Formatting your Manuscript

If you’re planning on one day turning your manuscript in to literary agents and publishing houses, you need to make sure it’s formatted correctly. In many cases, your manuscript will be skipped over if it isn’t done to industry standard, so here’s the basics that you’ll need if you don’t want to be ignored. Before I get started, please know that this is aimed specifically at fiction manuscripts. If you’re writing non-fiction or a memoir, the expectations will be different, so it would be wise to Google what you need.

The Basics

  • Make sure your font is 12 point Times New Roman, Courier New, or Arial. These are the only three fonts you are allowed to pick from.
  • Your spacing should be 1 inch on all sides of the text. This is the default on most word processors, but double check your settings just to be sure.
  • Your text should be double spaced.
  • All of your indentations must be a half inch. Do not press indent. Instead, drag over the top arrow on the ruler to have every new paragraph automatically indent.

The Title Page

  • The top left-hand corner of your title page will have all your personal information. They want to see your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, the novel’s genre, and word count.

  • Your novel’s title is allowed to be between 20-24 point font if you want. Bold is also an option, but not necessary.
  • The title will appear halfway down the title page.
  • “A novel by [your name]” will be about three quarters of the way down the page.

The Next Pages

  • If you have a dedication, it will be on its own page.
  • If you have some sort of verse or quote, those will also need their own pages.
  • Do not include a page for acknowledgements.

The Chapters

  • Chapter titles will be 12 point font. No bolding or italics.
  • Chapters will start from one quarter to halfway down the page.
  • An easy way to format chapter headings is to press enter five or six times
  • Make sure you always start your chapters the same way every time.
  • When you start a new chapter, make sure you use a page break to bump the new chapter onto a new page. This will keep it in place so that it will never budge, no matter how much you cut out or add to the previous chapter.

Page Numbers

  • Page numbers will start with 1 on Chapter 1 of your manuscript. Page numbers will not appear on the title page or dedication page.
  • Page 1 will be labeled in the footer of Chapter 1. It should be centered.
  • Page 2 will be in the header of the next page.
  • From page 2 onward, your headers will be labeled like this:

  • If you insert a section break after the title and dedication pages, it will make it easier to insert the page numbers.

For the most part, this is the most important of what you’ll need to know for formatting your manuscript. I used this video as reference, so I’m trusting everything it says is true because it was made by an author who has several novels published, and because it was uploaded this year, it should be up to date.

But just remember, whenever you go to turn in a manuscript, make sure you check the website of the agent or publisher you’re trying to contact. They might have specifications that differ with the ones stated in this video, and you should always do whatever you can to abide by what they want.

The song used for sample “novel” is Captain Albert Alexander by Steam Powered Giraffe.

Super Neat Tumblr Blogs

Hey, some downright awesome writing advice blogs have been following me (some for some time), and I’ve realized now’s a great time to pass them along. Check these places out, they are super awesome:

Totalrewrite - Writing advice blog that posts a lot of specific (and detailed!) advice on all kinds of things.

Hownottowinnanowrimo - Humor blog for your sanity break

Writeworld - More great writing advice!

Thewritershelper - You need all the encouragement blogs you can get!

Have a blog I missed? Know a blog that’s awesome? Send me a link and I’ll pass it on!

steampoweredguavajuice replied to your post: SORRY GUYS

That happened to me once back when I first started TotalRewrite. I had to go into the HTML and manually delete everything. I think C said it sometimes happens when you paste directly from Word.

I think we’re both C fangirls


are we at the point where we need to start wearing religious paraphernalia on our heads and

Writing the LGBT Community

Writing the LGBT community can be hard, especially if you don’t know what you’re talking about. So to start off this post, here’s just a few things that are easily confused both with writers and with society in general.

  • Being gay is not a personality trait. This basically means no stereotyping. Don’t make a gay man effeminate just because he likes other men, and don’t make a woman masculine just because she likes other women. While there are actual people who are like this, and it’s perfectly okay to have men and women like this, make sure your characters have personalities and not just a list of stereotypes.
  • Asexual does not mean aromantic. Asexuality means that a person feels no sexual attraction. Aromantic means a person does not feel any romantic attraction. These two are often confused, but they are two very different things. It’s possible for anyone to be one or the other, or even both.
  • Transgender does not mean transsexual. Transgender when a person identifies as a gender that differs from the one usually matched with their sex. Transsexual means that person is going about hormone treatment or surgery to become the opposite sex.

