Keeping Track of Your Novel

Rena George Crime Fiction, Editing your work 2 Comments

I love my lists – shopping list, to do list, planting list for the garden. I even leave little messages to myself all over the house because if I didn’t do this then nothing would get done. I suppose you could say I am a compulsive organiser.

I like to plan my novels too, so that I have at least a fair idea of where the plot is heading, and how it’s going to get there. That is until my characters take over. (See last week’s post)

A major part of that is to have an effective Timeline. My characters may have minds of their own, but I, at least, need to know what they are up to, and when. If I didn’t keep a firm hold on this as I wrote I’d just be completely lost.IMG_1561

The idea for the Timeline above was pinched from Sue Moorcroft many moons ago when she blogged about it. Thanks Sue.

In the beginning it worked a treat. I just sticky-taped A4 copy paper pages together in landscape fashion. Each day/week etc. in my story would have it’s own column in which I would list all the relevant happenings. It was also useful to jot down chapter and page numbers, making it easy to scroll through the manuscript later and find any given section. It could be as long or as short as I needed it to be.

And if my handwriting was at all legible, I would probably still be doing this. But it’s not – legible, I mean. Sadly, my handwriting is now more akin to the scratchings of a demented hen, and almost impossible to decipher later – even for me.

So I devised a new method of keeping a Timeline that I actually find easier to work with, I thought I would share it with you.IMG_1570

I establish the month and year where my story starts and just list the days and dates of the various plot events as they happen. The file stays open on my desktop as I work, so it’s easy to keep track of what my characters are doing, and when they are doing it.
I can also see at a glance where the holes are in the plot, and where the continuity falls down, and what needs expanding and padding out.

When my Timeline highlights something that needs attention,I make a brief mention in bold red in the place where it needs to go, and attend to it when I next edit the manuscript. This is so much easier and more efficient than jotting down reminders in a notebook.

I have also managed to wean myself away from editing and correcting my work as I go, which is what I used to do i.e. scrolling back through my MS and making changes as I thought of them. I knew this practice was counter productive, not to mention time consuming, but I couldn’t leave what I’d just written knowing that changes had to be made.

Now I make those jottings in my Timeline file, and deal with them at the next proper edit. It works for me.

Fancy sharing how you keep track of your Timeline? I’d love to know.

Rena x

Comments 2

  1. Looks good, Rena. I used to be list mad until the day I cracked and tore up my lists and threw a hissy fit! I never make lists now which is probably why I never get anything done.
    But if I am ever going to get serious about writing a novel, I think I’m going to have to get over myself and start making lists again – or maybe use sticky notes. If I had room, I’d like one of those big white boards to scribble on 🙂 x

    1. Post

      I don’t think I could ever tear up my lists, Teresa. How would I ever manage?
      I’m not sure about sticky notes. I think they would just get on my nerves. I like to see things laid out so I can spot patterns, plot holes, and where I need to add things. A white board would probably do the job too, but it’s just so much easier to have it all on my desktop. x

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