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The Write Process: Formatting

Hurray! You’ve completed your manuscript and its run the gammut of editing. Now it’s time to format for publishing.

I am going to be honest. Formatting your manuscript for print can be a total pain. Formatting isn’t just an issue for self-published authors. A poorly formatted manuscript will quickly get your work rejected by agents and traditional publishers alike.

Formatting for Traditional Publishing

Thankfully, manuscript formatting is fairly straight forward. Most writing software already has a manuscript template or setting that cuts down on your work immensely. Still, it’s good to know what the guidelines are in case you need to format on your own. The following is a screenshot of a template for Microsoft Word.

The title page should include your name and contact information, number of words in your manuscript, as well as the obvious title and by line.

Headers should have the author’s last name, the title of the book, and page number.

The Body of the manuscript requires a little more work. If you have chapter titles, include them instead of the basic Chapter One. There should be one-inch margins and double spacing between lines. Text should be Times New Roman with 12pt font. Some Agents and publishers may require slightly different settings or additional content, but these are the basics.

Formatting for Self-Publishing

This is where things get more complicated. Most people skip this part altogether and rely on a formatting program or pay a professional to do it for them. How you format your self published novel depends on your genre and personal style.

There are some template available online, most of them are for word. How you format your self-published work also depends on what publishing platform you decide to use, and if you are publishing an Ebook or Print Book. Sites like Ingram Spark, Draft2Digital, Amazon KDP, and LuLu all provide either a template of guidelines for submission.

If you plan to publish with Amazon, the process isn’t as bad. Amazon provides users with a free formatting app, Kindle Create, for ebooks that simplifies the process immensely. While the app says it works for print as well, having personally used it, I cannot confirm that claim. Hopefully, there will be a way in the future as this is still in Beta testing. Below is a screenshot of Kindle Create using the word file from the manuscript template shown above.

The Write Process: Editors

Editing can not only be expensive but you have to be sure what editing you are getting in the process. Each editor will have their own system and definitions so be sure to check their website to clarify what services they provide and the cost of each.

Professional editing costs range from $300-$5000 depending on what type of editing you choose, the length of your manuscript, and the amount of errors in your work.

Three Main Types of Editing

Copy Editing– Focuses on basic grammar and punctuation. Sometimes called line editing or proofreading. Usually, the cheapest form of editing. Many editors charge by the word with an average cost of $0.34-$0.50 per word.

Content Editing– focuses on plot and story structure. I prefer to do this type of editing on my own but its always a good idea to have an outside pair of eyes take a look. Whether you pay a professional or rely on your Alpha/Beta readers to help with this is up to you. Cost is similar to Copy Editing.

Comprehensive Editing– Both Copy and Content editing, also style editing in some cases. The most expensive type of editing, but worth it if you don’t want to do as much editing on your own.

Finding the Right Editor

Editing is one area you don’t want to cut corners. Finding the right editor for you and your budget is a lengthy but necessary process. While you can find editors on gig sites like Fiverr or smaller independent editors through social media, I highly suggest checking out more reputable sources first. Even if you only get a free test edit from a larger expensive editing firm. It can show you what you need to look for before taking a chance on a smaller operation.

Things to Consider

  • Find an editor in your niche– if the editor you find mostly works with non fiction they may not be a good fit for your high fantasy epic
  • Ask about different payment options– With some services having large price tags, most editors have some sort of payment plan or down payment system. be sure to ask before committing to any editor
  • Get a sample edit!– The editor might look perfect on their website, they may even check all your perceived criteria but until you see how they work with your writing, you can’t be sure they are what you need.
  • Find editors based on books you love– it’s more common for editors to be listed in the copyright section of books. So pick up a few books in your genre and find which ones you absolutely loved. Maybe their editor will be open to new clients.

Editors Associations

The Write Process: Alphas and Betas

I know in my Rules for writing a first draft I stated “not to talk about write club” but that was just for the initial output of ideas. Now that your draft is completed and you’ve given it cursory scrub in the first edit, it’s time to share the wealth. I am not talking about hitting the publish button just yet. Your draft is still just that a draft and it will go through several more drafts before it’s done. This is where alpha readers, beta readers, and professional editors come in.

Alpha Readers

These are the first people to lay eyes on your work. Their critiques can help you find the holes in your plot that you hadn’t noticed before. Tell you if your characters are relatable and give you input on how marketable your story may be. These are all good insights to have before shipping your work off to the editor or pitching your manuscript to an agent or publishing company.

Beta Readers

Betas are your final scrub team. They can also be the same group you used as Alpha readers or a completely different set of people all together. Beta readers will give you many of the same insights as Alpha readers but since they will have your completed and formatted work at their disposal they can also check for formatting errors and anything else missed in previous rounds of polishing. Most Beta Readers will also gladly provide reviews for your books in exchange for the opportunity to read your story before its published.

Where to Find Your Crew

The best place to find Alpha’s and Betas is within your own writing circle. People within your local writing group, other writer friends.

Family members you can trust to give honest feedback. I myself use my sisters and sometime even my mom to help me with my drafts. I am lucky in that they all are avid readers of the genre I write and really don’t care about hurting my feelings if they feel the story isn’t up to par.

I have also used writers groups online. Simply asking for people who would be interested in being a beta reader, although this approach is hit or miss. Out of the ten that said they were interested, only five provided emails to receive my work and out of those five only two actually provided feedback. One I traded critiques with but none were repeat customers.

By far the best experience I had online with finding critiques online was using the writer’s community of Scribophile. The site is a critique for critique format and while it takes work to get a good community, it’s definitely worth it in my opinion.

