What font, spacing, page size do you use for writing your draft?

I know some folks use special writing programs to compose their work. Others use Word, because it’s there. And a few misguided people probably use Wordperfect. [We use it at my work, so I’m multi-wordprocessored. I can make either one do my bidding, most of the time.]

And when I was reading a month or two back about what the final product is supposed to look like, I found a publishing site that said, “typical book page size is x by y.”  It was a smaller page than 8.5″ x 11″, about 195mm x 252mm, with 23 mm margins.

I’m working in Word, and I modified my page size. Then I looked at fonts. What’s a good font for a printed book? A couple of sites said different things, but the font they said was good that I have (pragmatically speaking, I’m not going to go spend $400 for a font at this point just to look at something nice) is Garamond. It’s an oldy but goody kind of typeface.  “Don’t use Times New Roman,” they scolded. “It’s designed for newspapers where they have to cram a lot of letters in.” 

But what font size? Again, I conferred with my team of experts. “10-12 words per line is ideal.”  Why, that means it’ll be 16 point Garamond, are you serious? “Yes, we are,” they replied.  So 16 point it is.

Line spacing? “White space. You gotta have white space.” 1.5 lines, then? I could play with point sizes, but was feeling lazy about this.

Justified or not? Justified, definitely.

How much space for an indent? If you’re using one, they said about 3 mm at the most. Here’s the tricky part: The snobby typesetters said you should use a hanging quote. What’s a hanging quote? I wondered.

Wikipedia to the rescue (don’t judge, you know you guys use it sometimes, too):

Hanging punctuation or exdentation is a way of typesettingpunctuation marks and bullet points, most commonly quotation marks and hyphens, so that they do not disrupt the ‘flow’ of a body of text or ‘break’ the margin of alignment. It is so called because the punctuation appears to ‘hang’ in the margin of the text, and is not incorporated into the block or column of text. It is commonly used when text is fully justified.

So, if a paragraph should looks like this:
His face turned an angry red.
“Why do you insist on using hanging quotes?” he demanded.
“They look far more civilized,” I replied, “you should learn to use them too, unless you wish to remain a barbarian.”
He turned a darker shade of red.

See how the text all lines up, while the quotes are hanging? That’s the gist of it.

Since I’m quite comfortable with styles in Word, it was a piece of cake to make two different styles for paragraphs, depending on what the lead character is. If it’s a quote, it gets the quote style, and if it’s a non-quote, you get the idea. The quote style is 2 mm indent, the non quote is 3 mm. Technically, it’s not entirely lined up, but I could get more detailed later on if the typesetting really depends on it. The typesetter guys seem to think that my Word styles mean nothing and that I don’t know what I’m doing, and to just shut up and let them work.

For grins, I decided to research and find a flourish or two to add to the text breaks. I found two – one a triangular circle triangle deal, and another that is a swirly flourishy thing.

text break

chapter flourish

They look a lot better in my Word document than they do here, as I had to create a .gif with transparencies so the background wouldn’t be white, but the greyish color background on this blog.

I made a style in word for the swirly flourish so it could be after the chapter heading, and while I was there, I made a big 36 point Chapter style, too, with built in spacing, PLUS with word styles you can assign a style the “Page Break Before” option, so if I have a Chapter heading, it automatically inserts the page break before it. Thus, select Chapter style, and boom, it does all the formatting work for me. The beginning of each chapter, I used a drop cap. It’s classy and I like it. I made a no-indent style for this, too, which is inserted automatically using Word’s “Style for following Paragraph” option.

I added my name and the title to the header for each page, and a page number at the bottom.

It’s all very satisfying. Sure, it’s a draft. But I might as well make it pretty to look at so when I’m editing it, it’s in the nicest-looking form.

Maybe some of you are thinking, “I only want 8.5 x 11 page size, .25” margins all around, and I don’t know what a style is, I just hit Enter to add space between paragraphs.”  You, my friend, ought to investigate how to use styles in Word. It’s worth it for the amount of time you’ll save in NOT having to fix that later, or hire someone to fix it later.

If y’all are still using a typewriter or writing with fountain pens on college ruled paper, why? It’s going to have to be typed in to a computer at some point if you’re going to e-publish, might as well start there.

Here’s a question that comes up when I see things like Kristin’s kind offer at the end of her posts where one commenter each month gets a free critique of the first 20 pages of their novel.

Ah, 20 pages.  I can fit 12,300 words on to 20 pages if I use arial 8 point type. I’m sure that Kristin wouldn’t appreciate or accept that (it’s abusing her offer), but one technically could do that.  Is there an author industry standard for typeface/spacing/margins that we all tacitly agree on to use when we toss out terms like “Send me your first 10 pages”?


3 thoughts on “What font, spacing, page size do you use for writing your draft?

  1. I use Ubuntu Linux for my OS, and so it leaves me with OpenOffice and Libre Office. I’m using Libre Office, and perhaps foolishly use double spaced Times New Roman. For the indents at the beginning of paragraphs, I just use 2 spaces. When I started, I recognized pretty quick there would be a lot of type-setting work and so I settled for a consistent approach under the assumption that the publishing platform I eventually select is likely to impose various limitations on me anyhow.


  2. Dave: According to my mentor author, you’ll need to convert whatever it is into html format in a html editor and from there into your ebook formats.

    So what you compose in, as long as it’s electronic in format and convertible to html, it’s like what flavor of ice cream you like. It’s relative. I just know that if I’m re-reading my stuff, I want it to look like printed page book.


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