Conference Critique Workshop #3: Formatting

Okay, in Monday’s post, we discussed amazing first lines and you created some of your own in a ten-minute exercise. Yesterday, we covered story openings and you wrote a first page.

So today, let’s just jump right in with another exercise and write the rest of the chapter, okay? Come on, it will only take you thirty minutes or so, forty, tops. Piece of cake, right?

Are you ready? Get set . . . GO!!

Ha ha, just kidding.

Today we’re going to take it easy and talk about proper manuscript formatting for your conference critique submissions.

See—here’s the thing. I’ve heard it said before that as long as you present a story with dynamic characters, a fresh voice, and a to-die-for hook that makes them want to read more, an editor or agent isn’t going to care about your format.

But then again . . . I’ve also heard that they do care. Very much.

My opinion?

Better safe than sorry.

After all, you’ve worked hard on your submission. You shed blood. Sweat. Tears. It’s your baby, so why not give your baby the best advantage possible by formatting it correctly?

For proper formatting, I always follow the guidelines given in the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

Here are the basic guidelines, starting with the Title Page:

In the upper-left hand corner (single-spaced):

      Your name.


      Your address.


      Your phone number.


    Your email.

In the upper-right corner (single-spaced):

      Approx. Word Count.


    Age group and your manuscript’s genre (optional)

Type your title almost halfway down the page.

Two spaces below the title, type “by.”

And then your name two spaces under “by.”

First page:

Type your title centered one-third of the way down.

Two spaces below, type “by.”

And then your name two spaces under “by.”

Your story should then start two spaces below your name.

Entire manuscript:

Keep your margins at 1′ for top, bottom, and both sides.

For pages 2 and beyond, include a header with your last name followed by a comma and the title of your manuscript in the upper-left corner and the page number in the upper-right corner. Text should begin two double spaces below the header for each page.

Double-space with flush-left settings and a five-space indent for each paragraph. (NO extra space between paragraphs.)

As for whether or not to put two spaces between sentences or one . . . eh, this is debatable so use your own judgment. For my manuscripts, I put two because it’s easier on the eye.

Also . . .

Use good quality 8 x 11 white paper. I do admit that pink is pretty, but colored paper will make you look like an amateur.

Use a clear, easily readable font, such as Arial, Times New Roman or Courier. It’s generally a good idea to use a 12-point font size.

Do not put a copyright symbol anywhere on your submission. Again, it will signal that you’re an amateur.

And now . . . it’s time to look at your own conference critique before mailing it to our critique coordinator. Make sure that:

  1. It is formatted correctly.
  2. There are no grammar or tense errors. (If you are poor in the grammar department—hello! I know I am—then have a trusted friend review it.)
  3. Your first line will hook.
  4. Your first page will reel.
  5. Your story has interesting, well-developed characters, scenes that move the plot story with just enough back-story to illustrate the unfolding plot but not enough to bog the reader down.

If you have done your best to accomplish these things then it’s time to mail that baby in and congratulate yourself for a job well-done!


Please register for the conference and include an extra $50.00 per critique in your payment. Send up to 15 double-spaced pages of one manuscript, (including age group, genre, a one-paragraph summary, and your phone number,) and send to Naomi Milliner, Box 253, Olney, MD 20832 as well as an e-mail copy to

(I would go ahead and include the summary on the cover page it if were me.)

Some other commonly asked questions:

The limit is 15 pages but my novel’s first chapter is sixteen pages long. What should I do?

Hmm . . . well, if it were my manuscript, I would do my best to trim the chapter in order to fit within the limit. But if that is impossible, then I would only send the first fifteen pages.

Should I request which reviewer I would prefer?

It wouldn’t hurt. But please know that our faculty will do their best to match your work to the expertise of the reviewer on a first come, first served basis. So to increase your odds, get your critiques in EARLY!

Are you kidding me . . . I have to also include a one-paragraph SUMMARY!! Panic. Oh, the panic! I can’t breathe. I CAN’T BREATHE!

Okay, okay, I got a little carried away with that one. But if you are worried about your summary—relax, I’ve got you covered. A good reference tool that might help is The Snowflake Method. (Yes, I’ve already mentioned this before!) But by following steps one and two, you will be able to construct a five-sentence summary.

Good luck getting those submissions ready to mail! And next week, I’m going to conclude with tips on making the most out of your conference critique.

Happy Writing!

Workshop #1:  Opening Lines

Workshop #2:  Amazing Manuscript First Pages

Workshop #3:  Formatting

Workshop #4:  Surviving Your First Critique

Workshop #5:  Perfecting Your Book Pitch

Laura Bowers

About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two awesome boys, wife of one fantastic husband, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She loves run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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6 Responses to Conference Critique Workshop #3: Formatting

  1. Edie Hemingway says:

    Laura, thanks for this very important lesson on how to format! Many writers don’t realize how important it is to follow the standard guidelines for formatting and also to check simple things like correct spelling and verb tense. Don’t give the editor a reason to stop reading your manuscript just because you haven’t done your homework.

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  5. I worth the blog.Truly thank you! Will read on…

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