Shrunken Manuscript: The Nonfiction Proposal

This week, I decided to try something new in terms of a shrunken manuscript.  I did it with a nonfiction proposal.  I don’t know about you, but when I write a proposal it is easy to get lost in the details.  A friend pointed out that I needed to keep my slant front and center.  I went through my proposal again but wanted to really be certain this time I had it right.  Because I thought it was right before I showed it to my friend.  Thus the shrunken manuscript.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this technique, Darcy Pattison details how to work with a shrunken manuscript in her book Novel Metamorphosis.  In short, you reduce your font and margins, make it single-spaced and get the whole thing on about 30 pages.  That number is pretty flexible.  You want the font to be large enough to read but you want the page count to be small enough that you can stand back and study what you’ve marked up.

Sometimes a shrunken manuscript is used to study your balance of dialogue, action and narrative.  In this case you highlight each in a different color and spread the pages out.  The three should be fairly balanced so if you have pages of narrative with no action, you’ll need to make a change.  The same for huge patches of dialogue with no action or action with no narrative.

This time around I printed out my proposal in six pages.  Then I took a highlighter and marked all of the places where my key terms appeared.   Then I discovered that once I spread out the pages and tried to scan for yellow highlighter it was too hard to see.  I went back over it with greenhigh lighter and tried again.

I’d done a great job working the key terms, and thus emphasizing my slant, in the overview and most of my outline.  I had the appropriate materials in my bibliography. My sample spreads?  Not so great.  So I went through and added a bit more to both my outline and my sample spreads.

If you have questions about how to use work with a shrunken manuscript, look up Darcy’s book or ask here.


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