We all know that the drill for manuscript formatting for submitting to agents and editors. There is a correct font (Times New Roman) and a correct size (12). We know about reasonable margins, and double-spaced pages.
But what about the more nebulous formatting issues of a novel? When I was writing LITTLE GALE GUMBO, a story that moves between the past and the present, I struggled with how to distinguish the chapters and scenes. Should I number my chapters, or just leave them without headings? Should I divide my book into parts, and if so, should I label them? Or what about the chapters that move from past to present–how should I title them, with dates and place, or neither? I didn’t want my readers to find themselves confused, but I also didn’t want to burden them with too much information–it’s a novel, not a screenplay, right?
Confounded, I thumbed through favorite novels as references, and discovered a variety of solutions, but it seemed there was little consistency in them. Like many things in writing, it seems rules can’t always apply. But there’s no question that these seemingly minor points of a novel are as crucial to the tone and pacing of the book as any other.
So for those of you who found yourselves flummoxed by how to separate and/or label the pieces of your story, what solutions did you come up with? And what did you use as reference/inspiration?