So those are the big three things to think about. If you want more resources to learn about gay and trans people, I’ve got this video that is a brief overview, and then The Really Awesome Trans Glossary. If you still want more information, try talking to someone who identifies as gay or transgender. As long as you’re not being offensive, most people would be happy to answer questions and provide clarifications.

With that out of the way, it’s time to address the actual characters you’re writing.

  • It is perfectly fine for your antagonist to be gay. They can kick puppies and steal candy from children and be the most despicable person on the face of the earth and be gay—it’s alright. But if your character is evil because they are gay, that’s a huge problem. If you choose to have an evil character who is also gay, it’s a good thing to have a good character who is also gay to avoid any problems or miscommunications with readers.
  • There is no universal “gay experience”. Don’t try to write gay or trans characters “the right way.” There isn’t one. All gay and trans people learn about themselves differently. Some people know from a young age that they’re different, but some learn it later on in life. I didn’t realize I was agender until someone told me being agender was a thing that existed.
  • There’s a difference between writing a novel about gay characters and writing a novel about characters who happen to be gay. Don’t think that including gay characters means you have to suddenly make your plot about gay rights/the treatment of gays. Most people aren’t looking for that, and if they are, chances are they’ll go to issue novels for it.
  • Gay couples have just as much sex as straight couples. If your features scenes with several different couples of different sexualities having sex, spend about the same amount of time with each of them. Some of the stigma that comes with gay couples having sex comes from rumors that they’re addicted to it and they have to have sex because something is wrong with them. Most people realize that it’s flat-out wrong, but there will always be people who don’t understand, and its’ our duty as writers to not promote unhealthy stereotypes.
  • Don’t start shipping your characters just because you happen to have made two of them gay. This is not an excuse to put characters together. Your readers still expect them to have chemistry and work together. You wouldn’t create a relationship between two straight characters just because both their favorite colors are purple.
  • If you’re writing a trans character, refer to them by the pronoun they use. Even if your character was born female, if they identify as a boy and want to be recognized as a boy, use masculine pronouns. This is also common courtesy in real life.
  • Be aware of stereotypes. I’m gonna say this one again because it’s probably the most important one on the list. Being gay is not a personality. Being transgender is not a personality. Do not try to make it one.

Because stereotypes are such a huge part of the way the media portrays gay characters in television, movies, and even novels, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common ones that plague it.

Stereotypes to Avoid

  • “Sluts.” This is more bad stigma for anyone who identifies as a sexual minority, particularly bisexuals. People think that gays use it as an excuse to act like sluts, and this stereotype is completely inaccurate.
  • Masculine women and feminine men. I touched on this topic earlier, and while it’s okay to have them, you have to make sure that your characters aren’t just empty shells relying on these stereotypes. Make absolutely sure that you have fleshed them out well if you go down this route.
  • Dead gays. The LGBT community is not a plot device. Don’t kill these characters for shock value. They are not foot soldiers in the battle in the middle of RETURN OF The KING. If you kill a gay character, you had damn well better have a good reason for it.
  • Lesbians trying to have a child. This one is just flat-out cliché at this point, not to mention that it creates all sorts of unwanted subtext about gay couples being “unnatural” because they can’t have children on their own. It’s just something best avoided.

But above all, if you take one thing away from this post, let it be this:

Gay characters are no different than straight characters. Treat them exactly as you would any other character. They don’t require special treatment—just time and effort put into learning about them. Give them the respect they deserve, and you have the chance to write a fantastic LGBT character.

Follow This Blog: Total Rewrite

Next up, Total Rewrite! Total Rewrite does reblogs and original content, much of it focused on editing. Which is awesome, because editing is hard! And I feel there is not enough focus on it, and isn’t it totally cool that there’s a blog out there to help you out with just that?

Anyway, they don’t have nearly enough followers and are quite lovely people, please go follow them! You won’t be sorry!

totalrewrite asked:

ur post about strong verbs was stuipd and i hat eur guts


(NOTE: Totalrewrite and I are bros and this is totally not legit hate — we’re just sharing a chuckle at people who get passionately angry about writing suggestions. Like, PASSIONATELY angry.)

Strong Female Characters

No one likes to read about a character who is paper-thin. Unfortunately, in literature,  some authors have a bad habit of giving their male characters complete back stories and rich personalities but limiting their female characters to a list  of tropes and stereotypes.

