Self editing 4 fiction #4 ~ Point of View

Layout Tips

After popular request, we now have a Word template you can download that works well with Kindle and epub. The main article on creating your own styles is beneath this article.

A few snapshots of the template follows, then a clickable link to download the document in either U.S. or UK format. This is a clean and simple method and enables you to get on with writing your novel (or you can paste into this document). Instructions are included in the document, which you can delete once you have finished writing or have a handle on things.

Click HERE to download the U.S. MS Word template
Click HERE to download the UK MS Word template

You will be directed to the download page:

The download will likely be in "read only" mode -- simply re-save it under another name to use it.

On to the main article: Layout Tips

When it comes to formatting your word document for novel and biography writing, it really is a good idea to set off in the right direction, by using a publisher and Kindle-friendly format - this will save you time and money during the proofing process. The following method has been tried and tested to be friendly to mobi files (Kindle; iPhone etc) as well as for conventional publishing.

First, set your normal document to TNR 12pt:

Microsoft Word places automatic line breaks between each new paragraph, which need to removed first. 
you will get the option to remove the extra line break in the field box below (Don't add space between paragraphs check-box). It's also a good idea to set the line spacing to 1.5 lines (or double for submission to agents). This can be changed at any time afterwards.

The next step is to set the chapter headings, making them easy to use and recognizable by free mobi converting applications such as Calibre (more about this later) in which you can automatically create a table of contents for Kindle if you use the 'Heading 2' facility:
In general, the best option for manuscripts is Times New Roman 12pt font size; but for the chapter heading we will adopt a simple yet effective centered and bold 14pt font size as below.
First, hit the return key and then replace the cursor back on the top line.
Center the text and change to 14pt font bold.
As you can see from the right-hand green arrow, the style is set to 'Normal' and we need to change this to 'Heading 2' style:
So we block on the text: Chapter 1 and right-click the Heading 2 box; a dialogue box pops up and once you select: 'Update Heading 2 To Match Selection', all you have to do in following chapters is type 'Chapter x', no need to center the text or change to bold or change from the 12pt font you will be using after this -  placing the cursor to the left or blocking on the text and left-clicking the 'Heading 2' box will do all this for you. See below:

Okay, so it takes a few minutes but you will save time and money on editing if you adopt this heading style.

(If you can't see your horizontal ruler, click this icon on the right-hand side):

To create a pleasing space before writing the opening of the chapter, hit the enter/return key 2 or 3 times, which looks cool on Kindle et al (to save space I haven't done this in the examples).
Once we have written our first paragraph we need to create a paragraph indent using the top slider on the ruler (there are slower methods and ways to adjust the settings afterwards). So when we hit the enter/return key at the end of the paragraph we then left-click and slide the top ruler slider to .5cm (recommended for Kindle and most popular by far) or 1cm if you prefer:

To create a scene break, we hit the enter/return key twice and move the slider back to the left (above the bottom slider) before typing:

Of course when we begin a new paragraph after this we must repeat the indent steps by moving the top slider back to .5cm (or 1cm if we're using that) before typing; but this doesn't have to be done very often because whenever you hit the enter/return key an automatic indent will appear - and because there are very few scene breaks in a typical book, this system is fast, clean and most importantly Kindle/publisher-friendly.

At the end of the chapter, click the 'Insert' tab and select 'Page break' - no need to add a bunch of return strokes before you do this - just insert your page break after the period (full-stop) that ends your chapter.

You can also insert a page break by pressing the Ctrl and Enter keys together (on your keyboard).

Bad Habits:
One of the most tedious things to fix are stray spaces before the text begins in a new paragraph, and also the popular habit of ending a paragraph with a period (full-stop) and then pressing the space-bar before hitting the enter/return key - thus creating a hanging space - DON'T DO IT -  time is better spent improving the creative aspect of your story rather than having to spend valuable time putting this easily avoidable error right. On no account use your spacebar to form indents - these will have to be put right manually before publishing. Go Here to learn a few quick tricks to fix these invisible errors.

Any questions or remarks; post them in the comments field and I will try to clarify anything confusing - but invest a little time getting to grips with this if you want to self-publish, self-edit or get value for money from your editor. A clean format is also appreciated by agents, as it's the mark of a professional - typos can be forgiven, but poor formatting is poor groundwork...


  1. This is amazing! I am so glad I found you on Twitter. I will be subscribing to your site as soon as I finish this comment. Yay!

