Today I’m blogging about the process of starting. You know, the actual sitting down in front of the computer, formatting a page, creating a header and typing CHAPTER ONE kind of starting. What’s that you say? You aren’t sure how to set up your page, paragraphs or create a header. Piece of cake. I promise. Let me be crystal clear before I go any further. This is how I DO IT. This is not the only way to do it. On that note, open your blank WORD document and let’s get busy. If this is your first time then feel free to grab a margarita or your drink of choice or, skip that and head straight for the chocolate.

1) left click on the File tab at the top of the page
2) left click on Page Setup
margins – top 1.4" bottom 0.9"
left 1" right 1"
gutter 0" gutter position left
3) click OK

1) left click on the FORMAT tab at the top of the page
2) left click on paragraph
alignment left outline level – body text
indentation left 0" right 0" special none
spacing before 0" after 0" line spacing – exactly at – 25 pt
3) click OK

1) left click the VIEW tab at the top of the page
2) left click Header/Footer and an outlined box will magically appear at the top of the page. In the upper left part of the box type the title of your current wip (work-in-process) in capital letters. Without a space type a simple slash /. Next to it type your name. Now, while the header box is still open you need to add a page number.

1) left click the INSERT tab at the top of the page
2) left click on page number. Another box will pop up with a few more options. Hang on, we’re almost done.
3) under the drop box for Position select top of page
under alignment, choose right
4)click OK and the box disappears
Your header is now finished and you can close out of it.

Type CHAPTER ONE in caps and CENTER it on the page about one third of the way down. I align it with the 2 on the ruler to the left of my page. That way every chapter begins the same way. Double space down. Click on the ALIGN LEFT option and you're ready to begin.

Whew. Doesn’t that feel good? You have something on paper. A real bona-fide start to the Great American Novel. You’re on your way, baby. Now its time to kick it in gear. Strike while the imagination iron is hot. Tell yourself, you are smokin’ and get those fingers flying over the keyboard. Every journey begins with a single step and you’ve just taken the first one.



Joan Vincent said...

Great instructions -- you did a very thorough job of getting a manuscript started. So much of success, at least in presentation, is in the tiny details

Do you have a particular reason for the 1.4" top margin? I set 1" all around and wonder if I've missed something which is all too probable.

Pat Davids said...

Wow, great job explaining the set up. You are so right, a journey doesn't begin until you take that first step.

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks, Joan,
Many years ago a dear friend took me under her wing and told me this is the way it's done and so this is the way I do it. She was/is publishing and I figured, hey, it it works for her then it will work for me. That dear friend is our own Roxann!

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks, Pat. You gotta start somewhere! Isn't it exciting when you start a new manuscript and all the wonderful ideas are popping up and you just can't wait to get them down on paper? I love that feeling.

Rox Delaney said...


Yes, I'm the culprit in this little fiasco. ::grin::

Years ago, I spent hours setting up a template. That was in the days of dot matrix printers, so you know how long ago that was.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Depending on your printer, those measurements may not be right. You may need to adjust. I like the bigger space at the top because it gives good white space between the header and body of the manuscript, yet doesn't squeeze the header up to high at the top of the page. Does that make sense?

The KEY is the "Exactly 25 lines" thing. The only time you'll have a page that's a line or more short is at the end of a chapter. All pages will have the same amount of lines.

For me, I guess it was all about how it looked when an editor first glanced at it. I wanted it as perfect and eye-appealing as I could get it.

Give it a try. If you like it, make a template! You'll never have to format again.

Rox Delaney said...

BTW, Reese, my friend, GREAT JOB!!

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks, Rox. I owe it all to you.
(grin) XOXO

Rox Delaney said...

I've been waiting for the inevitable question: Why Courier New or Times New Roman? I'm amazed no one has asked.

No one is even curious? Hmmmm... ;)

Nina Sipes said...

It is because each letter takes up the same space.

Reese Mobley said...

I use TNR or CN because that is what my Yoda (Rox) told me to use. (grin) What is the reason?

Reese Mobley said...

Hey, Nina. Thanks for posting. How is harvest going? Getting any writing done?

Rox Delaney said...


I'll be honest. I hadn't thought of that answer--letters take up the same space--but after giving it some thought, yeah, I seem to remember something about that. The eye and thus the brain doesn't have to adjust for each letter, meaning less tired eyes--and a less tired brain! TNR and CN are both serif fonts. They have those little feeties. ;) Give the lady (you) a prize!

I do know published authors who use other fonts, but in the not-so-long-ago when we used the 250 words per page way of counting words, they'd switch it all to TNR or CN to check length. And all of this usually with the okay of their editor. Like the rest of us, editors have their favorite ways of doing--and reading--things.

No matter what font you use--and I'd stick with the tried and true until getting an okay from editor--don't make it fancy. Each editor reads thousands of manuscripts, synopses, and query letters a year. We don't want eyestrain to be a reason for her (or him) to reject us.

Rox Delaney said...

Nina, did YOU grow those huge sunflowers in your avatar?

Dina Preuss said...


thanks so much for "listening" to Roxann when she gave you this valuable advice and thanks even more for sharing it with us!

This is wonderful and so easy to follow!


Reese Mobley said...

Great to see you here, Dina. Like I said, this is how I do it, there are probably many, many other ways to do it. Glad I could help. How is your new crit partner working out?

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for the detailed instructions, Reese. I'll give them a try once I start typing in my next story.

Am I the only one who writes by longhand first and then types it into the computer? I think better when I have a pen or pencil in my hand. My brain freezes if I try to do first drafts on the computer.