How To Format Your Manuscript


Here’s what I do in Microsoft Word. (If you need a visual, an example is included in the book version of my Crash Course.)

Font and Paragraphing

  • 12 point font. Times New Roman. (Courier is another acceptable option – but that font hogs up the paper). Whatever you do, please don’t try to flag the attention of an editor by using splashy font.

To Draw or Not To Draw?

If you’re like many people you’ll wonder where you’re going to get that illustrator for your book. STOP RIGHT THERE. Unless you are a professional illustrator, do not try this at home, folks! This is the great thing about a writing career. You don’t have to know how to draw! So remember: writers write. Illustrators illustrate. For once something makes sense. Whooopee! I bet I know what your next question might be..”

Q: How do I make a picture book dummy?

A: If you are both a writer and a professional illustrator, then what you will want to do is create a picture book dummy. I’m not an illustrator myself, but I can point you to a great article on how to make one.

If you’re only a writer, then follow the steps in my crash course to learn how to submit your picture book manuscript.

Revision 9-1-1: Writing Mechanics

I decided to classify this post so it applies to both PBs and longer works. If you’ve been following my Revision 9-1-1 articles, you’ve read a lot about “big” issues which crop up in manuscripts I’ve reviewed. But what’s contained in here is MORE IMPORTANT. Why? If an agent or editor senses you haven’t mastered the basics, your wonderful plot, brilliant characters, and awesome setting won’t matter.

more on rhyme

Dori Chaconas, author of picture books and easy readers, has just written a great article about rhythm and rhyme for picture book texts. [Read the article, icing the cake->].

Also visit a guest article by Kelly R. Fineman featured on this website. [Read post, how to critique rhyming children’s poems->].


Revision 9-1-1 For Fiction: Picture Books

Here are the common things I notice when I evaluate picture book manuscripts.

Tuneless Picture Books

  • In my opinion, a picture book’s structure and rhythm are much like a tune. If I can’t hear your song when I’m reading your manuscript, the result is a text which reads like “heavy metal”. Discordant and jumbled. A tuneless picture book may have a beginning that’s too long, a middle that’s too short, and an abrupt ending.

Status Queries: When and How To Do It

So things haven’t gone as you’d hoped. Your manuscript went off months ago, and your phone didn’t ring off the hook with five editors or agents vying for your awesome book.
You find yourself wondering – what are they doing with my manuscript?

Did it get lost in the mail?
Did my dog Rufus eat my rejection letter?
Did I even include my manuscript in the submission?!
Status queries are a touchy subject where people will have different opinions.

How Long Does a Book Have To Be?

Knowing the typical word counts of different types of children’s books will help you understand what goal you need to hit. These are only guidelines. If your word count comes in too high or low, you could raise eyebrows with publishers. Some might not even consider your work.

  • Picture books – You’ll hear many people say the shorter the better. A good goal is 500 words or less. Definitely strive for under 1000.