Friday, May 31, 2013

Well For Crying Out Loud

By Peg Brantley



I 'm almost finished with the first draft of my next book and I already know I'm in for some crazy revisions because of (gag me) timelines. And with my other books? Yep… timelines were an issue.

My sister has a saying which she has used on her sons quite a lot and her husband from time to time. It goes exactly like this (I know because I'm hearing it in my head):  The failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

The photo above was when I had a clearer head and a story that I don't think will ever see the light of day, but look at the pretty timeline picture I made. (The timeline worked a lot better than the story.) The photo below shows a sort of "seat of the pants while still plotting" style but no timeline.

AN EARLY ATTEMPT

Here's Norman Mailer's Character Timeline for Harlot's Ghost:





And this is J.K. Rowling's impressive spreadsheet for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:





I was sure my scene list and plot stream of consciousness work would eliminate the need to also require a timeline. In fact, my timeline folder is filled with important ceremonial dates for the religion featured in the manuscript. And pages and pages of blank calendar months. Nothing else. 

Ugh.

I will be experimenting with what I think might be a lovely piece of software for my next book. It's called Aeon Timeline. I sure hope I remember it early on…

What about you? What do you use to keep track?



20 comments:

  1. My sympathies! I just use a page in Scrivener that looks like an outline. I make note of every major event and when it occurs. Toward the end, when a lot of things are happening at once, I list minor occurrences as well, with an approximate time. If a novel happens to have a lot of backstory, I keep a separate timeline for events in the past.


    Best wishes with your rewrite! And thanks for sharing that photo. :)

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    1. Thanks, LJ. I'll check it out.

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    2. I didn't mean to mislead you. There isn't something called Timeline in Scrivener. I just create one there and format it like a timeline. It just sits in the research area with all my other pages (Ideas, Characters, etc.) but I often keep it open on split screen, so I can add to it as I write.

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    3. This is when it would be most helpful if you lived next door.

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  2. Omigod! It all sounds so complicated! As LJ mentioned, doesn't Scrivener help with all that? Good luck working it all out, Peg! I know you will. Can't wait to read the book!

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    1. Yeah, Jodie. It sounds easy and uncomplicated in my head when I begin. But it sure doesn't stay that way for very long.

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  3. I have one word for you: Scrivener.

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    1. Rob, I've used Scrivener for each one of my books, but apparently not well. Aeon Timeline works with Scrivener so I guess we'll see how that shakes out.

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  4. I've always been a sticky gal, and I don't use Scrivener because I am so wedded to Word. However, the software that has saved my life (and memory) is Super Notecard. It's like an electronic version of index cards or sticky notes. I have decks for characters, settings, culture, research links, etc. AND a timeline deck. Also, like stickies, I can make individual cards a particular color. This allows me to do things like spread them out, electronically, and see which POVs I've used and where the fall in the novel structure. Or, with timeline, which chapters/characters are under which timelines and if I need to change something or move it in the structure.

    Reasonably priced and easy to learn. I often copy and paste from my manuscript to a card as a placeholder.

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    1. Thanks, Maggie. One of the things I like about Scrivener is that it's pretty visual. (I color-code my scenes for POV.) Although I think I'll like Aeon, I'll check out Super Notecard as well. I appreciate the information!

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  5. I'm a notoriously bad planner when it comes to writing my novels. I don't just fly by the seat of my pants--quite often, I can't even find them (bad joke).

    That being the case, I never chart my timelines or plot while in the writing process; and of course, I don't outlines. I go by intuition. I do, however, once I finish the manuscript, create my infamous Backward Outline, where I track the story and events just to be sure nothing is out of whack. A very backward way of doing things, I know, but that's how I roll.

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    1. Jeeze...Sorry--that should have been "I don't outline."

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    2. I'm not a good charter/outliner myself, but I should at least try and keep track as I go...

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    3. I think it was J. Carson Black who said to me, "I like to see my way through the headlights. I guess that makes you (and me) the taillights kind.

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  6. I'm like Andrew in that I fly by the seat of my pants gal except I'm like ankle skirts and sticky notes- lots of sticky notes. However my notes aren't as detailed I tend to write notes as I think of something for the story, its not time to write yet.An actual time line usually happens after the first draft is done, that way I can clear up the inconsistencies.

    Debi

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    1. Ahhh, good. So I'm not the only one who has to go back and straighten things out after the first draft. Thanks! I feel better now.

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  7. I'll have to be brief tonight. (Yes, I can.:) One of my daughters just got engaged and we're a bit busy.

    I can recommend Supernotecard very highly. I've used it (SNC) to write two novels. I also keep track of essays and poems in separate projects. It's very useful for organizing material, as well as for filing work. Also, some of the features are a result of my suggestions. I've had several discussions with the developer; he is very helpful and friendly.

    I plan on using Aeon Timeline more in the future. I started experimenting with it, but was too far into the current story to go back and use it properly. But as the events in the Scotch and Herring Mysteries expand, I'll need such a tool.

    Scrivener is great. I'd love to hear how folk use it - trade tips, new tricks for an old dog. I write my fiction in it.

    If you're using a Mac, consider Nisus Writer (Pro) for your word processor. It's less expensive, cleaner and not as clunky as Word.

    A friend of mine has developed a plot/timeline template for comics, similar to the one used (and necessary) for screenplays.

    Peg, I read an interview with Michael Connelly who said that when he hit a plot wall, he went back to the beginning and began revising, fixing it that way. So first draft fixes are de rigueur.

    (Night all!)

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    1. David, mazel tov. I'm feeling the love and the energy and celebrations for your daughter's engagement. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      We'll have to compare notes on Aeon Timeline. Who knows, when I'm finallly organized enough to use it I might write a post about my experience.

      Regarding Scrivener, there are online classes available to enhance your experience. You might check in to one of those. I admit that I took one but haven't substantially changed the way I use it. Totally the fault of the student and not the instructor.

      I'm edging ever closer to the end. Excited for that closure. Then I'll let it sit a couple of days while I attend to things I've been neglecting. And then… a huge part of my initial revisions will be timeline related.

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  8. I try to track things on a board, but after I write them, not before. In my current book, I think was was well past page 200 before there was a mention of an actual day. So it's, "Day 1, Day 2", etc. as I write until I figure out that Day 3 had to be Saturday, so Day 1 was Thursday. I think my current book unfolded over less than 48 hours, so I just kept moving forward. But for my last mystery, I had to track three generations and I had post-its, charts, and spreadsheets to see who was born when, whose kid was whose, and did I have someone having a kid when they were 10?

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  9. LOL, Terry. Thanks for clearing it all up for me.

    Seriously, it's good to know I'm not the only one who has to go back after the fact and make sure the time flows as it should. Sheesh.

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