The Manuscript 101


 The Manuscript 101

First and foremost, let me say that a manuscript is just a fancy word for your story, be it short story, novel or in between. It is the author’s original document or work whether it’s handwritten, typed or word processed. From this you will make copies and send them off for publishing or enter them into competitions.

One of the most important things I have learnt since I started my journey in April 2015 was how to set out a manuscript. It was also something I noticed in my daughter’s writing, she set things out quite similar to how I did when I first started. I am not sure if this is because of what is being taught in schools or if it’s something she picked up from reading my work early last year.

Presentation is one of the most important things that an author will ever learn. Next to grammar, punctuation and spelling. You, by all means, do not need to be an expert in any of these fields. It is after all, why we, as writers, have been gifted with editors and friends. But it makes a huge difference in how your work is viewed by professionals and whether or not they will read past the first line.

I want to point out that in Australia, as with most things about us Aussies, we do things a little differently. This isn’t just the fact that we add an ‘U’ to labour, colour or similar, or we use an ‘S’ instead of a ‘Z’. Dialogue is also an area we differ in.

In Australia, we use single quotation marks for dialogue or speech. For example;
‘Run along,’ Mr Matthews sighed.
Most other countries tend to use the double quotations. We only use these when we are quoting something.
‘Your exact words were, “Touch it and I will make you pay.” How did I misunderstand that?’ Sally sighed.
Also, new speaker equals new paragraph. But I will go into dialogue more another day.

Overall, there seems to be a standard in which most publishers prefer to see in the manuscripts that are submitted to them. Based on what I have come across for submission guidelines, advice from other writers and what I have found on the internet.

As with everything I post, please understand they are guidelines and not set rules. As with a lot of things in life writing evolves over time, it changes and adapts with our way of life, technology and development. The changes in speech from using do not and they are to don’t and they’re are a classic example of this.

I will state now; it is easier to set up your work correctly right from the very beginning. Nothing is worse than finishing a 100,000 word novel or more and realising that you didn’t indent new paragraphs, used the wrong quotation marks or the wrong set up. Trust me, it makes for a very boring, repetitive few days. In my case, I had completed two and a half manuscripts before someone pointed it out to me. That was a horrible few days afterwards for me and a whole lot of coffee.

I will go through submitting your work later, but for now we will focus on the layout. If you have any issues or need help with anything feel free to contact me.

Setting up your manuscript for submission

Please note: I will also set this up the guidelines as a PDF so you it can print it easily and stick them to your wall. And as much as I’d love to make it all fancy, I will stick within the guidelines to help show you what I am talking about. I have so many tips and hints scribbled notes or things I kept doing wrong, stuck to my wall. A lot could come down but for now they are my quick reference guides.


As you can see my wall is covered in sticky notes, tips and Avengers figurines.

  • Use a word processor to write up your story. This can be Microsoft Word, Pages, Open Office or similar. Microsoft Publisher is not generally recommended. There are some programs like Scrivener that are meant to be great, but I haven’t had a lot to do with them.
  • Double space the lines in your document and use wide margins (2.54cm all around) This is done in the layout area of your program.
  • Paragraphs should be indented, mine sit at 1.27cm. Or given a line space between. NEVER right justify your work.
  • Use an easy to read font. Most publishers prefer Times New Roman or Ariel. Most places prefer font size 11 or 12.
  • Always use italic when referencing the title of something, for example: Suzie spent the evening reading The Hunger Games.
  • Add a cover page. If you use word, there is a function that will add it for you. This should include the title (in a large font), your name, address, phone number and word count.
  • Add headers and footers, include in them the title, your name, page number of how many in total.
  • New Chapters should begin six or seven lines down the page and be clearly marked.
  • Check your document for spelling and grammar. Always run but never trust spell checker. It can at times be quite deceptive. This is the same with online grammar checkers such as Grammarly.
  • When you print for a physical submission (most publishers allow for electronic submissions) print on white A4 paper, single sided with black ink. Fancy paper, ink or font will be looked at kindly as it’s not deemed professional.
  • Don’t staple your work. Use a clip instead.


Click below for a printable PDF version of the

Setting up your manuscript for submission

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