How to Format Fiction Manuscripts
  • 4-minute read
  • 28th February 2023

How to Format Fiction Manuscripts

Like non-fiction and screenplays, fiction has unique formatting standards designed to ease the publishing process. Whether you’re interested in being a traditionally published or self-published author, a properly formatted manuscript can make all the difference in successfully publishing your creation. Read on for tips on formatting your manuscript to perfection!

Standard Manuscript Format

While some agents or publishers have in-house standards for how manuscripts should be formatted, an industry standard format is generally used for most fiction manuscripts. These include:

●  One-inch (2.5 cm) margins on all sides. If you use Microsoft Word, this is the default setting.

●  A simple font, such as Times New Roman, at 12-point size. While Courier or Arial may also be acceptable, Times New Roman is most agents’ or publishers’ preferred font.

●  Black text on a white background. This ensures that the main feature – your story – isn’t detracted from. The design of the book’s interior will come later in the publishing process.

●  Double-spacing the body text with no spaces between paragraphs.

●  A single space between sentences.

●  Indenting each paragraph by a half-inch (1.25 cm). This can be set in Word by going to FormatParagraphSection Menu.

●  Creating a header in the top right corner containing your last name, manuscript title or keyword(s), and the page number (e.g., Woods/Manuscript/1). This should begin after your title page. Here’s a simple tutorial for Word.

●  Placing “THE END” at the end of your manuscript on its own centered line.

Formatting Chapters

Chapters signify a change in the narrative. You should therefore format them in a way that clearly displays this:

●  Each new chapter should begin on a new page, a third of the way down. Center the chapter title and leave a blank line between it and the beginning of the text.

●  Use page breaks to separate each chapter.

●  Use a blank line with a centered hash symbol (#) to indicate a scene break or time skip.

It’s also common practice to leave the first paragraph of a new chapter or scene un-indented.

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

Dialogue and Description

Dialogue is a crucial part of your story – it brings life to your characters and gives them a voice. So, how should you format dialogue in your story? When a new character is speaking, set the dialogue on a new indented line as if it were its own paragraph:

The curtain of fog shifted.
“How am I able to speak?” the voice echoed in the wind.

When the surrounding text is focused on the same character, their dialogue remains in the same paragraph:

She frantically gazed at her surroundings, racking her mind

for an answer. “Where are you?”

If you’re confused, simply remember the following rule: new speaker, new paragraph.

Italics can be used to create a more dynamic narrative. One way this can be done is to emphasize a word or phrase:

“Why did you do this? Why?” she pleaded.

Italics can also be used to signify a character’s thoughts or memories:

The hours passed slowly. How long will this take? he wondered.

Title Page

No manuscript is complete without a title page, which should adhere to the same guidelines as your overall manuscript. It should also include the following elements:

●  Your contact details in the upper left corner. This consists of your legal name, address, phone number, email, and website (if applicable), each on a separate line.

●  The approximate word count of your manuscript. This goes in the upper right corner. It doesn’t need to be exact – simply round to the nearest 1,000 or 5,000 words (whichever makes more sense considering the overall number).

●  The title of your manuscript, all in uppercase, a third of the way down the page, centered.

●  Your name. This goes just beneath the title, typically preceded with “by.” If you write under a pseudonym, you’d use that here.

●  (Optional) Genre or copyright details, centered at the bottom of the page.


The rules for formatting fiction manuscripts can seem overwhelming at first, but they’re quite simple once you get to grips with these tips! If you’re still unsure, there are lots of templates available online that will help to make the formatting process as easy as possible. Or you can hire someone to professionally format your manuscript so that it stands out in the slush pile.

Need Help Perfecting Your Manuscript?

Our professional editors help all types of authors craft the perfect manuscript. Request a free sample today to see how our expert services can help you polish your manuscript to perfection!

Comments (0)

Got content that needs a quick turnaround?

Let us polish your work.

Explore our editorial business services.

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.