Basics of writingFormatting

Formatting your novel with Styles—Part 3: adding more styles

From Rick:

With this post I will finish up this series. So far, we have set up our NORMAL style and SCENE BREAK style. A typical novel normally won’t need more than a half-dozen styles. You’ll probably want ones for chapters, chapter titles (if you use them), timeline (which I’ll explain in a moment), book title and author name. If you’re writing a novel that has named scene sections within a chapter, then you’ll need Styles for those.

Let me go through some Styles I’ve used that you can try. You can customize them for your own needs. In each case, create a new Style, then make the settings that I suggest. MS Word does have some built-in Styles like Book Title, which you can modify, but I prefer to create new ones.

TITLE: I use this for a book title. You’re probably only going to use it once per book, but if you plan on writing more than one book, then you have it in your template. Click on Modify. Base it on Normal Style, set to 24 pt bold, alignment= centered. Go to Format/Paragraph. Indentation should be 0,0 and Special changed to None (no first line indent). I set spacing 24 pt before and 24 pt after. The reason for this spacing to allow separation when you put the author name under it. Be sure you don’t change the line spacing. Since the Style is based on Normal, when you change the line spacing for Normal (as I’ll have you do later on), it will affect the line spacing for all the Styles based on Normal (which is usually what you want), and not the space before and after (which will remain as you set it).

Remember that while you can always forego creating a separate Style for the book’s title and just modify that one line in the Normal Style. When it comes to things like chapter names and chapter titles, you want to be able to modify all of them and only those if you need to. If you put those in the Normal Style, then you’ll have to modify each one separately if you decide the make changes.

CHAPTER: 16 pt, bold, alignment= centered, indent special= none, spacing before=0, after=18.

CHAPTER TITLE: 14 pt (or 12 pt), bold, centered, indent special= none, spacing after= 18.

SUBTITLE: 18 pt, bold, centered, indent special=none. I use this for the author name, and you can use it wherever you need a larger heading font.

TIMELINE: Leave same size as Normal font, italics, alignment= left, indent special= none. I use this at the beginning of a scene or chapter when you want to indicate any combination things like date, time, location. Not all novels will need or want this, but I find the italics is best.

DON’T FORGET TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS IN THE PREVIOUS ARTICLES TO SAVE THE DOCUMENT AS A TEMPLATE! And don’t forget to select the option to save for all documents based on that template before you close out of the Styles dialog.

There’s also another consideration to using Styles for spacing before and after. It’s considered best not to put blank lines in a manuscript for an e-book because sometimes too many returns can mess up the e-book formatting later. This is why you use a Style and set the before and after spacing. It also makes everything consistent so that you don’t have something like two blank lines after a chapter title in one case and three in another.

When I set up Punctuation For Fiction Writers I had a lot more Styles to allow for things like examples that I wanted to set off from the main text. I set that book using block paragraphs, meaning there were no first line indents for paragraphs. In that kind of book, it makes for a cleaner presentation and is easier to read. One of the Styles I used was for the examples. For that Style, I used left and right indents of 0.3 and set the special indent to none. I also used before and after spacing of 6. One other difference in that Style is that I made the Style following as “Examples” as well because I often had multiple examples to present and didn’t want to have to reselect the Style after each one. After I entered all of the examples for that topic, I selected Normal to go back to the main Style of the book.

Again, using a Style for that meant I could easily change the before and after spacing at any time for all of the examples if I decided I needed to. It was because of the need to set up that book for easy formatting that I learned about Styles in the first place. It became apparent early in the writing that I needed a way to organize the formatting from the beginning or I was going to waste a lot of time whenever I decided the format needed to be adjusted. In addition, setting up Styles means you can experiment much more easily to get the look you want.

The last thing I want to cover on this topic is how to set your formatting while you’re writing and what changes to make for the final format.

I recommend setting Normal to either 1.5 line spacing or double line spacing while writing. This makes it easier for you to read and edit. You’ll also want it set to left-justified. However, once you’re ready to format for publishing, you don’t want wide line spacing. It looks bad in an e-book (amateurish even) and in the print book will take up a lot more pages (adding to the cost of the book).

The line spacing in the final will depend on what looks good in the font you choose for the final. Some people will set line spacing to 1.0, but I’ve found that 1.1 has some advantages. First, to set that odd spacing for your Normal Style, under Format/Paragraph you have the drop-down option to select “Multiple.” Choose that and in the box to the right of it enter 1.1.

Here’s why I chose that. Let’s say you have a chapter that ends at the bottom of a page such that it pushes an extra blank page in the book. You don’t want a blank page. What you can do is select some or all of the text on that last page, then change the line spacing (in the Word ribbon on the Home tab, click the line spacing icon’s down arrow) and set the selected text’s spacing to 1.05. This won’t make the line spacing change apparent to the reader (since it’s so tiny), but it will usually resolve your problem. If doesn’t simply select more text and experiment until the problem is fixed.

One should avoid having three or fewer lines appear at the top of a page. When this occurs, you can fix it either by decreasing the line spacing of the previous page or by increasing it to 1.15 to push more text onto that last page of the chapter. However, you should avoid drastic changes to line spacing or it will be noticeable. Stick to plus or minus 0.05 differences in the line spacing.

Finally, once the manuscript is done, you’ll want to fully justify the lines so the right margins are even. Again, go into the Normal Style and modify (Format/Paragraph) the justification to “Justified.” Alternatively, you can do it in the Modify window by choosing the icon for justified text.

I hope I’ve covered everything and that you found this series useful. If you take the time to play with Styles, you’ll end up with better and more professional manuscripts.


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