Check out Scribophile Here

The Write Process: 1st Edit

First I would like to say that even if you are the best grammarian you know, having a professional look over your work is always best. With that being said, before you drop $$$ on that professional look you should at least do some editing on your own.

If you are going the traditionally published route, unless you already have a deal in place your first draft isn’t what you want to submit to a publisher for review. At the very least, your work needs to be edited for major plot holes.

That’s why in my writing process, plot holes is the first round of editing. Unless you outlined you story to death beforehand, it’s very common to find glaring holes in your plot or actions that don’t really make sense to your characters personality or motivation.

This first look is strictly about tightening up your story. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation just yet. Why not? I personally think that it’s better to stay in the free form mode when editing for the plot. I am more creative that way and my new writing may not be so grammatically correct. I rather catch all of that at once, if I can.

Bonus doing some self-editing can save you money on professional editing. The more polished the draft, the less time and corrections for the editor to make. Depending on the length of your work and how your chosen editor charges their fee, that could mean the difference of a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars.

The Write Process: Wait

I know what you are thinking, wait? You found the perfect idea, crafted an amazing outline, and bust out that first draft like a boss. You are immensely excited about your work and want to push it to the finish line! That’s great but now you need to take a step back.

You might be tempted to jump into editing your masterpiece, but taking the time away will give you a fresh set of eyes. You will come back to your draft able to see more small errors and plot holes when you are less familiar with the piece.

I’m not asking you to wait a super long time. Give yourself a week to rest and mull over exactly what you want out of your completed manuscript. I like to read a book or binge on all the shows I missed while fussing over the start of my work. Then when I am fuzzy on the details, I get back to work.

So wait! Maybe check out and Subscribe to the Serpentine Creative Channel on Youtube. Then check back here next week for the first steps in the editing process.

The Write Process: First Draft

This article is going to be a little more pep talk than informative. Writing the first draft is a significant accomplishment for any writer. It’s the first chance to see where that idea in your head is going to go. Even if you have outlined your story to death, surprises are sure to come when you finally put pen to paper.

Here is a list of “rules” I use to get my first draft completed with as little hair pulling and head bashing as possible.

Rule 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff

The first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect. Don’t fret if not all your characters have the perfect names or one scene doesn’t quite fit the way you hoped.

Rule 2: Don’t Edit

If you are anything like me, you may be tempted to polish that paragraph a bit. Fix those spelling errors and minor grammar issues as you go. Don’t do it. Not only will it slow the writing process but how will you know if your paragraph makes since there if you don’t have completed work.

Rule 3: Don’t talk about Write Club

It may be super tempting to discuss your cool ideas with friends, family, and fellow writers. While it’s not always bad to bounce ideas off people when you get stuck on something, it can also lead to second-guessing your plan.

Rule 4: Deadlines are suggestions

Unless you have a publisher breathing down your neck, take your time. Getting the first draft done is arguably the best part of the writing process. The time when your imagination should be able to roam free and mingle with your excitement to write. Take your time and smell the pages.

Rule 5: Just write!

You can’t have a first draft if you never write it in the first place. Writing is hardly the best time and best place sort of activity. Get your words in whenever you can and don’t be afraid to mix things up to help you get in the writing groove.

Now that you know the “rules” for completing your first draft, it’s time to get writing!

The Write Process: Outlining

I am not going to get into the Plotter or Pantser debate in this post. I am simply going to provide my opinion on outlining in the process of writing. Now that you have an Idea of what you want to write, it’s time to get those ideas organized. How you organize them, like everything else in writing, is based on your personal preference.

Ways I Outline

Get the bigger picture and find some wall space! It doesn’t have to be an entire wall but maybe the size of a large wall calendar. Give yourself enough space to expand with as much or as little detail as you see fit.

Use note cards both physical and virtual! Note cards work great when you need to shuffle ideas around. Most writing specific software includes a note card format in their outline section for that reason.

Remember your outline doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. A simple line graph can be just as effective for some people. Outlining is a key step that shouldn’t be skipped. A good working outline will not only help you create your masterpiece in record time, but will help streamline the editing process.

The Write Process: Ideology

Ideas are Key!

Before you even put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, you need to have an idea. Some call it a spark of genius, others just dumb luck. No matter how it gets to your brain, that is where the magic starts. Here are a few ways I get my ideas flowing.

Television and Movies

I am a sucker for Korean drama! Give me a Kpop idol crush any day and it’s bound to put sappy romantic ideas in my head. There is a reason why fanfiction is so popular. Even the best plots can deal with a little tweaking or continuation. Just remember to put your own spin on things to avoid plagiarism.

As if you needed an excuse to binge your favorite programming

Daily Events

Ever have a day that turned out crazier than anyone would believe? Well, guess what? You just found a new story or poetry idea. Your local news outlet might have some crazy story ideas for you too.

Imagine your character as one of those laid off journalist or perhaps fictionalize the life of an Oscar Winning Composer

Writing Prompts

Maybe you don’t have time for inspiration to just strike or you’re feeling a tad lazy on the imagination front. There are plenty of places online to find writing prompts. My favorite places are Reddit and Google. Seriously! Just google writing prompt and your preferred style/genre. I dare you.

A simple google search can lead you in the “write” direction!

Word Generators

Random word generator– There are several random word generators online that give you a handful of words to test your creative ability.

Try writing a paragraph using these ten words

Now that you’ve gotten a few ideas on where to get ideas, it’s time to bust out your favorite writing tool(s) and get to work! Feel free to share your muse magic in the comments.

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