19 Feb

Editing with the Shrunken Manuscript

I read a great blog post this week, “How to Revise You Manuscript at a Glance” by Darcy Pattison at www.writetodone.com. It outlined how to print your manuscript – mark it up – and see where you need work. Please go to this link to read the entire article by Darcy: www.writetodone.com/resise-novel-glance/
Now that you have the gist from reading her article, here is how I used the Shrunken Manuscript method to help me with my writing.
The steps I took with my sequel to THE KINDLING, THE FLAME.
1. Get prepared. I am lucky to be a hoarder of highlighters and sharpie markers, so get yours out. Not yellow or light colors, the darker the better.

2. Print your MS at a point 8 or point 6 font. I had to use two columns to get it to fit approximately 30 pages.
3. Make a key. Each color should represent something in your novel. For me, I have visions, Bible verses, conflict, Sparks…etc. You will have to make your own key for your specific novel. Like if you wanted to keep track of a character you can give him/her one color.

key for shrunken ms
4. Mark it up! Go through your MS and mark a big X on your strongest chapters. The definition of “strongest” is up to you. For me, I think my strongest have the most conflict so that is what I marked.
5. Mark up all your other key elements you are looking for. I used different colors and different techniques. Example, a change in point of view was an orange bracket; a spark was a blue circle and so on. Just keep a key so you don’t get confused later.
6. Lay out your pages on the floor, ten per row, three rows.

Shrunken ms
7. Look at your story. Do you have a sagging middle? No action for three or more chapters, you may want to revise. How does your beginning look? Are there a lot of colors on it? Where are you missing color? What do you need to add? What have you missed?

Shrunken ms 2


This is a close up of Chapter 1, this to me, is a great chapter…look at all those colors!

Ch1 shrunken ms

What I learned about THE FLAME:
1. I change POV too late in the MS. Need to change earlier to get the reader aware we are changing POV’s in this book.
2. Not enough direct conflict with Garrett and the Council. There will be much more in the second half, but need to add more in the first half.
3. Chapter’s where characters hate Weylin are the strongest (most conflict). Also, chapters were characters are making sacrifices and mistakes
4. Shadow Island needs a lot of work, it is too slow.
5. Karlie’s voice is stronger that Tru’s (major issue)
6. Not enough Bible verses.

THEN – I went on and made a list on how I was going to FIX these problems. I won’t show you that list, you will have to read the book..wink wink!

I highly recommend everyone doing this. It’s a great tool and I am so glad to share it with you. By the way, my kids walked into the office, noticing all the paper on the floor, and said “Mom! What are you doing in here? Dad come look what mom is doing!” then the Golden retriever proceeded to trample the paper. Last suggestion….lock the door.

Just another day in the life of a Busy Lady!


  • Thanks for all these details, Busy Lady! I really think this is useful, and I might be doing this with Patrick soon!

  • Glad you shared this link plus an actual example of using the technique!

    • Thanks Patricia! It was a great blog post and it really opened my eyes to what my manuscript was missing. I came up with some amazing “fixes” to add that are very exciting and couldn’t have done it without this technique.

  • Love. It. Busy Lady, I am definitely going to try this when my next novel is finished. Hoping to have it done by the end of the year, so I may need reminding in December 😉

  • Thanks for sharing. This was really an eye-opener for a “Seat-of your-Pants type writer like me. I will use this. I love color coding. I use color coding to teach essay writing! Thanks so much for this post. I’d love to re-post this idea, share with the world.

So, what do you think?