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Uncle Orson's Writing Class
Formatting Outlines and Manuscripts
March 7, 2006


I remember reading an article you wrote about submitting works of fiction, specifically science fiction/fantasy. You talked about "Query Packets," the proper way to submit them (i.e. send them to every possible publisher), and then waiting patiently for the manuscript requests to start arriving.

My question is this: What is the proper formatting for the plot outline that is supposed to accompany the first 40 (maximum) pages of the manuscript? Also what is the correct formatting for a manuscript?

-- Anonymous

OSC Replies:

Manuscripts are double spaced, page-numbered in the upper right corner, with one-inch margins all around, and a header that gives your last name and the title, so that if the printout is dropped on the floor along with six other manuscripts, it can all be put together again correctly.

Don't justify the right side of the text. Don't use fancy fonts ever. Represent italics by using underlining - when the copy editor is working on it, it's too easy not to see italics, while underlining is unmistakable.

The format for the outline/synopsis is similar - margins, justification, page numbers, header. But it is single spaced, not double. That's because no one will ever edit it, so the double spacing isn't needed.

The font isn't important except that it be very readable - which means use a serif font. It used to be necessary to use a monospace font like Courier, where all the letters are the same width (as with a typewriter). But now that publishers are getting the final manuscript electronically, they can handle an ordinary proportional font. Times Roman is standard, but I use Bookman Old Style because the letters are so open and the text is warm and readable.

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