Tag Archives: formating manuscripts

Setting Up Your Golden Heart Entry – 2011

7 Nov

My first year entering the Golden Heart I had A LOT of questions around the rules and guidelines for packaging my YA Fantasy. Every year since, I’ve started posting this blog with updated information… Every year someone comes up with a question I haven’t laid the answer out to yet.

It shouldn’t have surprised me after doing this for 3 years — And finalling last year with my YA Rom Com Issue ms, Secret Life — that I’d be getting more traffic even earlier. So, here it is! The 2011 updates for entering your Golden Heart entry!


Entry fee and form must be into RWA before 5pm Central, NOVEMBER 15, 2011  (Tuesday)

Entry pages and full MS on CD must be to the RWA offices by DECEMBER 2, 2011  (Friday)

Romance Writers of America
Attn: Golden Heart Contest
14615 Benfer Rd.
Houston, TX 77069
1. Do I have to be an RWA Member to enter?

NO. The entry fee for members is $50 per manuscript and the cost for non-members is $100 per manuscript, so you might want to consider joining first. But anyone can enter.

2. Line count? Word on the street is your entry doesn’t have to be exactly 25 lines. Is this true?

Ok, I would love to add an extra line to every page and squeeze in to that last good hook before my page deadline, but the suggestion was to ignore this impulse. While the rules don’t state each page MUST follow the 25 lines guidelines, judges can often be, I believe the term was “Old School” about it. Avoid doing anything outside the standard formatting we’ve all come to know and love. If you need to brush up on formatting a page, check out my post: HERE

Beyond that, it isn’t about amount. I cut my finalling entry off at page 48. It was where the closest hook was. Stick with the old saying, sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much.

SHORT ANSWER: Try to stick with the 25 lines per page.

3. FONT. Standard font means either Times New Roman or Courier. Size either at 12. HINT: TNR will squeeze in more pages if you’re trying to push out to a good hook. And the reverse, if you’re trying to push your hook closer to the end, use Courier.

4. Do you need to include a query letter?

I’m not going to point fingers, but someone “reminded” me not to forget my query letter when sending in my entry. Talk about misinformation creating PANIC – no query letter is needed.

5. How long should my entry be?

The total pages given to the entry is 55. This includes the synopsis (which can be no longer than 15 pages – see below).

6. How long can/should my synopsis be?

Lots of differing opinions on this. Your synopsis can be UP TO 15 pages – but for every page you give to your synopsis, you take one from the 55 pages you have eligible to send in. I’d rather send more of my story.

The general consensus I received was to keep my synopsis between 3 and 5 pages.

Need help on your synopsis? Check out: http://www.charlottedillon.com/synopsis.html OR http://lisagardner.com/writers-toolbox

This is another place where maybe less is more. My finalling entry had a 2 page synopsis. It’s the same one I used for a short version for my agent’s summaries.

7. Numbering your pages. This excerpt is from the RWA Golden Heart FAQ:

Golden Heart contest rules state, “The synopsis can be no longer than 15 pages. When numbering, begin the synopsis with Page 1, and also begin the partial with Page 1. (For example: If you have a five-page synopsis and a 50-page partial, number the synopsis 1–5 and the partial 1–50.)”

SO: Manuscript page numbers: 1-whatever
Synopsis page numbers: 1-whatever BOTH START AT *ONE*

8. Does the cover page count as a page?

NO. No cover page is needed. Actually, don’t add one. Your name can’t be anywhere on the doc, so this will just have to be removed at the office.

9. Do I have to use my real name?

Yes. When you enter the contest you, all contestants must use his/her real name. But, there was a place for your pen name, that’s typically the info used.

10. Do I have to / Should I put my name on the entry?

I didn’t think to ask this question, but I’m glad someone else did! I’ll admit to being surprised to the answer. The overwhelming answer was “no” – but someone gave a reason and that’s where my surprise came in. Rumor (more writing rumors) has it that occasionally judges perceive entries with names on them as having something to prove. Go figure.

SHORT ANSWER: Don’t put your name in the header.

11. What should I put in my header?

The title of your manuscript should be lined up on the left hand side and the page number should be lined up on the right hand side. The font and font size should be the same as the body of your work.

