One of my biggest struggles as a writer is my inability to reflect on my entire novel at once.
I want a big picture view, so I can decide what genre to classify it as, or how best to pitch it. I want to know what parts are slow, what parts are too fast, and whether my main character is likable.
Instead, I find the novel in my mind is like a jpg that's too big for my computer screen, so I need to scroll sideways and up and down to see the whole picture, mentally switching from character to character, chapter to chapter.
Maybe I should write short stories! Does anyone else have this problem?
Perhaps it's because I'm a visual thinker; I use mind maps, plot charts, images of my characters. So I really wish I could draw a picture of my novel. Then, if I stared at it really closely, I could see all the characters, all the plot points, how everything flows together, the resolution at the end. But there's just no piece of paper big enough.
However, over time I have found some ways of getting close to what I want:
My tutor, author Julia Green, requires all of her students to write a page-long synopsis of their books. Describing an entire novel's plot and characters in such a brief format enables a writer to see where the book's logic might fall apart or questions go unanswered.
I can hold sections of a novel in my brain, so I've taken to dividing my novels into different chunks based on characters' journeys and plot points. Then, when I hold and analyze each section in my head, I can better understand how the whole might work.
Darcy Pattison, in her book Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise advocates the Shrunken Manuscript. She has more details on her website, but basically she recommends literally shrinking your manuscript (single space, no chapter breaks, a tiny font) so you can print it and visually consider the entire thing at once (Do all the weak scenes fall in a row? Are any parts description heavy? Unusually long? Equal time for characters?).
How do you analyze your novel as a whole?