The Miniscript

This is one of those working habits that probably isn’t a good idea. But it’s how I work; Midnight Never Come is the eighth iteration of this approach. I’m used to it. And it has its benefits.

When I finished writing my first novel, I took a little time off, and then I started editing. Step one, of course, was to read through the novel, at which stage I marked it up with the major changes that needed to be made: continuity errors, bits that needed tightening, awkward sections, things I had to mention earlier or not drop later. This is, in my head, the “chainsaw edit” — the stage at which I take a chainsaw to the story. I mark it up with a red pen, and the goal is to make it look like I bled on the printout. If a page gets by clean, I feel like I’m not trying hard enough.

But what you have to bear in mind is that a page, in this situation, is not a standard manuscript formatted page of novel. It’s a miniscript page.

The miniscript is the part that’s probably a bad idea, but it has historical justification. The Harvard Band was going to some away game — Princeton or Cornell or some place we took a bus to the night before. Since I was always on the Study Bus (as opposed to the Raunch Bus), I decided I would use the trip as a chance to read through the novel. But even in my usual formatting (Times New Roman 12 pt., single-spaced), that was 198 pages of book, which is an awful lot to haul around. I decided to make it smaller.

The result was something my brain immediately dubbed the “miniscript,” the mini-manuscript. Times New Roman, 8 pt., full justification, half-inch margins, delete all page breaks between chapters, print on both sides of the page. Hole-punch the edge and secure it with those little metal rings, and you’ve got yourself a novel on forty pieces of paper — less if it’s a short novel, more if I ever write something that goes substantially past the 120K mark. I have eight of these things now. Maybe more; I can’t remember if I printed a miniscript for the atrocious first draft of Sunlight and Storm, or the revised draft of TNFKASotS*. I go through and mark them up with the red-pen chainsaw edit; then I go through again with a green pen, doing the line-edit. (That’s useless in places where I’ve radically changed scenes, but I just skip over those.)

What you need, to try this at home: forty pieces of paper (give or take), three metal rings, a red pen, a green pen, and microscopic handwriting.

Is it the best way to edit a novel? Probably not. But it’s how I edit a novel. Which is why the miniscript of Midnight Never Come came with me on a plane to Dallas, and acquired a sizeable bloodstain that has nothing to do with the quality of the story; my pen exploded during the flight. For portability, the miniscript can’t be beat.

*The Novel Formerly Known As SotS. That’s an acronym at the end, for the original title, which I’m not using so I’ll stop thinking about the book by that name. I’m failing, but I keep trying. My problems would be much reduced if I could just come up with a title I like.

0 Responses to “The Miniscript”

  1. astres

    What you need, to try this at home:…

    You also kind of need, you know, 120K-ish pages of written manuscript to work with XD

    Is it the best way to edit a novel?

    I don’t think that’s the right question to ask. I think it’s supposed to be, “Is it the best way to strain my quickly blurring eyesight?”

    O.o I couldn’t imagine a book in 40 pages. I think I’d use a bigger font and then put two pages per one side of the sheet, use both sides, and then that way I wouldn’t have such a wide page for my eyes to deal with. I don’t know what’d I’d do. I like the feeling of achievement with a big intimidating pile of paper XD

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s true that I felt a little disappointed the first time I saw my Big Achievement reduced to something so very small. <g>

  2. moonandserpent

    Accept SotS! Accept its unholy hold over you!

    It’s not that bad of a title.

    • kitsunealyc

      You could do a cockney rhyme slang and call it Thumbs (SotS=Drunken Bums=thumbs)

      • Marie Brennan

        Maybe I should take back the request for you to provide me with title suggestions. <g>

        • kitsunealyc




          How about Forboding of the Fae?

          I’ll stop now. I should be writing anyways.

          • kitsunealyc

            Okay, okay. For real now, because I just spent a while going through some of the quotes I’d collected previously. How’s this:

            The Breaking of the Wand
            The Pulling of the Rose

            (Both Tam Lin references, it’s how Janet summons him at Carterhaugh)

            Underneath the Eildon Tree
            The Daunting Weird

            (Both Thomas the Rhymer references, the Eildon tree is where the queen of faeries kisses Thomas)

          • kitsunealyc

            Although, on second thought, you might want to avoid The Breaking of the Wand, because I just re-read it as… well, lets just say you don’t want people to associate your book with farting.

          • kniedzw

            You’re not alone in making that association. …and with that context, I read the second suggestion as The Pulling of the Finger.

            Bad brain. No biscuit.

          • kitsunealyc

            Oh… Phaugh! Go address your wedding invitations.

          • Marie Brennan

            The issue is that SotS doesn’t really have that kind of fairy-tale/faerie ballad feel to it. I think its title would need a different style — but I haven’t hit on the right one yet.

      • moonandserpent


        Or you could do that.

        All I know is that SotS would make me (pre-exposure to Changeling, even) want to take a look at that book — because it is different. (Though a bit, meh as you say.)

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s very meh, and it has a foreign word in it. Doppelganger notwithstanding, I should try to avoid that. (Half the people out there misspell that one anyway.)

  3. querldox

    Use it while you can; when the presbyopia hits in your 40s, that 8-point type won’t be an option. : -)

  4. shalanar

    I did that with my first draft…except I kept it at 12 pt font since it was just a nano. Certainly makes it easier to carry around. Unfortunately since I left an entire subplot out of the original due to trying to write the thing in a month, my edits have failed miserably. Re-writing is what terrifies me now…

  5. Marie Brennan

    Words cannot express how crappy my eyesight is. (Numbers can; according to today’s appointment, I’m at 9.5 diopters in my right eye, 11.15 in my left.)

    Fortunately, there’s such a thing as corrective lenses.

  6. aliettedb

    I have a miniscript for my novel too: Times New Roman size 11, two novel pages per printed pages, printed on both sides pf the paper. It’s pretty neat.
    I was going to say I wasn’t sure I can read Times New Roman size 8, and then it occurred to me that Times New Roman size 11 printed on, essentially, half a page, has to be as small.

    my pen exploded during the flight
    Ouch. I hope your clothes weren’t in the way of the ink.

    • Marie Brennan

      Nope. I had set it down on the printout to get a drink from the flight attendant, and when I picked it up there was a splotch of red ink spreading everywhere.

  7. nconstruct

    If you haven’t come across this story I believe you might find it’s contents interesting in the least.

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