Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

Is there a standard to the spacing of lines of a manuscript? I've heard several authors talk about the number of pages they write per day as a goal.

The industry standard for manuscript pages is this: double spaced, margins that are an inch to an inch and a half, and Times New Roman in twelve-point or a similar sized font. That’s the format you should use when you send your work out, and it’s the format many writers reference when they discuss manuscript pages.

If a writer doesn’t specify the kind of page when talking about the writing process, though, you can’t know for sure if he’s referring to this industry standard. While some people draft in manuscript pages, plenty don’t. Some writers don’t even use computers. Perhaps a more effective way to investigate this is to talk in terms of word count or even the time spent writing. That can give you a more precise idea of how much that author writes in a day. (If you’re drawing from what authors share in published interviews and articles, rather than, say, a question and answer session where you can ask for clarification, then your guess is as good as any.)

You might find that looking at what happens in your own writing sessions is an even more effective way to calibrate your daily goals. After all, we all have our natural rhythms and compose at very different paces. For several weeks, keep track of what you write each day and how long you write. You might find it useful to open a new document each writing session and include a start and end time to keep this organized. Afterward, go over the material and see which days you were most productive. Keep in mind this won’t always be the days you amassed the greatest amount of pages. Look for both quality and quantity, then use that page count as one to aspire to in future sessions. As you get into a rhythm with that goal, you can occasionally push yourself by going beyond your page count, or by spending a bit longer in a writing session and eventually that can become your new norm.