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Correct Format for Writing a Novel

Deepa Kartha
The format of a novel is not always taken seriously by people. However, there have been many cases where publishers have sent the manuscript back because it was not formatted properly. Here is a basic idea of formatting a novel.
Writing a novel does not end at completing the story. Rather, the actual work starts from there. Though you may have loved the book and your family and friends cannot stop praising the wonderful story you have written, the actual test comes when it goes to the publisher.
Thousands of manuscripts arrive at a publishing house and the publisher does not have the time to read each of them. In such cases, if the formatting of the script is not done correctly and the person finds difficulty in reading it, there are high chances that it may get rejected. Thus, it is important for the upcoming novelists to know this format.

Novel Format

Most people do not know that a manuscript has to be formatted before it is sent to a publishing house. Though your story is fantastic, if the publisher is unable to read it because of incorrect formatting, your effort may go to waste. Hence, it is necessary to spend as much time formatting the manuscript as rewriting and proofreading it.


Many people like to use stylized fonts while writing a novel. However, doing this in your manuscript is not at all appropriate. Use a font that is easily readable.
It is best to choose one that is serif typeface, like Courier, Times New Roman, etc. and to avoid sans-serif fonts like Verdana, Arial, etc. The font size of your manuscript can be either 12 or 14 points.

Space and Margins

Single-spaced manuscripts are usually considered unacceptable by publishers and editors.
Therefore, it is important for the manuscript to be double spaced. Some publishers may also prefer a triple spaced text. However, this option is not available in all word processors. While putting double spaces between words, you do not have to put an extra space between paragraphs.
However, remember to put a five point indent on the first line of every paragraph. Many people have the habit of choosing the right-justified margin. However, this has to be avoided because it may create huge gaps between words. Rather, stick to a margin of ½ an inch on all the four sides.


Numbering the pages of your manuscript is an important step in the novel formatting process. The numbers should appear in Arabic numerals on the upper right hand corner of the page.
There are people who prefer to put a header of their name and the title of the book on the pages due to the fear that certain pages may get lost among other manuscripts. However, this does not really happen and so this process can be eliminated.

Other Formatting Tips

Every new chapter should begin on a new page. It is better to format and shift the whole paragraph to a new page. This can create large margins at the bottom of the page. However, a single paragraph looks better than a distorted one.

How to Write a Novel

Though you may have a great idea in your mind, the moment you sit to pen down your thoughts, no words come to you. This is quite a common phenomenon that most writers experience, and hence there is no reason to feel disheartened.
The problem here is that you are not able to organize your thoughts clearly, which is very important to write a novel. Here are some methods which you can use in the process of writing a novel.
If you have a story idea in your mind, think of the genre or category that it will fall in. For example, you may choose to write a science fiction, romance, horror, or tragic novel. Though it is always good to read novels based on similar genres to know about the styles of different writers, it is important to create a writing style of your own.
Once you have selected the genre, the next step will be to write the outline. Many great writers have said that they actually format the ending first and develop a story that leads to it.
This will help you in deciding the central problem of the novel, the obstacles that the primary character will have to face, and all the other events that will finally result in the ending of the novel. You also have to decide on the point of view that you are going to take while narrating the story, in the outline.
After writing the outline, the next step will be to decide about the main characters. One of the main factors of a successful novel is to create characters who are closer to real life. You have to decide the characters' personalities, mannerisms, behavior, attitudes, etc. They can be based upon people whom you have met or meet regularly.
While writing the novel, there will be several parts where you have to include dialogs between characters. This has to be done very carefully, because badly written dialogs can spoil the whole novel.
Remember that the dialogs in your novel should sound like everyday conversations that people have in real life. Also, avoid writing long sentences as people usually use short sentences during real life conversations.
Once you have finished writing the novel, go through it again. You may like to make several changes or add details to it to make the narrative interesting for the readers.
After this comes the part of proofreading, where you have to check for grammatical mistakes and typos. It is important to proofread the manuscript several times to make sure that there are no silly mistakes in it.
After the creative process of writing a novel, formatting may seem to be too boring to you. However, remember that formatting has the ability to decide the fate of your novel. Therefore, start formatting your manuscript and see your dream of getting your book published come true.