Welcome to writing 102 2-. We've covered preliminary research you need to do as you start writing. Now this section can come towards the middle of your first draft, but you should read through as you write. We'll cover formatting, writer's block, critique readers, updating research, and battling the overwhelming urge to make drastic changes in media res


Hot & sexy proof that to get shit done, that shit has to be organized 

Today we start with formatting. Now, whichever way you're going to seek getting published this formatting guideline will cover you. For self publishing with eBooks we'll go over the tough specifics in Writing 105, so for now we're going to keep it simple.

First up: Font. Are you using Times New Roman? You should be. Times New Roman in 11 point is the standard for all manuscripts. It looks the best on paper and in eBook format. You'll need it come final formatting time when doing layout, so right now, at this moment, hit CTRL+A, select "Times New Roman" and "11" from the font drop down menus. Then save. Simple!

Next, are you double spacing? At this point, while writing, it must be double spaced. In the old days of typewriters, or in the days of writing papers for school, double spacing was important for writing editorial notes. It still is, as some people prefer to print out a manuscript and edit hard copy. Double spacing keeps it easy to read, so hit CTR + A and under the paragraph selection select "double." Save it.

Since we're on paragraphs, the first line must be indented .5" of each and every paragraph. Highlight everything and hit the paragraph drop-down menu (I am basing this off of using the latest MS Office, by the way). Select 0.5" on the line that asks how much to indent the first line under "Special."

If this is you, take some time out to get to know MS Office. Really, you have to master it to write


What about the page layout, margins? Simple: 0,0,0,0. Leave the margins standard set at 0. Do not add extra space before or after a paragraph. This is in the paragraph drop down menu, make sure they are all 0. While you're there, make sure it's aligned left. While writing this is easiest to read.

Do not bold the text or get crazy in any way. Remember that a title of a book, movie, or song should be italicized and not underlined. Emphasized words should also be in italics. Foreign words or phrases should also be italicized, das is gut! Generally, very few things should be underlined, and never bold when writing fiction. If someone is speaking emphatically, that's what exclamation points are for, or italics.You can also capitalize something, as in this example:

"No, no, NO!" he shouted.

Or use italics:

"No, no, no!" he shouted.

The only punctuation you can combine is a question mark and an exclamation point, as in this example:

"Are you serious!?" he asked, aghast. (This is the preferred format for most editors)

Also acceptable are:

"Are you serious?!" he asked, aghast.


"Are you serious!?!" he asked, aghast.

Those are general, good guidelines. We've gone over punctuation before, you should have your guides. Learn how to use semicolons for god's sake, and if you have a plethora of them, break up your sentences.

Fly the Grammar Nazi flag proudly


Remember paragraphs are typically 3-5 to sentences. There are exceptions: they can be shorter when two different ideas are presented. The previous paragraph was 3 but some have been 2 in this  post. Paragraphs are divided up by subject. Any switch to a different subject requires a new paragraph. If most of yours are only two, or always seven, think about making your writing more formulaic, try to have most  paragraphs 3-5 sentences long.

The last thing to watch for: never should two characters have speech in the same paragraph. When a new character speaks after another, new paragraph. And a character's speech can be multi-paragraphed. Just do not end quotes at the end of one paragraph, start them in the new, as in this example:

"I knew him as a young man, when he was bright and optimistic. He used to dream of being a botanist, traveling in the field, surrounded by nature. He was such a gentle soul, always more at home with plants than people.

"So, to answer your question Inspector, I highly doubt Jonathon could have committed this heinous murder."

Mastering these basics of formatting will make editing much faster. By following this rules final formatting you do will be much simpler, and trust me it is highly complex for the self-publisher. So keep an eye on it and commit these rules to your manuscript. 

Be a Grammar Nazi and a Literary Ninja. Come on, writers live for thew world of make-believe,so take these titles seriously


Keep writing, and in our next lesson we'll go over budgeting your time. The muse comes and goes, drive and inspiration ebbs and flows, but the writer must remain on top of it. Proper formatting makes it easier, so do it!