Shrunken manuscript

This was fun!  I’ve read several times about the “Shrunken Manuscript” technique

recommends at her novel revision workshops. 

blogged about trying it on her latest manuscript at the NE SCBWI Conference, so I decided to give it a try with my contemporary MG to check some issues with minor characters and story arc.  I shrunk my 35,000-word, 120-page manuscript down to 29 pages of 8-point font so I could lay out the whole thing in my sun room.  Here’s what it looked like.

The pink post-it notes are major plot points.  The green are hints of my MC’s crush. The blue ones show where a minor friend character shows up.  The orange are funny bits with the little brother.  The yellow are opportunities for a new little thread I want to introduce.  I went through and marked all the things that already exist and learned a lot.  (I also found a gaping black hole with no pink post-its for almost four pages — yikes!).  Then I went through and added more color-coded post-its for things I want to add in my next revision pass. 

I loved this technique.  I’m a visual person, so seeing it all laid out like this helped me visualize the story arc in a much more tangible way and helped me see how I need to fix it.  (Plus, I have a fixation with Post-It notes anyway, and this was a good excuse to use large quantities of them. )

9 Replies on “Shrunken manuscript

  1. Wow, this looks so like it’s really helpful — and lots of fun. Do you have a link to an explanation? I’m like you, a visual learner, so I’d like to give this a try. When I’ve got enough pages to make it worthwhile, that is. 🙂

  2. This looks really cool! I’m going to try it on my YA. And congratulations! You’re my first saved memorable entry! Very neat idea.

  3. Thanks for showing this. I’ve heard from critique partners about the shrunken manuscript technique, but being a visual person as well, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was.
    I get it now, and I think it’s brilliant!
    Our regional SCBWI is hosting a Darcy Pattison workshop, but it conflicts with the Chautauqua conference so I had to miss out. I have a feeling I’m missing something spectacular. Why, oh why do these things alway seem to overlap?!

  4. I’d LOVE to attend one of her workshops. I get so many revision ideas from her blog. Chautauqua should be pretty amazing, too, though.

  5. Cool idea, I like it!

    Hey Kate, that’s pretty cool, I really like the idea. I’m a visual person, too. One can tell you’re still young if you’re using an 8-point font, LOL. My favorite right now is a 12-poing Georgia. There’s something about it that is easy on my eyes. I’m doing a book promo and I’ll let you know how it goes, it’s on my web site. Nick and I are giving away $100 to one of the first 100 people who buy the book. I’ll keep you posted 🙂 Take care.

  6. Shrunken MSS – Green Variation

    This is a very useful technique. Thanks for posting about it. And thanks for the visual as well.

    I don’t have a printer, so I had to come up with a creative way to use this technique. I used the highlighter in the Formatting Palette to mark up my MSS. Then I saved it as a PDF and was added to evaluate my manuscript using the thumbnails in the PDF drawer.

    It worked great! And it’s Green!

    I posted about it on my blog with links back to your and Darcy’s blogs. Thanks!

    I also have a children’s story posted called, “Me, My Dad, and Maurice” if you’re interested.

    Thanks again.