Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Story and Calendar Management

It's been a long few weeks, Lurkdom. I've reread my WIP about six times and now have 13 pages of revision notes to implement. In addition to the crazy amount of notes, I also have a 3 page long task list of things this revision must accomplish.

My revision process will hit the triple digits hours-wise.

The first thing on my task list was to create a timeline of events. This step may sound like a procrastinator's task, but when your story includes a ticking clock device, it's important to make sure that everything works within that time frame. (It's also important that events that happen on a Friday actually do happen on a Friday.)

What PHOENIX RISING currently looks like.
Here's a snapshot of my timeline as it currently stands in my WIP. Not all the dates/days are specified within the story, so I had to guess a few things. The problem with that is that there's way too many unknowns. Then you develop the problem of large gaps in time. (If you don't believe, continue to look to your right.)

All events are written on post it notes. On days when there are multiple events, I used flags to write the events in. On the flags, each color represents a different character.

By putting my story's events on a timeline, I can see that way too much is happening in one spot. The entire novel is supposed to be over a seven-week period; there's no need for so much to happen in two weeks straight.

Now that I know what my current timeline looks like (and I've had a good cry over it), I can look to see what can move and what needs to be included. After a few hours, I've come up with a more evenly spaced out plot.

What PHOENIX RISING *may* end up as.
I still have the same time frame as before, but I moved the bulk of my events around. The addition of the dark blue post it notes tell me where to adjust time within the manuscript or ask me what else can happen in the white space. (The first two blue notes in September ask me this.)

There are still some events that are chunked together, but not as bad as before. Now when they're chunked, there's a legitimate reason. (I'm looking at you top right hand square.)

Of course, while working on this, new scenes popped up. I have no idea where they are supposed to go just yet so I grabbed another post it note (in white) and stuck the scene ideas on it. Then I slapped in on top.

Is this the final fall of all the scenes? Probably not. I have a lot of work cut out for me, but having a revised framework is useful. With the calendar, I know what happens on a particular day and whether or not it's feasible. I know where there is some wiggle room and if a particular character mentions the deadline is X amount of days away, I can double check.

Does anyone else use this technique as part of revision? What else do you do?


  1. I need to try this calendar thing - I always cram my characters into so many situations over the course of a day or two.

  2. Oh, I love the calendar idea! Such a visual way to be able to shift things around. I'll have to give it a try. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I feel your pain, let me tell you. I've been meaning to sit down and do the same thing with a timeline just to make sure that I'm getting it right. My WiP involves a countdown to a launch, and I need to make sure that it happens over the right period of time. Right now it's entirely likely that I've flubbed this all up. I also know right now that there are gaps between events in my story that need to be filled with something (based on the amount of time I want to elapse between those two events). I might have to sit down and do this sometime this week. Thanks for the visual inspiration! :)

  4. I feel your pain. I use a large board and blu-tack index cards with a scene-by-scene break down for the entire book. It helps me to make sure that I don't have all the exposition lumped together in the middle.

    Best of luck with the editing!

  5. Wow. That's a whole board of sticky notes...how do you manage it all?

  6. I love learning about the methods of other writers! I do something similar, but I keep it all on my computer and color-coordinate the fonts to different scenes/characters. I love the idea of doing it large scale on a poster board, but I'm always dragging my computer around town so I can work while my girlie's at her various activities. Maybe next time. :)

  7. Wow. I'm impressed...I've never had so tight/important a timeline in any of my books, but if I ever do this idea looks brilliant.

    My endings are always a little crazy logistically, loose ends and all, so I usually write scene lists with needed things to happen in each scene to keep it all straight.

  8. I have these calendars too. And the same issues. Except I don't have cool post-its. Hmmm. My timeline suffers similar problems, but I don't know that it's wrong for everything to happen at once - I think it just depends on your story.

  9. I totally do this! I created a calender while I was finishing my first draft, because it helped me figure out pacing and timing. I made mine using a calendar template on Excel, but this post-it idea is nice because you can easily move scenes around.

    Good luck with your revisions!

  10. I've mapped it out in broad strokes before, but I love this --it looks so clear and precise. Very impressive!

  11. This is very cool. We had a writer talking about this at our critique group today and she said in addition to a timeline she also kept track of phases of the moon so she wasn't describing a full moon one day and a sliver of moon the next day.

  12. I've never tried this, but this is a cool idea. It really gives a good visual of the novel as a whole. I'm going to try this while I edit. Thanks for sharing! :)


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