WIS: Manuscript Guidance

7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript

Do you need a little manuscript guidance for electronic publication?  Here are two lists you need to use as a checklist.

1. You know you need a title.  Did you know you also need a Boilerplate?

The boilerplate is a unit of writing to be re-used over and over without change.  You will find it on the back side of the title page in any printed book and on the page following the title in any electronic book.

A boilerplate gives copyright information as well as any other publication information.  Who controls your copyright?  Who can reproduce this work–if anyone at all–with permission from you?  While this statement is such standard procedure, you probably have never noticed it.  Use any book to determine what you need to have.

2. Beneath the boilerplate you should have a disclaimer:  “All characters in this book are fictitious. . . .”

This protective statement lets people know you used your imagination.  While your inciting situation might be “ripped from the headlines”, the book itself is the work of your brain, not a dry statement of the facts.

3. Acknowledgement / Dedication:  Did someone give you help?  Proofreader?  Cover designer? Or even just watched the babies so you could write?  Thank them.  

As William Shakespeare said, “So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”  Your dedication gives them life as long as your acknowledgement page is available.

4. Other Books by You:  This list is shameless self-promotion.  Remember, always vote for yourself.

In a printed book this list occurs before the title page.  In electronic, it is best after the title page or (even better) at the end of the manuscript.

Many indie writers also run promotions for their other books by providing blurbs (abbreviated summaries).

5. Table of Contents

In any good word software, you can locate the table of contents in the references toolbar.  Really great software allows the TOC to be hyperlinked.  Readers can click the TOC to go anywhere in your book.

Yes, I myself once thought the TOC a waste of time.  With electronic publishing and hyperlink ability, I have been proven wrong.  Thanks to all the people who pointed it out.

6. Chapter Headings and Page Breaks

Use headings in your home toolbar to set up your chapter headings.  The TOC will pick up on the common headings to create itself.

Page breaks are another matter.  You don’t want these in the TOC.  Devise a method to show the switch of scene or character viewpoint within a chapter.  A variety of symbols abound;  whichever you select, be uniform.

7. A Book of your book :: What?

A Book of your book is a Master Book.  In it you keep all of your background work:  character information, plot guides, special information, maps, images, etc.

This Master Book will guide you whenever you decide to return to your manuscript.  Deciding to write a sequel?  The Master Book should have everything you need.

Much of the information in the Master Book will never make it into your book.  That’s as it should be.  We want to avoid info-dump.

 

Simple Procedure for Preparing a Manuscript to be Published on Kindle

Go for 10!

1.Read the article above entitled “7 Common Elements of a Book Manuscript”, and make sure your MS has these.

2. Use the most common 10 fonts:  Times New Roman, Arial, Baskerville, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Palatino, Trebuchet, and Verdana.

We all have our favorite fonts.  Some of these (Courier) are downright ugly.  While you may prefer a different font, these 10 create no problems across multiple platforms when reading on a narrow or small screen.

3.Avoid fancy & charming glyphs and special images.

Even the smallest image adds to the size of the file you will upload.  Amazon KDP has special content that you can read which will explain this in more detail.

A few–such as those for chapter headings–do add grace to the MS.  Be certain that their format is acceptable.

If you are desperate to add special touches, consult a book designer who will understand not only the acceptable types of image files but also how large such files can be–as well as how image files can disrupt the flow of your words.

4. Use Page Break for any new section.

Page Break to reach the TOC.  Page Break to reach Chapter 1.  And Page Break to reach Chapter 2.  etc.

Otherwise, let the text flow on by itself.

5.  And let the text flow on by itself.

Don’t use “enter” when you reach the end of a line on your computer screen.  Only hit “enter” on the keyboard when you want a new paragraph.  Your software will default to have the next paragraph indent itself:  let it.

6. Turn off these three things in the “Paragraph Settings”:

  •  Check the box that says “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same type”.  You only have spaces between paragraphs in business documents. Yes, I know your software automatically defaults to this.  Your software, however, was developed for business, not for writers in the entertainment industry.
  •  At the top of that pop-up window, select “Line and Page Breaks”.  Also on that screen, UNcheck “widow/orphan control” and “keep with next”.  These two UNchecks will prevent big gaps at the bottom of some of your pages.

7. Two spaces after a period or one?

This simple question still causes controversy.  Pick which way you want, and stick with it.

The use of two spaces does create a larger gap between sentences.  When reading on a narrow / small screen, this can look awkward.  Most writers have gone to one space between sentences.

However, have you noticed that when you text or email, if you double-space, the period automatically inserts itself?  Two spaces may be coming back.

8. Using Grammar / Spell Check is not enough.  Print out and proofread your manuscript.

And don’t read from the screen.

As sophisticated as current software is, it is still not great.  Believe it or not, you will find more errors on a sheet of paper than you will on a computer screen.

If you don’t feel up to the task, hire a proofreader. (Shameless promotion :: Writers’ Ink has a proofreading service.)  Whatever you do, don’t let a MS out there with “vial” when you mean “vile”.  Please.  I’m serious. It’s a huge turn-off to your reader.

9. Find out your Readability Statistics and Passive Sentence Percentages.

Go to File > Options > Proofing and check the box that says “Readability Statistics”.  After you run a grammar / spell check (and yes, I would still do this.  The machine does catch some things.),  a window will pop up that will tell you the MS’s reading level and number of passive sentences.

Most readers are comfortable at a 7th to 9th grade reading level.  The majority of American newspapers were once geared to a 6th grade reading level.  That’s not a bad thing.  You want to reach as many people as possible.  Don’t impress your reader with BIG words;  impress them with your IDEAS.

Passive sentences are to be avoided.  Try to keep them below 15%.

10. Save your eyes.

They’re the windows to your future as a writer.

You are working an arms-length between eyes and screen, right?

Get amber-tinted glasses or turn on “Night Shade”;  save the cones and rods in your eyes.  Plenty of evidence has emerged that blue-tinted light (especially at night) not only disrupts sleep but causes problems for your eyes’ functioning.  The amber helps to prevent that blurring which represents damage from over-strain.

And use the magnification in your software.  Ramp the size of the text on screen up as far as you need to see without strain.

Finally, take breaks from staring at the screen.  15 minutes for every 45.  If you can’t find anything to do during that time, take a walk.  Not only your eyes but also your tush will thank you.