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How To Format a Novel

The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. Something with poor readability probably won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for the reader’s first impression, interior design can’t be overlooked.

Here are 12 tips on how your self-published novel should appear.  I have recently come across a few new authors who have published new fiction and their book ended up looking very amateurish and hard to read. 

Tip #1. Beginning Pages. The important pages such as title page, dedication, and tags extracted from reviews of the book, should be assigned an ‘odd‘ numbered page. The less important content, such as Copyright Notice, a list of the author’s other books and Acknowledgements should appear on’ even‘ numbered pages.  Not to worry if you have a ‘blank’ page on the left (even numbered) opposite the title page, for example. Once your book is built, it will look normal.

Sample. Title Page: (text centered and nicely spaced on page). 

                                            Angel of Murder  (minimum of 20 pt. font)

                                               (4-5 spaces between)

 

                                               by   (10 pt. font)

                                       Trisha Sugarek      (12 pt. font)

 

        Book #4 in the World of Murder series (12 pt. font)

Tip #2. Many new authors (as I spoke of above) have neglected to have a ‘Copyright Notice’ page. This is what it looks like. It is very important as it puts all plagiarists on notice that this content is owned by you, the author.  Note: If you quote anyone in your book you should give them a line of credit.
Sample:  (Text should be centered on the page). 
                                                                                 
                                         Notice (double space)
Copyright (c) 2020 Trisha Sugarek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Author. Printed in the United States of America. For information contact author at www.writeratplay.com. The Library of Congress has catalogued the soft cover edition of this book as follows: Sugarek, Trisha, The Writer’s Journal/Trisha Sugarek – This is a journal/handbook. The suggestions and tips are solely the opinion of the author. The quotes were taken from various publications and the author takes no responsibility for the accuracy.

                                    Made in the USA ISBN-13: 9798669379384

                                    Poetry and ink drawings by Trisha Sugarek

                                   Cover and Layout Design by David White

                  To view all of the author’s fiction and play scripts go to:
                                   www.writeratplay.com

Tip #3.  Layout of first few pages:  A quick way to see what I am describing is to pick up any novel by a known, published author and see the layout of the first few pages. For the most part Publishers use the same order and layout. ‘Acknowledgements’ (odd numbered page) can be placed in the front pages or at the end, in the back.  This is a list of people or organizations that have assisted you.

Sample: (centered text)

                                                     Acknowledgments

My friend and beta reader, Doug Johnson, whose insights, feedback and encouragement made this a better story.
My wonderful narrator/producer, Daniel Dorse, who helps me take these stories to Audio Books.
The Chatham County Coroner’s office.
And the many police and crime scene experts who share their time and knowledge so generously with me while writing this series.

Tip #4. Each chapter should be on an odd numbered page. The word ‘Chapter‘ can be used, however I’ve noticed that more and more authors are just using the number of the chapter or spelling out the number (One, Two, Three, etc). Placement is arbitrary;  I like to space down 5-7 spaces.  I use a 16-18 size font, and it should be centered. I often times use a different font style for chapter headings. Text should follow after a double space, when beginning new paragraphs.  Paragraphs shouldn’t be too long. 8,10, maximum of 12 lines is when you should begin a new paragraph. I’ve seen authors go up to as many as 22. Of course, content and a natural break also dictates a new paragraph.

Tip #5: Your contact information should never appear on the interior except if you are submitting it to a agent, publisher, etc. (That’s a whole different subject; submitting your ms.)  You can list your website address and/or your email address.

Tip #6:  Pages should be numbered and numbering should begin with the first chapter page. Pages preceding this should not be numbered. Page numbers can be created automatically by using your header or footer feature. Your name, as author, should be on each even numbered page and the title of the book should be on odd numbered pages, in the header. 

Tip #7: Separation between sentences: Single space. For submission, read their guidelines; they require 1.5 to double spaced (for easier reading) but never single spaced.

Tip #8: Indentation of paragraphs: You can set this up using:  Home, the ‘Paragraph’ tab; the arrow to the right:   will open the menu. Alignment: Justified. Do not choose ‘left’ or ‘right’ but rather, Choose ‘Special’. Set it at ‘First line‘ 0.3 or 0.5.  Click on ‘Set As Default’ and then ‘This Document only?’  Yes.
 

Tip #9: When to Start a New Chapter:  Simply put a new chapter is usually begun when the physical location has changed or when the POV (point of view) has changed. Almost never start a new chapter between sentences between the same characters. It breaks the flow of the story and interrupts the reader’s concentration.  I recently read a new author’s self published book that 323 pages and 111 chapters. ONE HUNDRED-ELEVEN chapters! 

Tip #10: Word count:  A full length novel is 80,000 words and up.  A novella or cozy is approximately 37 to 40,000.  A short story is about 5,000-10,000 words. 

Tip #11: If your page arrangement causes you to have a blank odd numbered page that seems awkward:  Put another title page on it.  I just finished reading a Robert B. Parker mystery where they use 3 title pages before I got to the first chapter. So as you can see, there is no hard and fast rule.  

