the Word document under a new name

17. Open Google Docs

18. File / Open / Upload

19. Drag and drop your Word document onto Google Docs


3. From Word 'indented' to Docs 'indented'

Advantage: easy

Disadvantage: you'll lose bold text, though italics might stay (not a problem when working on a manuscript)


Steps

1. Open Google Docs

2. File / Open / Upload

3. Drag and drop your Word document onto Google Docs



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