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Monday, December 7, 2009

Yep, that's right. You've seen this picture before.

I warned you that during the month of December you'd be seeing recurring shoe pictures. We've been discussing information writers come across on the Internet, and like these shoes, it doesn't always match. When I first started to query my manuscript, I had no idea what I was doing. (And, I probably still don't, but I'd like to think I know more than I did back then.) I did a ton of research and found that everyone had something different to say. And, now, even the things I thought were consistent turn out to be questionable. I've focused my last couple of posts on manuscript formatting, so I'd like to continue with this topic before moving on. I've heard that a chapter should start halfway down the page, and I've heard it should start one-fourth of the way down. I've also heard that a scene break should be designated with one or three asterisks, one or three number signs, or with just a blank line. I, personally, start the chapter one-fourth of the way down, and I mark a scene break with one asterisk. Who knows if I'm right, but that's just what I do. So what do you think? Where should we start a new chapter? How should we indicate a scene break? I'd really like to know what you think.

46 comments:

Robyn Campbell said...

I start three-quarters of the way down on the page, Susan. I learned to do it that way a long time ago. And I do NOT indicate scene breaks. I started doing that and then took them out. I want each scene to flow to the next. I know a lot of writers use them. And I'm probably wrong on that.

I look forward to this discussion.

Great post. It will help us all. Thanks. :)

Natalie said...

I think as long as you give a bit of white space before a new chapter and show a scene break with something simple (like asterisks or a blank line, instead of jumping reindeer or something), you're good. I think I put 5 lines before new chapters and a blank line between scenes. Sara didn't ask me to change it before she submitted to editors, so I assume it was fine that way. I think there's a lot of flexibility and that's why there aren't very clear guidelines. They just want it to be readable.

Matthew Delman said...

I like to start roughly halfway down the page for each new chapter, and I tend to indicate a scene break with four asterisks in the center of the page. Of course I try to not have many scene breaks in my text, so there is that.

All that aside, I think that many agents tend to not really care all that much about the formatting of the manuscript (so long as it chooses one method, sticks with it, and isn't written in green crayon on black construction paper or something similarly esoteric).

Valerie Geary said...

I do a page break for chapters and ### for scene breaks within those chapters. But I agree with Matthew... by being consistent about your breaks and not doing something completely off the wall (invisible ink??), then an agent probably wouldn't be too miffed.

Heather Sunseri said...

I'll be coming back to read what others do. I have no idea how far down I go before my chapters start - somewhere around 1/2 a page, and I only do a blank line between scenes.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I usually hit "enter" until it looks right. Guess I should be more exact... but it's usually around halfway. For breaks, I use more than three asterisks. But I like the idea of only using three! I might start doing that anyway!

Patti said...

I start half way down the page and also leave an inch and a half after the header on subsequent pages. I also use the blank lines instead of astericks.

But I agree with most people so far, as long as you give some white space and are consistent then I think you'll be okay.

Beth said...

Chapters 3/4 of the way, and I do one line of white space for scene breaks.

Stephanie L. McGee said...

Chapters at the top of the page, POV shifts with one asterisk, major scene breaks that don't include a transition paragraph with three. (I think. Maybe I just use one all around.)

Tamika: said...

Honestly I haven't gotten that far in my manuscript to prepare presenting it. But I love learning all the rules before hand- thanks Susan!

Paul Greci said...

I start new chapters one third of the way down the page and use * * * for scene breaks. I think the key is to be consistent. I used to use white space for scene breaks but whenever I had a scene break at the bottom of the page I had to force a page break to be consistent and then if I changed something things would get screwed up. I found the * * * to be more time friendly and I knew they wouldn't disappear. My agent submitted my ms the way I formatted it.

Abby Annis said...

I start a new chapter with a page break, but no extra spaces, and I seperate scenes with a #. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but it's too overwhelming trying to decipher all the conflicting info out there. Unless an agent specifically indicates a format they prefer, I'm not changing anything. I think as long at it's clear where the breaks are and it looks professional, that's all that really matters.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I start a new chapter with six returns (in double spacing mode), which I think is about 1/3 down the page (except for the very first chapter which starts lower). I believe I read that in the latest Writer's Market book. And I separate scenes with ***.

Dominique said...

I usually use the *** method, myself, but that decision was not based on any knowledge or fact-finding of any kind.

I have some friends who write and read screen plays, and I believe in screen plays the usual break indicator is ###. But I could be wrong about that, too.

Lily Robinson said...

I start my chapters about one-fourth down. I prefer the three asterisks for scene separation. Although, I think most books I read have the blank line. I may take them out during the editing process, but they're helpful to me during the construction phase.

I'd sure be interested in some opinion on this from agents and editors!

Karen said...

My take on this question is that any agent that is going to reject my ms because I "improperly" started the chapter at the wrong spot or did not adequately mark the section break is probably not an agent I want to work with. I'll keep querying and find someone a little less picky. And then I'll let them decide how best to approach the editor.

Cindy said...

I have a bad habit of starting chapters at the beginning of the page, though I don't think that's right. I do scene breaks with three astericks. It helps to see all this other advice. Thanks for these posts, Susan!

Girl in My Own World said...

I just kind of go with what looks right. Halfway down the page seems too far to me. I guess maybe one fourth of the way. I am not sure either though. lol.

Bethany Wiggins said...