Tip #12:  Use 12 point,  New Times Roman as the font. Single space the entire chapter. There are no double spacing between paragraphs.-

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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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A Slice of Time….How to Write a Ten Minute Play

I always see the script (for a 10 minute play) as a slice of time. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was a slice of time before the event that prompted me writing the play. ‘Parkland Requiem’ was during  the event, that is the massacre that happened at Parkland’s high school. We all know what happened immediately after the shooting and not much before the shooting other than it was a normal day of  families getting ready for the day and hopeful young people hurrying off to school. 

For me, the writer, it’s like walking into a room where people are having a conversation (without you) and you are plunged into the story from there.

None of the rules of writing change when writing a ten minute play, just because it’s short. You must still have a beginning, an arc, and an ending(of sorts). You have to introduce the characters through dialogue quickly and concisely. You must attract the empathy of the audience with record speed. Remember, you only have ten minutes.

How do I know when I have ten minutes? Here’s some tips: The typical rule is a page equals one minute.  If a page is heavy with blocking, (movement) it will usually go longer than a minute. If you have a page that is solid with dialogue and movement you can rely on the 1 page = 1 minute. And leave lots of white space; an actor will need some space to write in blocking, from the director, and notes while in rehearsal. 
 

Check out my many “Motivational Moments for Writers” in past posts. 
Want to try your hand at writing a ten minute play? This journal is a great place to start. 
Want to see more of my ten minute plays? Click here 

Do you need help Formatting a Novel? 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Improve Your Creative Writing Skills

Adam Durnham shares his article on improving creative writing skills with us. 

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills
by Contributing Writer, Adam Durnham

Creative pieces are usually meant to entertain, but since readers often want more than mere entertainment, they expect literary pieces to challenge the mind and tickle the imagination. For some, writing or reading literary pieces could also be a form of art therapy.
Though these standards are quite simple, they may put more pressure on writers. The more advanced readers are, the higher the standards they set for the authors’ literary pieces.

Here are four tips that can help people improve their creative writing skills:

Do not underestimate your readers’ ability to understand and imagine

Leave room for your readers to imagine the backstory, the motivation of the characters, and the exposition (the elements that explain the story). You don’t have to reveal all of these in graphic detail all at once. You can give clues or foreshadow some events in the story, but be careful about revealing every element at the start of the piece. Let your readers use their imaginations and formulate theories.

Identify the key points of your story, specifically taking note of the following:

i. What is the main goal of your protagonist? Try to create a protagonist who is interesting or unique in some way.

ii. What are the relevant actions your protagonist takes towards the completion of his or her goal? The protagonist of the story could make conscious decisions that drive and direct the entirety of the story.
iii. What are some unexpected outcomes of the protagonist’s decision(s)?
iv. What are some details related to the literary piece’s setting, tone, and dialogue that can help you reveal the story to the readers?
v. What is the climax of the story?
vi. Will readers find any morals from the story?
vii. How will the story end?
Pay attention to character development
To create realistic, multifaceted characters, it is important to understand and describe characters. To help you develop your characters, consider examining one or more of the following details:
● Name
● Age
● Appearance
● Family and relationships
● Ethnicity
● Drinking habits
● Likes and dislikes
● Strengths and faults
● Illnesses
● Hobbies
● Pets
● Phobias
● Religion
● Job
● Residence
● Sleep patterns
● Nervous gestures
● Secrets
● Memories
● Temperament

Including such details can make it easier to define your characters. They can help you mold your characters, build storylines, and create dialogue. You might want to consider

● Appearance: Create a visual understanding for your readers so that they can vividly imagine what the characters look like.
● Action: Instead of simply listing adjectives to define characters, describe the characters’ actions to tell your readers what the characters do and what they’re like.
● Speech: Don’t kill the story’s momentum by explaining the plot in great detail. Instead, try to reveal the plot through your characters and their dialogue.
● Thought: Show your readers how your characters think. Show them the characters’ hopes, fears, and memories.
Create a great plot
A story plot tells us what happens in the story. Writers establish situations, identify the story’s turning points, and determine the fate of each character.
Plots are the sequence of events arranged by the writer that reveal the story’s emotional, thematic, and dramatic significance. To create a great plot, it is important to understand the following elements of the story:
● Hook: The stirring or gripping problem or event that catches readers’ attention.
● Conflict: A clash between characters and their internal selves, or between different characters, or even between characters and external forces.
● Exposition: The backstory or background information about the characters and how this background information relates to the rest of the story.
● Complication: A problem or set of challenges that the characters face that make it difficult to accomplish their goals.
● Transition: Dialogue, symbols, or images that link one part of the story to another.
● Flashback: Something that occurs in the past, before the current events of the story.
● Climax: The peak of the story.
● Denouement: The story’s falling action or the release of the action that occurs after the climax.
● Resolution: The solution of the external or internal conflict.

Writing can be challenging if you don’t know the techniques. It can be a form of art or art therapy if you come to master it. Techniques and tips can help you build the literary skill you need. Practicing them can give you the experience to produce creative, well-crafted work.

Did you miss my post on how to Format a Novel?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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