Formatting Your Own Novel

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I have written about proofreading your own manuscript. It’s difficult and time consuming and often frustrating. Well, dang, formatting your own novel is all that to the tenth degree. All the articles I’ve read have recommended hiring someone to format it for you. Now I know why.

On the other hand, I’ve learned more about Microsoft Word in the last few days than I have learned in all the many previous years that I have used it. I’ve always considered learning new things to be an essential part of growing as a person. Yeah. That’s putting a positive spin on it for sure.

Because I have already begun writing the sequel to “Millie’s Adventures in Time” and already have something like 60,000 words in it, I can’t write it in the proper format for publishing from the beginning. But to be certain, I will do that with anything I write fresh from this point on.

My two biggest problems right now are page breaks and margin justification. I had no idea what a page break was or how to select which one to use. But I read that using blank lines to go from one page to the next at the end of a chapter is a formatting no-no and that you should use page breaks. I found my research mode button and learned all about page breaks.

So I am re-formatting the entire manuscript, some 115,000 words and about a bazillion little chapters (I can’t seem to write long ones), so that there is a page break at the end of each chapter. It’s going to take a while. And might just make me crazy. Or crazier, as my husband would comment.

I did not write the manuscript with the margins justified. I wrote it with left aligned margins. So when I justified it for printing purposes, I ended up with some lines at the ends of paragraphs with only a couple of words in them and the program would space out those three or four words across the entire width of the text. This left an insane amount of blank space between each of the words. Well, there’s a way to fix that.

It involves clicking on a little tiny, very light toned, almost unnoticeable “button” in the very bottom right hand corner of the Font group under the Home tab. I’ve been marginally aware of that “button” for years but never wondered what it was or had the guts to just click it and see what happened. I’m always worried that by randomly clicking something I will so totally screw up what I’ve worked really hard on so that there is no going back or fixing it. My husband has no such worry despite it sometimes resulting in much swearing. I like to avoid the swearing. I haven’t been too successful with that lately.

I’ve also only recently learned how to create a superscript. Okay, I’ve never claimed to be computer savvy. Then there are all the other little things you need to know about headers and footers and numbering the pages. There is the margin depth to be considered and the depth of the gutter. It’s good also to get the trim size of your pages set from the very beginning.

And none of this addresses the design of the interior of your book. There are people who will do that for you too. But pioneering, can-do individual that I am, I’m doing that myself as well. I must be nuts.


Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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