I keep my scene breaks and new chapters as simple as possible... A blank line in between new scenes. And for a new chapter, I don't scroll down at all... top of the page, I write CHAPTER WHATEVER. It saves me time, I guess. And it works for me.

Angie Muresan said...

Don't know, usually just write Chapter whatever and go from there.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I do pretty much what you do.

Although, some publishers like Five Star, will give you specific formatting before you submit the full. Like they want 5 astericks between scene breaks, etc...

L. T. Host said...

Chapters halfway down, scene breaks are two number signs (whoops, not one or three). But agh it's so frustrating how there's no "standard" really. It always seems to depend on the agent.

Hopefully none of them would reject you outright because the formatting (if it's not totally insane) isn't exactly to their preference. Hopefully.

Jody Hedlund said...

The contests I entered asked for us to start each chapter half way down the page. And then to break scenes with three x's like this: xxx (centered on a line). A blank line is too easy to be missed, so we need to designate a scene break with something.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I will be starting my chapters about a quarter of the way down the page, once I actually tackle that part of the formatting. Page breaks and my Word program don't like each other right now so I'm not messing with it.

I separate scene breaks with three asterisks.

Patti Lacy said...

I like to start the chapter a third of the way down the page, then break scenes with three asterisks.

The publisher changes it to fit their layout, anyway, and I haven't heard a complaint yet!!!

There's just something cool about ***.

Blessings to a GREAT blogger!!!

Patti

www.pattilacy.com/blog

Janna Qualman said...

Wow! Those are things I've never noticed any guidelines for, and it's great you're addressing them!

My new chapters start about a quarter of the way down. And for now, my scene changes are just denoted by hard returns (I think that's what it's called when you double-space twice?). But I've several spots where it interferes with a page break, and it gets really confusing. When I go back through edits, I'll use the asterisks.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Lots of variations here! I've gone back and forth on how to indicate scene breaks. I think as long as you're consistent you'll be fine. I start my chapters about 1/3 of the way down the page.

staceyjwarner said...

the scene break is new to me, I didn't realize they were even needed until recently...I have a lot to learn, LOL.
much love

MG Higgins said...

What great information! I haven't paid much attention to either of these issues, but I will now. I hit return a couple of times before a chapter and break scenes with an extra line.

WhisperingWriter said...

I don't really indicate scene breaks. Maybe I should. As for new chapters, I just do a small space from where I left off and put CHAPTER in big letters so it's obvious what it is.

ElanaJ said...

Wow, so many variances. I start my new chapters at 4 inches. I use one # to indicate a scene break. I'm not sure there's a hard, fast rule for any of this.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

He he, I start a third of the way down, and I use * * * to indicate a change of scene.

Great shoes. The mismatched concept resembles the shoe issue in my house (as well as the sock and mitt issue).

Amy DeTrempe said...

I start each chapter 1/3 of the way down and a scene break is indicagted with "* * *" But, there is a lot of conflicting information out there.

~Ellie Kings~ said...

Re: the shoe pic, It slipped my mind Susan, and for a minute there I thought I was on the wrong post :) Thanks for the lesson. Keep 'em coming.

Carolyn V. said...

My critique group decided it was best to put a plain line in there, but I keep looking for the asterisk. (My friend who is published uses the asterisks.)

Shelli said...

i had my whole manuscript with them about 1/3 to 1/2 down the page. my agent made me reformat to start them all at the top - grrrrrr - you just cant win so dont worry about it - just make it look nice.

Kinda like getting a pair of shooes at Target, if they're cute , no one knows or cares where they are from - they just like your shoes :)

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh gosh. I have heard such conflicting things on this too.

Here's what I do:

I start a new chapter one fourth of the way down a page, I put three asterisks to mark change of scene (they are centered)

One editor that looked at my work wanted the chapters to start at the top of the pages so I reformatted. You can't win.

Erica said...

I love the pic- whether I've seen it or not (it's okay to re-use and recycle- Be Green!)

I like the chapter about one forth like you. I use three asterisk's between scenes myself.

Interesting to see all the different answers!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

New chapter - 1/2 way down the page - i think the "rule" is 11 lines.

space breaks ***

Danyelle said...

I start mine about halfway down. To be honest though, I eyeball it, so while it's not exact, it's aesthetically pleasing. O:)

I don't usually have scene breaks, but the one chapter I had, I used three *.

It's funny how many contradictions there are to the rules. :D

Dawn Simon said...

I start each chapter halfway down the page. If a scene ends in the middle of a page, I mark it with just a blank space. If it ends at the bottom of a page, I mark it with three *.

jdcoughlin said...

Wow, sounds like a lot of ideas. I double space my chapter headings Chapter 1 and so on, flush left so it lines up when submitting online. As for scene breaks, another double space. I don't like asterisks because it looks a little odd, to me.
However, I did change formats a few times for different agents.

Kelly H-Y said...

I always hear different requirements for the start of picture books as well! I figure I'll do something in between all the recommendations and hopefully land close to what they want to see! :-)

Cassandra Frear said...

One fourth of the way down sounds reasonable to me.

Faith said...

Good grief, I have no idea... I plan to separate one of my WIPs into chapters soon (I don't write first drafts using chapters) so I guess I'd better get this figured out!

sanjeet said...

I want each scene to flow to the next. I know a lot of writers use them. And I'm probably wrong on that.

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