Format and Titles: Cleanup in Aisle Two!

We’re into the home stretch, everyone—I’m gone in three blog posts. So for these, I wanted to jump forward into the Writing Sample. I’ll begin with three simple things you can do with your Sample to make it read more cleanly, feel more professional, and in general be less annoying.

1)  Clean up your formatting.

When pasting a Sample into the body of an e-mail, avoid bold text and enlarged text, and don’t forget to double-check how it all “looks” before sending. (This also counts for Query Letters.) Nothing’s more distracting than oversized, bright blue font where there should only be serious text, or indents in the middle of sentences. It may help for you to keep documents of your submittables—first few chapters, the synopsis, etc—that are clear of all formatting. You’ll find there’s no real need to center things, and in not doing so, you reduce the risk of having garbled text.

2)  Don’t overdo your chapter headings.

EVERYONE does this. Decide if you really need a chapter title—especially for novels intended for an adult audience. Sometimes, I read chapters with a number, AND a title, AND a quote, AND a date, AND a time. Limit yourself to what’s necessary. Any more can be facetious.

3)  Work to have an interesting or marketable title.

I see lots of titles that are names. I see lots of titles that are boring. Add conflict, or variety, or just consider something new. Make a list, and see which one your friends and family like the best. Run a Google search on your list of ideas and cross off those that have already been used as book titles.

-Frustrated Intern

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