You know those comic books where someone takes a sip of apple juice dosed with some magical potion and they shrink to the size of a ladybug and are used as a government spy? This is like that, but instead I shrunk my manuscript.
I learned about the Shrunken Manuscript writing technique on the Women on Writing ezine (thank goodness for Anna, who is always sending me great links). Basically, you shrink your novel to single-spaced, 6-point text so you can see the entire book in about 30 pages. Seeing this “snapshot” of your whole book makes it easier to see arcs and threads and how the scenes are arranged and how everything ties together.
I used a whole bunch of highlighters to color each scene, based on different criteria: who is my main character speaking to in this scene? What is she doing? Where is she? I circled particular clues with a red sharpie. I avoided marking anything according to my own opinion – frankly, I no longer trust my own opinion in regards to what works/doesn’t work in this book. But spreading it out and staring at the scenes was an interesting experiment. I could see that one character was well-represented, but I’m hoping to fit in one additional scene with him and a third character who doesn’t get as much face-time. I found a place where another clue could be dropped to add to a particular thread.
I still have more work to do. Now that scenes with the same two characters are highlighted in one color, it’s easy to go from one to the next and compare them and look for any repetition. I can also see that some of my newer scenes need to be more fleshed-out. While some of this isn’t a surprise to me, it’s been fun to try a different technique. Especially one that feels like an art project.