08 June 2007

The Shrunken Manuscript

Came across this technique in recent articles. There are the links to see the articles in their original contexts: darcypattison.livejournal.com cynthialord.livejournal.com and www.jacketflap.com/megablog/index.asp?blogid=678

The technique that I particularly adore is her “Shrunken Manuscript” exercise. If you are a visual learner (like myself), this technique allows you to visualise your narrative arc. Darcy described it an interview with Cynthia Leitich-Smith: “Basically, you single-space a manuscript and then shrink the manuscript to a small font and print it out. This allows you to mark and see the overall structure of a long story like a novel.”It’s so deceptively simple, you’ll wonder why you never tried this before. It’s so amazingly useful, you’ll wonder how you ever revised without it.

Shrunken Manuscripts Work Because. . .In my case, AUTUMN shrinks down from a 140-page behemoth to a tidy 28 pages. I use my Shrunken Manuscript in every aspect of the revision process. When my editor asked me to flesh out my main character’s sister, I laid out my pages on the living room floor and highlighted all the scenes in which she appeared. Then, I highlighted all the scenes in which she could grace us with her presence (she’d be delighted to know we think of her in this way). A pattern emerged, and the task of making Katie more Katie-ish was manageable and (dare I say it about the revision process?!) fun! It somehow feels easier to experiment with changes within the Shrunken Manuscript. Perhaps because you’re marking up 30 pages instead of 150. Perhaps because you’re moving that block of text two pages instead of 18. Perhaps because your words seem more disposable in 8-point font.

As a visual person myself, I know exactly what they mean. I will certainly try this technique with my scene brief when I’ve completed it. I’ve also added Darcy Pattison’s Livejournal to my list of blogs aggregated in JackateFlap, because it looks as if she has something useful to say.

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