According to the Internet, there’s a list of very specific traits that a female character needs to be strong. This list includes:

  • She can never cry.
  • She can’t be feminine.
  • She has to be completely emotionless.
  • She can’t rely on anyone.
  • She can never fall in love.

If you notice, these are all character traits that are often associated with male characters. Men don’t cry, they don’t show emotions, they don’t need help. Men are associated with being big and strong and masculine, while women are associated with being small and weak and feminine (These are what the kids these days call ‘gender roles.’)  Men are strong and women are weak, and the only way to make a strong female character is to make her more manly.

This is bullshit.

So here’s the thing. Your female character doesn’t have to fall into these stereotypes to be considered strong. She can wear dresses and have a boyfriend and cry and still be strong. So here’s a better list of what you need to have a strong female character:

  • She must change and grow over time.

That’s it. Nothing else matters. When reading a novel, we as readers want a character who is like a real person, and real people change over time. What we don’t want is to read about the stoic badass spy who stops the bad guys and walks away, taking nothing from her experience and the novel ends exactly the way she started.

Your female characters can be feminine, they can be masculine, or they can be anything in between–it seriously does not matter. If someone tries to tell you your character is weak because of her opinion on the color pink, go ahead and punch that person in the face.

Things you should Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Never Start With Under Any Circumstance

Weather: We’re all familiar with “It was a dark and stormy night…” We don’t need to read it again. If you’re planning on opening with weather, even if it’s a bright sunny day, please go sit and the corner and think about what you’ve done.

“One day”: Right next to weather, this probably one of the most boring ways you can start your novel. Unless “One day” is followed by “I was mauled by a giant purple velociraptor wearing a sombrero”, no one wants to read the rest of your sentence, or for that matter, your novel.

Clichés: “Once upon a time”, “A long time ago”, “It was a dark and stormy night”. These are all cliché. If you’ve got enough creativity to write a novel, you should be able to come up with an introduction that isn’t borrowed from someone else.

Waking up/morning rut: Waking up is boring. So are the morning rituals that follow. No one gives a crap about your character brushing his teeth and combing his hair. At the beginning of the novel, you want to make your readers care enough to keep reading. Just as a pointer, beginning like this isn’t a good way to make that happen.

Character introduction: If you’re starting with “My name is Steve, I’m seventeen, I have brown hair and blue eyes,” you’re doing it wrong. You have an entire novel to describe who your character is and what he looks like. Why would you choose to put it right at the beginning?

Too much description: Fantasy writers are often guilty of this one. You’ve got this brand new world that you want to introduce to your readers to, but please hold back.  There’s a time and place for everything, and a good rule of thumb is that it isn’t at the beginning of your novel.

Being chased by something: This one doesn’t seem inherently bad. Being chased can create tension and draw the reader in. But at the same time, if you’re putting it at the beginning, we as readers don’t know enough about your character to care about them. And, we already know that they’re going to make it out alive. If they didn’t, it would be an extremely short novel. The first MAXIMUM RIDE novel by James Patterson started like this, and all it did was act as a cheap gimmick. (This book is actually the victim of two of these bad beginnings, the other one will be discussed a little later.)

Flashbacks: If your opening scene is a flashback to something that happened before the events of your novel, it’s safe to say that you probably started your novel in the wrong place. Take a moment and think about what you’re trying to convey and change your beginning accordingly.

Infodumps: This ties in with the flashbacks. If you’re just dumping backstory all over the place, you might want to consider starting your novel in a different spot. Or if you can’t do that, you should spread it all out throughout your novel evenly, and bring it up as it becomes relevant.

Dreams: This is the second bad beginning MAXIMUM RIDE is guilty of. The novel starts up, Max is getting chased by something, and just as it’s about to catch her and then—IT’S ALL A DREAM, EVERYONE GO HOME. And then she gets up and goes on with her day. Dreams are just another cheap way of trying to create tension or draw the reader in.  They sometimes work, but they will always be gimmicky.

So yeah, kids. Don’t start your novels like this.

Fanfiction, Role Playing, Serious Writers, and You

So recently I’ve seen a bit of discussion going on about role playing, fanfiction, and whether or not writers should partake in them.

The Tumblr writing blogs I follow are seem to be at the agreement that it doesn’t matter what you write so long as you’re writing. Other blogs, mostly off Tumblr, say serious writers should avoid fan works and only do writing of the original variety.

