Thursday, March 5, 2009

Darcy Pattison Revision Retreat -- Shrunken Manuscripts

I had the great fortune to attend a novel revision retreat instructed by Darcy Pattison and organized by the Illinois-SCBWI people from central Illinois. First of all, hats off to all who planned the retreat!

One of the things I've always kept in mind when reporting on conferences and retreats is that the information taught is not mine to reteach. Reporting on Darcy's retreat will be easy -- I can point you straight to sections of her blog.

The above link will give you insight into shrinking your own manuscript and how it can be helpful. The basic idea is condense it into 30 or less page and use highlighters to mark different aspects of the book (a different color for each aspect). These might be strong chapters, conflict, interaction between two certain characters and so on. You then lay out the pages and can get an overall view of your work.

I encourage you to try this. Shrinking the manuscript is really easy, too. (I think it took me about 3 minutes.)

Here are a few of my plans (which will use multiple shrunken manuscripts):

1. Track when five of my supporting characters are in the book. (Mom, Dad, best friend, brother and the young guy-ghost. My MC is a girl.) I'll also track conflict here.

Problems to check: Dad, I believe got lost for a while -- little brother too. Looking for more Mom in early section and conflict with her.

2. Check overall strong chapters and conflict (internal and external).

Problems to check: Sagging middle (or Chapters 2-6 of 25). Story arch.

3. And similarly with small sections (scenes and probably individually as opposed to a shrunken manuscripts) highlight sensory details, color coded by type.

Problem to check: Making each scene strong with varied sensory details -- not just sight.

The multicolor highlighting and shrunken manuscripts are tools that can be applied to meet our own needs. Make sure you click on the link to Darcy's blog/website for infinitely more free information.

Fun moment #1 from retreat -- We did charades of a few manuscript titles as an ice breaker:


PJ Hoover said...

I do need to try this shrunken manuscript thing. I've heard of it many times!

Anonymous said...

I am struggling with how to make the shrunken manuscript technique work for me, so thanks for sharing your process!

Anonymous said...

I will try this! Thank you, Jim, for sharing your notes. I feel so lucky!

Trina Sotira said...

I was previously anonymous because my keys stuck. I will blame the cat who barfed on my keyboard. Again, kudos on your notes. Good luck revising!

Jim Danielson said...

PJ: It's a cool idea for viewing the big picture about some group of aspects in a novel.

ibb: Everyone must find what works for them. I think this technique works better during early drafts. It also might work better for some genres than others.

Trina: Interesting about sticking keys.... Sticking keys play a pivital role in my other WIP (the one currently in the drawer). For obvious reasons I'm not offering more detail in this public a format. I'll gradually be sharing more, but Darcy has sooooo much shared on her site.

Vivian said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing this. I'll try this.