Rewriting: When Your Shrunken Manuscript Fails

shrunken ms 2
An emotional moment in my shrunken manuscript.

It’s no great mystery — one of my favorite rewriting tools is the shrunken manuscript.

For those of you who’ve never worked with this tool before, it is a way of inventorying your novel.  The first step is to reduce the length of your manuscript so that you can spread it out on the floor and see the whole thing more or less at once.  This means that you widen margins, take it down to single-space and reduce your font.

Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to take inventory.  A couple of months ago, I blogged about using a shrunken manuscript to inventory the dialogue in my story.  My main characters tends to be short spoken — he’d rather do it than talk about it.  His best friend, on the other hand, is a Professor-type.  He has plenty to say on every topic.  This is the sort of tedius thing that I’m tempted to tell myself is no big deal.  It isn’t that bad, it doesn’t need fixing.  But if I mark it on a shrunken manuscript and see that the side kick is truly taking over, I can’t deny the problem and I have to fix it.

I got a comment back from a reader that she tried this with her manuscript and found very little to fix.  Was she doing something wrong?

Actually, the problem was probably that she was doing thing right in terms of her dialogue.  If it was in balance, she wasn’t going to see anything she needed to fix.

The lesson?  Don’t use a shrunken manuscript to inventory things you do well.  Use it to inventory the things your critique group consistently comments on or the things that you worry might not be quite right.

To find out more about the different ways you can use a shrunken manuscript to improve your writing, head on over to the Muffin and read my blog post for today.


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