At a shrunken manuscript conference, you don’t chant, “Hocus pocus, manuscript focus.” That’s fiction! In real life you change your font and shrink your pages preconference. Magic! Right?
This is my preconference, unmarked, shrunken manuscript of 41 pages, 141 pages in regular font. At the conference I got Darcy’s book. I analyzed my story and marked up my pages. But…it wasn’t magical. Or easy.
My first try isn’t here…I couldn’t mark a single page. Not one! I have a narrative arc, but I couldn’t find it. I got lost trying to find the antagonist/bad guy…mine’s a thing, not a person. URGH!!! Darcy suggested a character arc instead. Easy, I thought. It wasn’t!
This time I finished and have the picture below to prove it. But…I quickly realized I didn’t know what I was doing. Exhausted from an early flight, on information overload, I put X’s where ever Poppy battled insecurities, succesfully or not. I marked most pages and battled my own doubts. It felt wrong, but I marked till I hit page 41. Then I took my own advice: 1. It’s OK to fail. You learn more from failure than success. 2. Sleep. You can think about it tomorrow. It worked!
The next morning a classmate’s pages showed me what I didn’t understand. Marking shrunken manuscripts is about highlighting important stuff, and leaving the rest white. Then you can see chapter book structure VIVIDLY!!! With a glance, you’ll see where you wrote too much, or too little. Armed with my new revelations, I marked my 5 strongest chapters. They’re above in the 2nd picture, below too. I thought 3 other chapters were strong too. Guess what? I made my own rules and marked them almost strong. I was on a roll!
Remember my narrative arc failure? SUCCESS!!! I marked the problem, 3 attempts, final failure, climax, and solution. I even figured out the Antagonist (No food). It’s amazing what sleep, confidence, and the right picture can do!
This is a shot of my first 3 pages. Amazing! I thought they were weak. I thought I should delete them, but I changed my mind when I looked at the marks and listened to my writing group! I read Susan, Kim, and Jodie’s manuscript preconference, and they read mine. They helped me see my first chapter was worth saving, and they helped me design a renovation plan.
The second picture is my manuscript key. After 4 arcs, I really understand shrunken manuscripts. Experience is a great teacher! Now for my next challenge… marking my character arc. I think…I’ll tackle it…tomorrow!
This is my retreat class picture. We all left feeling hopeful, that someday, our manuscripts will be published. Working alone, as a group, and as a class helped us find our own problem areas, then design action plans to solve them, AKA homework. There’s nothing like designing your own homework!
There’s also nothing like hanging out with Darcy Pattison and a dozen prepublished writers like me! Thank you for a great retreat and birthday weekend, for homework, and for getting Poppy’s story one step closer to publication! I would do another retreat in a heartbeat, even on a holiday weekend!
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!