11 January 2011

Formatting nonfiction manuscript

Do you dread formatting, like I do?

Not only it comes when you think you have finished that b***y manuscript and all you want to do is to sit back and admire it; or just get on with it, send it off to the publisher and move onto the next project! Here comes the very independent spirit of Word, Open Office or some other word processor and makes your life a mysery.

Have you ever been a victim of Disappearing Indent Paragraphs? Have you suffered from Stubborn Unmovable Margins? Or have you had to seek medical attention after you've failed to remove that page number and header from the first page gazzilion of times?
Well, I hope someone have said 'yes' at least once, because it will make me feel less lonely in my sufferings.

I admit, I'm technically challenged and I'm crap at reading and understanding manuals, I learn by doing stuff myself. Usually it takes 5-7 successful attempts before I can learn a thing; unless it;s driving somewhere I've never been before. The latter takes months.

Anyway, I've came to the point when I have to format my manuscript, so I've researched the tips thoroughly, as usual, and here is my 5 tips for formatting your manuscript for technically challenged:

1. Get someone else to do it. Must be trustable and experienced in formatting manuscripts for publishing industry.
2. Stay cool. Don't let the blimmin' machine make you go 'off the rails'.
3. If you feel like going off the rails becuase of the flippin' computer, take a break. Repeat until you've finished the formatting.
4. if the computer/word processor keeps playing up - ask someone for help (see p. 1 for advice)
5. Get that done asap, preferably the same day. You stil have The Printing Challenge to enjoy.

And here's some professional advice and some more on how to format fiction and nonfiction manuscripts:

1. Novels and nonfiction books need a cover page: centred book title halfway down the page, skip 2 lines, centre your name/byline, another 2 skipped lines and centred contact details; another 2-3 skips and put your manuscript wordcount.

2. Each chapter on begins on a new page, half way down the page Chapter Title or Number. End chapter with a page break.

3. Running headers on the top of every but the first page, including you name and title.

4. Pages numbered (don't start over with every chapter).

5. Reasonable 12-point font (Times New Roman, Courrier, or follow your publisher guidelines - mine wants Arial), double-spaced.

6. 1'' margins each way (now, I can see another problem for me - my word procesor doesn;t have an option to switch to imperial, it's all in cm and mm), 1/2 inch indent para.

7. No fiddling with anything else.

And here are some very user-friendly step-by-step instructions on  how to do that.

What a shame that I use Open Office :(
Now, off to get that formatting done before tomorrow.

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