Hello, writer! If you’ve been following our articles on using Google Docs for novelists or simply want to turn your online book into a fully-formatted manuscript for literary submissions… we have just the thing for you!
Preparing a novel in manuscript format using Google Docs
First things first, if you simply want to read about manuscript format, check out this one-stop guide from Kelly Hart on Scribophile!
However, we plan to focus on the easy step by step process for fulfilling those requirements in Google Docs. At the end, we’ll include a few helpful notes on exporting the completed files!
Prepare yourself for the easiest system possible: top down! We’ll begin with everything that can be done inside Google’s top bar, move on to the title page, and end with the novel’s body.
There are some huge benefits to going in this order! Title page spacing and chapter orientation won’t need readjustment later if you make sure the page dimensions, font, and letter size are in order.
A good number of details can be cleaned up in just moments using the top bar, which looks like this:
Let’s go down the checklist:
1. The margins. Now, you shouldn’t need to worry about margin size. Why? Margins should be 3cm, which translates to about an inch… the normal setting for Google Doc files! *fist pump*
Even if you changed the margins to something else, there’s a quick fix: open the “View” menu, and choose “Show Ruler.” Manually adjust the arrows on the ruler back to the proper margin setting:
2. For steps 3-5, select the entire document. Go into the “Edit” menu, and find “Select All.” Or, if you have a Mac, simply hit “Command ⌘-A.”
3. Align your document to the left side only. This helps maintain continuity in spacing. Allow your document’s right side to run ragged.
4. Font: type, size, and color:
Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman font only! Google Docs automatically puts all documents in Arial so you should fine… STILL, hit one of the options anyway, just to be safe. If you ever pasted any text – quotes or whatnot – they may have an improper font.
(There are exceptions to this rule. For example: an “insert”, those short clippings meant to resemble handwritten notes or articles, can be different. Still, you might want to use an accepted fonts until the manuscript has been bought.)
Size: 12-point. Google Docs set the default to 11-point font for some reason! This may become normal for manuscripts in the future, but until that change becomes official, stick with classic 12-point.
Color: black font. Please, no reds, blues, or greens. Especially not green, Rita Skeeter. Keep it professional!
5. Double space. This helps readability and leaves room for markup. Since most submissions are electronic, there’s also no need to worry about hurting the environment with a huge printout. Thank goodness!
6. (Extra) Indent the entire document. Remember the margin arrow? The small rectangle above it can be manipulated separately to ensure new paragraphs and lines of dialogue indent perfect. Aim for one centimeter or half an inch:
The all-important title page. Now that your manuscript settings are in order, you’re prepared to tackle the beast! Let’s continue, going top to bottom:
1. Place agent details at the top left. When you start sending to publishers, this lets them know which agency represents your work.
2. The Middle: title, “By”, your name, and word count rounded to the nearest hundred. Here’s an example:
Approx. 92,800 words
(To find Word Count, head into the “Tools” menu. Or, if using a Mac, hit “Command ⌘-Shift-C” which can be used to find the word count of a highlighted area.)
3. Place contact info at the bottom right. We recommend: your name, your email, your phone number. If the manuscript was printed, your home address might be a good idea. Might be.
4. Copyright info… isn’t necessary. But if you want to include it, double-click the lower 1-inch margin of your Google Document. This will activate the footer section.
There are a few peculiarities about a manuscript’s body that must be dealt with carefully!
First, start each chapter a third of the way down your page. To do this, we suggest carefully adjusting your first chapter. Then, choose one of two paths:
1. Copy the blank space, line up the next chapter with the top of a page, and simply hit “Paste.” Or-
2. Mentally tally how many times you hit “Enter,” then manually move every chapter into position.
Unfortunately, we’re unaware of a Google Document function that can make this process easier. The good news? It doesn’t take that long anyway! At most, probably around 15 minutes.
Finally, place either a hashtag or “The End” at the bottom of your document. This lets the reader know your novel has ended (while simultaneously providing you with a huge sense of relief).
Once all else has been completed, remember that Google Documents can be saved in a huge range of types with the “File” menu. If you need a Word Document, PDF, or webpage (seriously), there’s an option just a click away!
There are many points along the path of novel writing that bring an immense feeling of joy: the completion of a draft, the conclusion of an edit, the sending of query letters. Crafting a fine-looking manuscript for submissions should come with that same sense of pride. We hope you enjoy the result: proper formatting is like the bow on a well-packaged present!