People who are against role playing and fanfiction love to throw around the term “serious writers”. “Serious writers don’t waste their time with fanfiction,” or “You’ll never be a serious writer if you keep role playing instead of writing.”

The part of the entire argument that bothers me the most is  what the fuck is a serious writer, and why does liking role playing and writing fanfiction make someone any less serious about writing than the next person?

The best definition I can come up for for what a serious writer actually is is a writer who works predominantly on original works and aims to one day be traditionally published. Personally, I think creating this sort of hierarchy among the writing community is stupid. Writing fanfiction does not make you any less of a writer than someone who is writing an original novel.

Most of you probably have already heard the reasons not to have fun with role playing and fanfiction. For those of you who haven’t, here’s the basics:

  • You’re not being creative
  • It’s lazy
  • You’re cheating

Fuck the people who say this. These are the most common arguments, and they’re also the laziest. So here’s some awesome reasons to role play and write fanfiction:

  • It’s great practice. If you’re writing on your own, fanfiction can be the first steps to branching out into original work.
  • It’s easy to get feedback from other people. Whether it’s by posting your work on fanfiction websites or just from the other people you’re role playing with, getting feedback for this type of work is a lot easier than original work.
  • If you have troubles finishing projects, both of these can be great ways to start. No one wants to disappoint RP partners and eager readers, right?
  • You don’t have to be afraid of sucking. Well, you never have to be afraid of sucking, but you can explore different types of writing very easily and fearlessly and see what works best for you.
  • Using characters and worlds that already exist is a great way to start. Creating a universe is a lot of work, and using something that already exists is a good way to practice seeing how everything fits together.
  • If you like it, you shouldn’t stop. There are plenty of people out there who will try to shame you for liking things. Fuck them. If you RP or write fanfiction and you enjoy it, keep on doing it.
  • It doesn’t hurt anyone. Both of these are great writing outlets, and they’re completely risk free. Anyone who complains needs to get over themselves.

Bottom line: Writing fanfiction and role playing are both perfectly fine, and the entire “serious writer” label is stupid. Do what makes you happy and keep on writing.

Pen Names and How They Work

What is a pen name?

A pen name is an alias used by an author on their novels. If an author didn’t want their real name to be displayed on their novel, they would make one up and that would go in its place.

Why use a pen name?

There are many possible answers to this question, but here’s a few of the most common reasons to use a pen name.

  • They don’t like their name, it’s a common name, or it’s too hard for readers to remember. Names like John Smith or Anuhya Bhogineni can be problems because one is extremely common and the other is incredibly difficult to search for if you don’t have the exact spelling.
  • Some authors want to distance themselves from previous work. JK Rowling recently did this when she published The Cuckoo’s Calling under the name Robert Galbraith. She said she wanted honest feedback on the writing without people comparing it to Harry Potter.
  • Pen names allow an author’s work to be separated. If one author writes in several different genres, they may use several different pen names to keep readers from being confused when they find children’s lit, sci-fi, horror, mysteries, and a cookbook all under the same author.
  • Several different authors can work under one name. If you’re familiar with the Warriors books by Erin Hunter, Erin Hunter is actually one pen name used by four different women. Having one on a book cover is much easier for readers than four.
  • It separates the author’s real life and private life. An author can be a high school teacher by day and a famed erotica author by night, and by using a pen name, no one would ever know better.
  • The author’s real name could be the name of someone who is already famous. If a writer’s name is Kate Perry and she wants to publish a novel, she has to deal with the fact that her name is almost identical to Katy Perry, and that could bring people in on the false premise that the book was written by the celebrity, which isn’t good for the book’s popularity.

Is a penname necessary?

Not at all. If you don’t want to use a penname, you aren’t under any obligation to use one. There are a lot of good reasons to use a pen name, but don’t feel pressured to use one if you’d rather use your real name instead.

How do I create a good pen name?

  • Don’t make it too long. George RR Martin is much easier to remember than George Raymond Richard Martin.
  • Make it memorable. Mary Jones is an easy-to-spell, simple name, but it might be too simple. Both of the names are extremely common, thus making it easy to forget.
  • Look at your genre. Are you writing fantasy? Many fantasy authors are easy to identify by the use of initials in their name like JRR Tolkein. You might want to follow trends like this.
  • Make sure it isn’t already in use by someone else. I think this speaks for itself.
  • Make sure you like the name. If you’re going to be using this on a novel, a piece of work that you spent months or years on and put a piece of your soul into, make sure you also like everything about it—even the pen name.

