I used to write on a word processing software, so all the work of rewriting, correcting, editing was easy. Now I'm more and more inclined to handwrite my manuscripts, but all this work of cross out words or rewriting some parts seems tricky.

For example, do I have to let a larger spacing between the lines so I can interpose or add new parts to my text, or let a margin on the side etc.

Is there any tips or good practices of this kind to make all this work easier ?

  • See this page. It's surprisingly hard to find this nowadays, but I had luck using the Google search how to mark corrections in a manuscript. And, use a bright contrasting color!
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 3:52

3 Answers 3


Yes, you double space.

Going old school… learn how it was done back in the day. You can find old textbooks and submission guides. The same is true for typewriters, so you will find guidelines up to just a few years ago to be useful. For the marks used to indicate corrections, see this page. It's surprisingly hard to find this nowadays, but I had luck using the Google search how to mark corrections in a manuscript. And, use a bright contrasting color! Besides the special marks and having room to write more words to be inserted, you get the idea of how much room you need to do that.

Number pages within a set, not the entire book. Label each page of the set with the chapter ID and draft info. For example, the packet of pages will all be A27, so pages will be A27-1, A27-2, A27-3, etc. Often sketches will be smaller than chapters and not placed yet, but this packet needs a “file name”. So use date and number suffix so you don't have to think about making up something unique. It’s also a good idea to note the total number of pages on the first page at least, so when you are done update it to read A27-1 (of 6) for example.

I’m thinking that the amount of writing in a packet, what you sit down and write as one unit of new work, is like a scene in a story, or some notes for the character. So some packets are assembled into a draft chapter and other packets are your own reference. Point is, every time you write something, give that a unique ID. If it doesn’t fit on one page, number the pages but only consider that one packet — don’t try to number across a chapter-in-progress, for example.

Write single sided only, if you didn't already know that. Single sided prevents marks from showing through, but high quality paper and some marking technologies tolerate 2-sided better. Single sided is better for laying out papers later, as you don’t have half hidden. You can also use the blank back for notes that don’t fit, and this is handy for marking students' work to hand back; but you also use new sheets for this by labeling the insertion point with a circled number.

Use generous margins. You might also take ideas from note-taking formats, and leave a few inches too the side for notes to add later! Especially for “sketches” and rough ideas.

When I was re-learning penmanship for good handwriting, I used good fountain pens and also created my own custom lined paper. This was the size I liked and the mid-line (x-height) adjusted to my liking. The link has more of my notes about handwriting on paper.

Using packets of standard sized writing paper is suitable for writing that will consume a good vraction of at least one page, up to many pages. But for organizing materials for essays, I was taught to use 3×5-inch index cards. Each contains a short fact or a couple of sentences. This idea has returned with the guise of “Agile” management! So you can now find these index cards in a variety of colors. And you also find sticky-note pads with 4×6 or 5×7-inch pages, that can be arranged using a wall to stick them on. These smaller pieces don't need double spacing — any rework just has you copy out a fresh card.

  • Single sided, for the case you have to extend a text or add additional paragraphs ? Other question, what do you mean by numbering pages within a set ? How to define a set (a group of chapters or... ?)
    – Koblenz
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 17:48

Margin settings can be anything you like, as can spacing.

I think that this is a matter of personal preference in the end, so I'd try a number of different settings, or note what you need more or less of.

I've been a fan of double-spacing, and I like wider margins on the left and right, with very little space on the top and bottom.

I've done a 3 inch margin on the right, with a one and a half inch on the left, double spaced.

This is what I have done, but I think that your preferences will be be personal, and will also depend on how you're handed (left or right) as to what you'd like.

You might like more space on the bottom or top than I do.

My tip, do double spacing, standard margins on something that you know you'll need to edit and write notes and changes on. Pay attention to what you need, what your patterns are, and where on the sheet you're most comfortable writing. JDlugosz's tip as to labeling each with chapter ID. page number and draft info is pretty much gold, because things can get disorganized.

  • Thanks for the answer, can you show me what one of your manuscript's pages looks like (in picture)?
    – Koblenz
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 17:53
  • @Koblenz I don't have any pictures, because this was back when I was doing handwritten edits, long ago. These days I just do google docs and I use the comment function a lot. Commented Jun 18, 2017 at 0:04
  • Ok, I'll try to find examples on google, thanks anyway :)
    – Koblenz
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 9:44

I don't why in this day and age anybody would want to handwrite a manuscript but we are not all the same. However, your manuscript will have be entered into a computer at some point so bear this in mind when creating a process.

When I used to commute I hand wrote NEW chapters on a ruled writing pad - I called this CREATIVE mode.

Bear in mind it is almost impossible to 'edit' and 'create' in the same mindset. When in creative mode you are inside the story, living it. When editing you are outside the story looking for errors in short sections of text.

Periodically, I'd transcribe my scrawl onto my computer. During this process is where most of the editing took place, effectively making to digital version of the manuscript a second draft WIP.

If during my commute I was not in a creative frame of mind I'd re-read, proof and edit anything that had not yet been transcribed. I used a black for creation and a red pen for edits. Minor edits were made between lines with notes in the corresponding margins. More complicated comments and adjustments were indicated by an encircled number in the margin. The number indicated that detailed notes could be found at the back of the pad.

Hope this helps.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.