Novel formatting


I’m starting a novel and have selected the appropriate template.

I’m still finding my way around the multiple choices offered in Scrivener and sometimes find it difficult to decide which is the most appropriate for me.

I have read, and watched, the tutorials but I often end up more confused than before :slight_smile:

So, my question is, is there a basic formatting for writing a novel? I’m referring to line and paragraph spacing, principally, although I would also like to know if the best font and size are Times New Roman 12? (these seem to be the settings that publishers (UK) prefer/insist manuscript submissions be in.)

Anyway advice/suggestions would be much appreciated.


One of the more unusual things about Scrivener is that during the compile process, where Scrivener stitches together each document within it into a single document, is that it can also transform the formatting of the text. Your choices during the compile process can alter the font, paragraph indentation, line spacing, etc. All without modifying the text that you see within a project. So write using whatever formatting you like, even if it’s Comic Sans, 8pt font. Nobody will be the wiser if you then compile into Times New Roman 12 point, double-spaced.

The real reason for that aspect of the compile feature is that if submission guidelines are different from one publisher / contest / agency to the next, you can just tweak the compile settings without changing what you see within Scrivener. Being able to format the text in a way that’s pleasing to you is just an added bonus.

If you haven’t already, go through the self-paced Interactive Tutorial project (you can get to it the same way you do to create a new project, or from the Help menu). You could also create another project just for experimenting and learning – grab a short, public-domain novel from Project Gutenberg, import and split that into chapters and/or scenes – and try out various features of the compile process when you want to figure out how to do it for your own work.

That’s really helpful.

Thanks so much for such an in depth explanation. It’s reassuring and makes good sense.


By way of example:

In Scrivener:

I have my default paragraph style in Scrivener set to Courier Prime 12pt with 1.1 line height, no paragraph indent but a 12pt paragraph after-spacing. For writing, I like the typescript look of Courier. Also, I want to really see how I am breaking paragraphs, so the 12pt paragraph breakage space is good for that. I also have the editor area of Scriv set to 175% zoom, so that 12 point type is sizable on-screen. (For read throughs this set up also enables me to print directly from the Scrivener editor – probably using Scrivenings mode – and get draft text printout in a form I want.)

For Presentation:

However, when I want to present my writing, I would not want any of those settings. So, when compiling a story, say, I would undoubtedly set my compile settings to give paragraphs a first line indent and no padding space between paragraphs. And I would have it set the text in Garamond or some other bookish font as well – certainly not Courier for my final output.

So, happily, the bottom line is: you can pretty much just focus on your story development and writing right now without delay!


Thanks for that!

It’s an interesting way to approach writing and adapting Scrivener to suit your way of working.


Actually, that is the way Scrivener was designed to be used from the start. Those who have been wedded to Word for years are the ones who take time to get it.