Who are some other authors with pen names?

  • Joanne Rowling as JK Rowling as Robert Galbraith
  • Samuel Clemons as Mark Twain
  • Howard Allen O’Brien as Anne Rice as AN Roquelaure
  • Eric Arthur Blair as George Orwell
  • Stanley Martin Lieber as Stan Lee
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as Lewis Carroll
  • Francois-Marie Arouet as Voltaire
  • Erin Hunter as Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui Sutherland, and Victoria Holmes

Of course, there are many, many more authors with pen names out there and this isn’t even the tip of the iceberg.

What’s in a Name?

Being a fantasy reader and writer, names are extremely important to me. When browsing the bookshelf, people read the summary of a book and already make judgments on based on a 150 word blurb. And what’s the first thing they learn about your book? The character’s name. Readers make judgments based on names, particularly in fantasy novels.

So here’s some friendly reminders for when you need a name.

Fantasy names:

Make sure it’s pronounceable. Please, please, please, please, please, check this at least ten times. There are some names that are straightforward like Bilbo Baggins. But then there are some crazy names like M’aiq. Just how do you pronounce that? I can come up with four pronunciations off the top of my head. If you’re unsure if your name is easily pronounceable, write it down on a piece of paper and ask people to say it for you. If more people get it wrong than right, it might be wise to consider a change of spelling, or changing the name completely.

Names with apostrophes and dashes are annoying. Done correctly, having names like the aforementioned M’aiq or Gulum-Ei can work well if they come from a culture that commonly uses names like that. But if tossed around randomly, they are annoying and look stupid.

Be consistent with the names. This ties into a point made above. If you have two different species that were formed on opposite sides of the world and all the names sound interchangeable between them, it looks like bad writing and worldbuilding. If you have some sort of theme in your names, make sure it’s easily noticeable.

Avoid the obvious names. Most of you have been in this spot. You’re reading Harry Potter for the first time, and Harry is off on his way to Hogwarts and he’s just met Ron and they’re hitting it off, and then this kid named Draco Malfoy comes up and starts to talk to him. You know instantly that Draco is going to be a little shit just because of his name. Similarly, you know Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort are evil and you know Luna Lovegood is good without needing any other evidence than their names.

Follow the Pokémon rule. Shannah McGill coined probably one of my favorite rules for naming ever. The Pokémon Rule. In the games, you have only ten characters to give your Pokémon a name. This keeps the names from getting too long, and in fantasy, having long names can be a huge problem.

Don’t get weird with the spellings. I’m not a big fan of using real names in fantasy novels, but I don’t mind them too much. What I do mind is when someone wants to name their character Jennifer but they spell it Ginnafur to make it fit the fantasy setting. If you’re going to use a real name, use it. Don’t slaughter the spelling.

General names:

If it’s suitable for a porn star, it’s probably not for your character. Common names used by porn stars are any gem stones, Disney princesses, Candy, Angel, Roxy (with as many Xs as you think is appropriate), or basically anything listed in this infographic.

Be consistent with the names. Yes, this is down here, too.  I touched in this briefly in my How to Avoid Mary Sues post. If all your supporting characters have names like John and Bill or Rachel and Liz, don’t give your protagonist a name like Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. It sticks out and rather than sound cool, all it will do is make readers laugh at you.

Check your character’s initials. Bella Swan, while bearing a name fitting of a porn star, also has to go around with the initials BS. No one wants that.

Make sure all of your characters have different sounding names. I wanted to kill George RR Martin when he decided to have two characters running around named Jon and two named Robert. But just as confusing is when you have two characters named Jane and Joan. It makes it hard for readers to remember which is which. Try to spread your characters out evenly along the alphabet. If possible, only have one character for each name. But if you start having repeats, try to make them sound very different, like Caroline and Chell.

If you’re writing historical fiction, make sure your name isn’t out of place. For a story about a young woman in New York during the 1920s, Millie is a perfectly acceptable name. Addison is not. There are plenty of resources on Google that have information from censuses to help you pick out an appropriate name for the era you’re writing.

Lastly and most importantly:

GOOGLE THE NAME. I don’t care if it’s fantasy or real, always Google your names. You might think Ian McKellen is a fantastic name for your character now, but you won’t once you realize it’s already the name of an extremely famous actor.