Hey Visionaries! I’m so excited to be here today. So, I’ve made the decision to try and not just preach the importance of words and stories to you all the time but also to start putting some content on here that will be helpful as you move toward publishing. Sound good? I hope so!
If you have any questions about writing, anything at all, feel free to drop them in the comments or send them to me via the contact form. I would love to answer them, or if I can’t, I will find someone who can. I happen to know quite a few people…lol…
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this post!
Formatting a book while you're writing so that it is more organized is essential, and formatting a book for publishing can get a bit tricky. I’m going to lay some basic tips for formatting in general first, and then, if you guys would like, I can do a post on special tips for publishing.
Personally, I love formatting! But some people don’t, and that’s okay. Honestly, if you hate it and want to hire me to format your book, I am totally down for that! Lol…
Alright, some tips (if you have decided to try this yourself instead of paying someone) for formatting are...
Tip #1 - Basics
Here I’m just covering some basic formatting rules. I know I had to look these up and I’ve answered this question a few times for people I know or just people asking them on The Young Writer’s Workshop.
Your font should be Times New Roman 12pt, Courier 12pt, or Arial 12pt. I prefer Times New Roman, myself. These are the main fonts that are generally always used in publishing.
Your font color should be black. You can play with the chapter header colors if you want, but black is standard, especially since printing in color costs more than printing in black and white.
Only one space after periods, not two. I’ve not met anyone who does this, but Google says it is a common formatting mistake, so I’m adding it here.
The standard page format is Letter 8.5x11, this is what all docs come set up as, so you shouldn’t need to change anything there. Keep in mind this is just a basic page size for drafting…once you move toward publishing, you will need to tweak your page size.
Tip #2 - Paragraph spacing
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to double-space your lines unless you are submitting to a literary agent or publishing company, and that is what they request. Most of the time, you are going to have 1.15 or 1.00 line spacing with no space before or after a paragraphs.
In Google Docs, this is super simple to do. Your top bar will have a line and spacing section, and you just select all your doc by hitting ctrl+a and then fixing the spacing and paragraphs like that!
In Word, you’re going to hit ctrl+a and then go to line spacing and do the same thing there! (I thought it was going to be harder, but it updated…lol…)
While you’ve got everything selected, you might as well go ahead and justify your layout. So this is where you have align right, align left, align center, and there will be one called justify. Click that one, and all the work will be done for you, lining the words up on both sides of the page and making them look all neat and tidy!
You can also find these settings in the Format tab.
Tip #3 - Headers
I’m sure all of you are doing headers, but if you aren’t, you will need to do each chapter title in a header. This will help you find them easier and give you a better layout overall.
On Google Docs or Word, you just select the chapter title and then click the part on the management/layout bar that says normal text and change it to heading 1, and that’s that.
You can then change the header to whatever type of font you would like. In Google Docs, you can then go back to the heading tab and hover over heading 1, and to the side, it will pull up a drop-down, you can select Change Heading 1 to match, and then all your heading 1’s will convert to that layout! Cool, right?
You can do this in Word, but I’m still learning how to work the new layout…lol…so, sorry, people who use Word, no cool trick.
You will also want to align your header either to the right or center. It’s up to you where you would like them.
Tip #4 - Indents
Alright, I see this one done wrong a lot for beginning writers. Shoot, I did it wrong for a while, and someone kindly pointed that out to me…I can’t remember who, but thank you, whoever you were! (For some reason, my brain says Issabelle Perry, but I could be wrong.)
So, the most common mistake is to think that have to manually hit the space bar three or five times before starting each paragraph, but that’s not true. That will actually mess up the formatting in the long run and is extremely aggravating to remove from a doc (I’ve had to remove it from multiple docs). So here is the correct way to do indents, and if you have done them wrong…I wish you luck in fixing that mistake and send you chocolate because I feel your pain.
Anyway, for Google Docs, the first step is how to put indents in. Go to Format, then Align & Indent, special Indents are where you want to click, and it will pull up a page. There you will hit the first-line indent, whole doc, and change it from 0.5 to 0.3, you can leave it, but from what I’ve read, most books have a 0.3 indent, though some do have a 0.5.
For Word Docs (if yours has been updated, if not, let me know, and I’ll track down a video on how to do it for you), you just hit the special indent button, and on the drop-down select first line.
Once that is done, you will need to go through and set your cursor in front of the chapter headings and backspace once to remove the indent. It’s quicker to do it this way than it is to do the indents in each chapter individually.
You are also going to want to remove the indents from the first paragraph of every chapter. Those are not indented in fiction books. Grab a few books off your shelf and check it out for yourself if you doubt me. In addition, after every scene break, you will also remove the indent from the first paragraph.
Tip #5 -Chapter First Line
Since we covered indents, I thought now would be a good time to mention the first lines in the chapter. So, usually, the first word has what they call a drop-cap or the first 3 to 5 words are in all caps, bold, or italics.
Drop-Caps are extremely aggravating and unpredictable when converted to Ebook formats, so my favorite way to do it is either to bold the first 5 words or put the first 3 words in all-caps. Both of those functions are super easy to do and can help lend a professional air to your budding story! Or completed! ;)
Formatting isn’t that hard, but it can be a pain…especially formatting for a book's release. But the formatting I’ve covered is super basic and can be really fun to implement!
I hope this article was helpful and that it helped lay some ground rules for you. Most importantly, I hope you enjoyed it! Now, go format something and have fun while doing it!