One of the most frequent questions I receive from aspiring authors is regarding exactly how to write a manuscript. Although different publishing companies may have specific formats for the manuscript in the submission process, there is no universal formula for how to write a manuscript. In speaking with many of the authors with whom I have worked, some prepare a basic outline and develop the story within the confines of that framework, while others actually write the ending to their books first and work backwards to the beginning. Despite the various approaches to writing a manuscript, there are two key elements upon which you should focus as you begin.

First, it is axiomatic in the world of literature that the best works are produced by authors who are knowledgeable in the area about which they are writing. This does not mean that you need to be a spy before you know how to write a manuscript involving espionage, or that you need to be in law enforcement before writing a murder mystery. It does, however, mean that you need to be well researched in the areas in which you choose to write. Editors are invaluable in the writing process and the production of the final manuscript, but do not rely on the editor to do your research for you. Taking the time to fully research and understand the subjects involved in your work will ultimately produce a higher quality manuscript, and will give you a much greater chance of catching the attention of a publisher.

When I review a manuscript for possible publication with our company, it is done, in part, from a marketing perspective. In doing so, I determine whether the manuscript is actually written for its target audience. Thus, the second key element to keep in mind as you begin your manuscript is that once you identify your target audience, make sure your writing remains consistent. I have seen numerous manuscripts for children’s books that were either much too advanced for the age or far too simple. Whether picture books, books for teens, or books for young adults, it is important to keep your writing consistent with your target audience.

The different approaches used by authors in preparing a manuscript can vary as much as the writings themselves, but the key elements necessary to produce a manuscript worthy of publication remain consistent. The focus should not be so much on identifying a specific format for how to write a manuscript, but rather the fundamental elements necessary to produce the final work.

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