12. Can I send more than one entry together?

I emailed RWA (in 2010) to verify this one. YES! If you put everything in big separate envelops for each entry and then put each envelope in one box (to save on the cost of shipping) that is fine. THEY MUST BE SEPARATE OUT. PLEASE DO NOT MAKE THE LOVELY, KIND, TALENTED, INTELLIGENT, AND DEDICATED CAROL RITTER WORK HARDER.

SHORT ANSWER: Yes, in separate envelopes.

13. Should I send my entry as a certified entry?

No. Don’t create extra work by making someone stop work to sign for it. Imagine if they had to sign for all 1,500 entries.

BUT, do get a tracking number. You can tell when it arrives that way.

14. Full Manuscript: The full manuscript must accompany your entries since the Golden Heart is only for completed projects. You can (of course) send a printed out version, but a CD is prefered.

15. categories: There are 10 categories. Make sure you pick the one your ms most closely fits into as there is a box on the score card to check if you’re inappropriately placed.

GOOD LUCK – and congratulations on seeing this through – that in itself is a huge accomplishment!


Here is the checklist RWA had on its website. Check it out before you mail it in:

  • Double space:
       Partial Manuscript
       Full Manuscript
  • Manuscript title in header on:
       Partial Manuscript
       Full Manuscript
  • Page numbers in header on:
       Partial Manuscript
       Full Manuscript
  • Six copies of :
       Partial Manuscript
  • One copy of:
       Full Manuscript on either floppy disk or CD (preferable) or printed out
  • Each synopsis is placed in front of a partial manuscript and bound together by binder clip (preferable) or rubber bands
  • No personal information in header other than name (name is optional) on any materials.
  • Materials must be received in the RWA office by 5 p.m. Central Time on December 2, 2011.

Formating Your Manuscript

4 Nov

Formatting your manuscript correctly may not be a make or break to a book deal, but it does show professionalism and preparation that everyone desires in a business partner. So, open your Word document and let’s get started with the basics. 

STEP ONE: Margins 

  • Under ‘File’ on your tool bar, click ‘Page Setup’   
  • Click the Margins tab at the top   
  • Ensure that you’ve selected ‘Portrait’   
  • Enter ‘1’ in the drop down boxes for Top, Bottom, Left, and Right
  • Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner 


Personally I use ‘Courier New’ size 12 or ‘Times New Roman’ depending on the project. It’s easy for pages/word calculation. 

Anything you wish to be italicized in your manuscript, should actually be underlined. Do not italicize in your manuscript. 

There is a difference between hyphens and em-dashes. For an em-dash, Word will turn 2 hyphens into an em-dash  

STEP THREE: Page Format 

  • Under ‘Format’ on your tool bar, click ‘Paragraph’
  • Next to ‘Before’ and ‘After’ enter ‘0’ – ‘Auto’ will NOT do what you want it to.  
  • In the drop-down box under ‘Space’ click ‘Exactly’
  • In the selection box next to where you just picked ‘Exactly,’ type ‘25’ – DON’T type ‘lines’ as was previously there, only ‘25’
  • At the top of the Paragraph Formatting box is the tab ‘Line and Page Breaks’ – click this
  • Ensure that all the boxes on this page are unmarked
  • Hit ‘OK’ at the bottom, right-hand corner 


STEP FOUR: The Header 

  • Under ‘View’ on your tool bar, click ‘Header and Footer’
  • When they pop open, in the Header Type: 
    BOOK TITLE / Last name                                                  Click # in toolbar 

 By clicking the ‘#’ on the toolbar, each page will be numbered  

STEP FIVE: Page Set-Up

Starting a Chapter Each chapter should begin 1/3 of the way down the page and centered. Personally, I put 6 or 7 hard-returns. This is roughly 1/3 of the page once your manuscript is formatted. This helps editors and agents calculate book length.  

REMEMBER: When submitting, check the Editor/Agent’s website, they may have specific formatting guidelines and you should always follow those when submitting to them.  

These are the basics. I hope they helped.  There are some great resources out there. Here are two:  



Remember, the work is in the writing, the formatting is the gift wrap.