Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Do you have the right time?

Are you sure?  Because quite a number of manuscripts that cross my desk don't.
  • Characters are noted as preparing for a birthday party in two weeks, but a month passes before the actual event happens.  
  • A court date is set for Monday, but the characters meet to discuss it the next Thursday.
  • The characters meet on Thanksgiving, kiss under the mistletoe on Christmas Eve, then sleep together a week before Christmas.  
Sure makes readers scratch their head and think, Huh?

One of the best things you can do for yourself and your manuscript is to print out a blank calendar page--weekly or monthly, even yearly depending on the time frame of your story--and keep it beside your keyboard as you write.  Jot down a quick reference note on the day the story opens and every time a day goes by or a time lapse such as "a few weeks later" are mentioned. Underlining, highlighting, or making main events bold also helps. (If you are anything like me, you'll have a cupful of colored pens beside your monitor, too 😍) 

Having a calendar to make notes on not only gives you a visual of the timeline and pacing of your story, but you will quickly find the holes that can happen, the gaps needing to be filled or validated to make the story flow appropriately.   As you revise, keep track again, maybe in a different color, to ensure new details, added scenes or pages, stay on target or show you where you need to revise again to ensure the timeline makes sense to your readers.

And if your story is to happen in a certain time frame, even better.  Jot down the start day and the end day, which now gives you a direct timeline to play with.  Fill in the main events, scratch them out, mark the days up again, and keep playing around with it until you find the natural flow of events necessary for an accurate time frame.

But what if I write by the seat of my pants, you ask?  Pansters unite--because having a calendar doesn't mean you have to know every detail right away, that's why you keep the page beside your computer, so as the creative juices flow and you twist and turn your plot and characters, you can make quick notes on the calendar page, too.  Then, when you look at it after the first draft, you have the perfect visual reference guide to assist you in making those decisions needed for revisions, those fine-tuning details that really bring your story to life...and on time.

A search on Google for free calendar pages will produce loads to choose from, or simply draw up a blank template of your own.

Whether you are a planner or a panster, it's a good idea to have blank calendar pages in your writer's toolkit to pull out before beginning each new manuscript.



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  1. Excellent advice, Stacy! In addition, the phases of the moon during the month. If you've included the full moon in a scene, be careful that you mention it's waning in the proceeding days/weeks. Often times, I've seen the full moon carry out two weeks later and it's confusing.

  2. That is an EXCELLENT addition, Mary! Thank you so much!

  3. Excellent advice. I write and then I do a timeline on my outline that I complete after the first draft...and usually discover I put Christmas after Valentine's Day and before Halloween. :)

    1. That's actually a good idea, too, Jennifer--putting it right on your first draft. Thanks!

  4. I'd forgotten about this tip and am so glad you reminded me. My third romantic comedy mystery may have a timeline issue and I need to pay close attention. Thanks for the tip

  5. Glad I could help, Vicki! I love romantic comedies!

  6. It's really easy to get lost in time over the course of writing a novel, so your advice is very helpful. Thank you!

  7. Great blog!!! timelines are valuable in any work of fiction, and readers are savvy! Much more savvy than I am at times! hahah

  8. Great idea! I usually do a timeline, but it's so easy to get off track.

    1. Hi, Marin--good for you. It's definitely a good habit to have.