  2. Glad you like it Elaine. Any questions, just ask...

  3. I second what Elaine said. Good work!

  4. Your "subscribe by email" link seems not to be working.

  5. Thanks for the kind words - I'll pass the glitch on to admin as well.

  6. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have been using Orbit for years and it automatically updates the new versions!

  7. @ethics essay topics: thanks for the feedback and pointer to Orbit: you must tell us more about them if you have time...

  8. I am so glad I found you, or rather you found me by following me on twitter. Thank you, thank you. I am in the process of completing my manuscript and was about to attempt to format it for Kindle when lo and behold--you, someone who knows what they are doing, found me. As soon as I get a cover you will be hearing from me. I would like a quote.
    Joyce Davis

  9. So pleased it's a useful resource for you, Jewell. Anytime you need any help, just get in touch -- even if it's just an opinion or an answer you require.

  10. Fantastic! Thanks for creating this!

  11. Good information. I know of an author who will be able to use this article. I'm retweeting and I'll contact her direct.

  12. Great article! I've taught these to friends many times and have been planning to write a blog post on writing a novel in Word but now I can send people here.

    One additional trick, which doesn't matter for Kindle formatting but is good for draft writing a novel: When you have the chapters designated with the Heading style, if you click on Document Map under the View tab, you'll see all your chapter headings pop up on the left hand side of your Word doc. They'll be clickable and it provides a quick and easy way to get around your novel.

    When I'm drafting, I make the chapter headings mini action descriptions so I can easily go back or forward to places I need to see.

    Thanks for the post!

  13. Those are great tips for ease of access and construction! Having the chapter headings pop up is also useful to check their consistency and that there are no missing or duplicate chapter headings -- you'd be surprised how many authors have these along with Chapter 1, Chapter Two etc.

    Apart from the residual html bloat in Word, I think it rocks if you know how to make the most of it.

    Way, way back, before Word had color text options in the quick access toolbar (3.1, I think) I made a set of color buttons using macros so I could present horse racing form in color coded format quickly. A few months later Word followed suit, only much better, and they keep getting better...

  14. This was extremely helpful! Danke!

  15. Great post! Thank you...but what about page breaks? Like at the end of the a chapter and the beginning of a new chapter? Do we use them or simply carry on after a few spaces?

    1. Thanks T.K.!

      It does actually instruct you to insert a page break at the end of the chapter but I have also just added the keyboard shortcut as well:

      "At the end of the chapter, click the 'Insert' tab and select 'Page break' - no need to add a bunch of return strokes before you do this - just insert your page break after the period (full-stop) that ends your chapter.

      You can also insert a page break by pressing the Ctrl and Enter keys together (on your keyboard)."

      The instruction, and more info, is also in the free template download at the beginning of the article...

  16. Hi Is there a subscription fee for this ?

    1. No fees whatsoever Elise - hope some of our free resources are of use to you. :)

  17. Thank you. Very helpful. I have two questions:
    In the Normal para in the UK version of the download, the language is set to English (U.S) but shouldn't it be English (U.K.)?
    Also in that Normal para, Widows/Orphans is set to On. Why? Does is lead to formatting problems if it's set to Off?

    1. Hi Joanna.

      I downloaded the file and it's in UK mode - but if you select all the text and click on the English US box at the bottom LH side of the window it can be changed to English UK - and defaulted in your 'normal' mode.

      Widow/orphan control does not apply to text-flow in mobi/epub. 99% of writers use the control if they also use the master doc for paperback, but it can be switched off by selecting all and switching on and off a couple of times in the paragraph attributes window.

    2. Thanks Stef. Interesting that widows/orphans is used for print. I always turn it Off for docs I'm sending to a trad print publisher. Haven't yet done self-publishing so I may need to switch back on for that! Thanks for the hint.

    3. Have just been using your template and it's very easy and helpful. One small point to anyone UK-side that wants to print after putting their MS into the template -- the paper size has not been changed from US letter to European A4. That leads to wasted margins and an extra 4 sheets or so per 100 pages. Change it in Page Layout/Size.

    4. Thanks for the heads up Joanna.

      I will fix that glitch and upload a new version today.

    5. Hi Joanna - I have made the changes and updated the instructions for the the newish Smashwords rules - and also added a handy tip for dialogue speech mark use.

      Thanks again for your input!

    6. Glad to be of help. Least I can do, since you've helped me with your template.

  18. Useful template - I have added a link to this article from my own tips for using Word and OneNote: