The Shrunken Manuscript

Mandy and I plan to shrink her WIP this week.
Shrink 200-plus pages to oh, I don’t know, thirty-five.

Author Darcy Pattison, owner of the Fiction Notes, persuades writers to shrink their novels in her book Novel Metamorphosis.

Author Sara Lewis Holmes (OPERATION YES, Arthur Levine, 2009) uses it too. You gotta love the glitter.

Instructions for the Shrunken Manuscript Strategy

(From Darcy’s website, with permission.)
  1. Take out the chapter breaks, so there is no white space between chapters.
  2. Single space the entire mss.
  3. Reduce the font of the mss until the mss takes up about 30 pages. This is arbitrary, of course, but I find that I can see about 30 pages at a time. It doesn’t matter if the font is readable; you’re trying to shrink the mss so you can mark certain things and you won’t be reading it but evaluating how these things fit into the big picture. If your mss runs over 40,000 words, you can try putting it into two columns in order for it to fit into 30 pages. If your mss is over 50,000 pages, you may need to divide it into two sections and evaluate 30-shrunken pages at a time.
  4. Use a bright, wide marker and put an X over the strongest chapters.Note: Actually, you can use the Shrunken Manuscript to evaluate anything that you want to visualize across the novel: places where two characters interact, the percentage of dialogue, places where you repeat a certain setting, places where the theme is made obvious, etc.
  5. Lay out the mss pages on the floor in about three rows of ten. (Adjust layout to your page count, of course.)
  6. Stand back and evaluate.

Of course, everything is arbitrary and I’ve just made up rules to fit my mss. Change anything you need to fit your mss. But these guidelines generally work well for most mss.

I hope to do this to my own MG by summer’s end. Don’t worry, I’ll post plenty of pictures! (I’m thinking M&Ms would work well.)

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