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What formatting to use for a novel?
  • I need help! I am wondering what formatting to use for my novel. I've been checking this out on the Internet, hoping to find some nice images of what to put in the 'page layout' boxes in a Microsoft Word document (margins, headers and footers, font size, paragraphs, line spacing etc) but it is all rather confusing. I am writing for the UK market and there are lots of samples of formatting online but mainly for the American market. Soooo if any of you more experienced, talented people out there could assist with this, I would be eternally grateful (maybe eternally's a little bit OTT - but you get my meaning.) Thanks - Isabella
  • Are you self-publishing? Have a look at Amazon's CreateSpace pages. They have templates you can use. There's also a forum where people have asked similar questions to yours.
  • Nip down the library or book shop and have a look at how other people have done it and to see which you like the look of.
  • Hi Baggy Books, thanks for the response. I will probably go the POD road. I couldn't find the discussion you referred to on Talkback (perhaps you could give me the search keyword for it, so I can find it that way as the link didn't work) - I did find the following on the Internet:

    Formatting for a 6x9 inch book
    Top 1.75
    Bottom 1.75
    Left 1.88
    Right 1.88
    Header 1.50
    Footer 1.50
    Gutter 0.13

    I am wondering if there is a standard set up? I am only 20,000 words into my novel but I think it would be easier to start the layout format now if possible. Your help is much appreciated.
  • Thank you Phots Moll, I like the look of the Nordic Noir type books - e.g. Jo Nesbo, however, I am after specifics in terms of what to put in the page layout boxes in Microsoft Word. I thought there would be a standard layout to follow?
  • You need to go to the CreateSpace website - that's where you will find help and advice about formatting. You can download templates that will have the margins set for you - no need to do it the hard way. They will also accommodate the spine - so that the margins are deeper on the inside margin.

    I would focus on finishing the book. Once you've done that you will need to edit and edit and edit. Worry about the page size when the manuscript's ready.
  • I suggest writing it first. Then doing all the many edits and rewrites it's likely to need. Then get feedback and do the next rounds of rewrites and edits. Then have it proofread and only then format it.
  • Thank you Baggy Books and Phots Moll, I will finish the book first then, before worrying about the layout.
  • I wonder what effect seeing the page as it will appear has? I've been reading the publisher's pdf of a friend's book, and it really looks like a novel and not at all like a draft. Mine's not ready for that yet, but it will be somehow distancing, I think.
  • Hi Mrs Bear, I thought it would help me to see it in proper Novel format, more inspiring, but I guess I will wait until I have finished as I can't seem to find any templates that tell me what margins/font/line spacing/gutter/header and footer etc. to use. From the feedback I've received, Createspace seems to be the place to go to check this out.
  • Have a look at http://createspaceandme.co.uk – you might find some of my tips of interest.

  • Thanks Baggy Books, I will check out your tips for sure.
  • Mrs Bear said:

    it really looks like a novel and not at all like a draft.

    That's the reason I think it's a bad idea to do it before the novel has gone through the major edits. If it looks like a proper novel, there will be a huge temptation to think that's what it is and rush to publish.

    Later on in the process, formatting it will be useful - because of the distance you mention.
  • I would argue against formatting your text before finishing the story as psychologically you will see it as a finished book and will be less inclined to make edits.

    If you want to format anything, keep the working text, chapter headings and all, using the same paragraph settings (font; size; space before and after paras; etc.) throughout the drafting stage. This will make it easier to format the text later.
  • Good idea Mike Olley, I think I will continue as I am already. I am a bit of an order freak and I like to justify paragraphs and do block quotes. If I have to change all that later down the track, then so be it...
  • That is how you should do it – concentrate on the writing for now... which is what PM and I said up the top!
  • Yes indeed. Mine was just an idle throw-in of a thought, not a suggestion.
  • This is one of the things I like so much about writing in Scrivener - it keeps your drafts as they should be, just a stream of text. You don't have to worry about pages or layouts or anything like that, you just write the words. Only when you compile everything into a manuscript and export it to Word (or wherever) does it even start to resemble a book. It definitely helps keep you focused on the writing, rather than daydreaming about seeing it in Waterstones.
  • You mean there's a way NOT to dream of seeing your movel published?