Fiction Writing Guidelines

  • The industry standard is 250 words per page.
  • Proper manuscript format should be Times New Roman, 12-point font, double spaced, one-inch margin around the entire page, page number at the bottom center.
  • Stick to one point of view (POV) per scene.
  • If you need to change POV, begin a new scene by inserting white space above it.
  • Show, don’t tell.
    • For example: Change “John got mad” to “John’s face turned red, and he clenched his fists.”
  • The author should be invisible and resist the temptation to step into the story and explain things to the reader.
    • For example, “Little did Jane know that . . .”
    • For example, “John had been working as a dentist for thirty years but still had a hard time finding clients.” Change that to a scene in which the dentist tells someone this information via dialogue. “Boy, Fred, I’ve been working here thirty years, and there’s no guarantee who’ll walk through that door. You’d think by now I’d have a steady clientele. It ain’t so.”
  • Put the reader in the POV character’s shoes. If the POV character cannot see it, the reader shouldn’t either.
  • Avoid the reversed speech tag “said John” unless you live in Great Britain.
  • Avoid “ly” adverbs in speech tags.
    • Annie said loftily.
    • Bill responded acidly.
  • Stick to the simple “said” speech tag 99 percent of the time (if you even need a tag). An occasional “asked” or “cried” is okay.
  • Avoid adverbs as often as possible.

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