Day 25 and 26 and Authors Read

Forgot to check in for my unofficial participation in National Novel Writing Month yesterday, so this is a double post.

I wrote both days, but yesterday, after still going back and forth about the plot line of my novel, I decided to try a new tack. I needed something that could better help me see the whole story in one go, so I could better see the ebb and flow of the events and thus how the story played out without all the detail. So, I tried something I read about a while ago in an author’s interview. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the author (thank you, whoever you were), but this is something I know many authors do and I would now recommend — and something I think I will always do.

The author had said she (I do remember it was a she, but again, I’m sure plenty of other authors do this in one form or another) took out a calendar and wrote down which days events in her story happened so she could see the timeline and make sure the days all made sense. Good reason. But for me, I suspected doing a timeline — the really brief kind you see in National Geographic about global warming or something — would help me see the whole story better. So, I opened a new Word document, split the page into two columns and on one side I wrote Day 1, Day 2, etc., and on the other side I wrote the corresponding events. I also drew a seven-day grid on a piece of paper and noted the days that activity happened so I could see at a glace if it made sense that such and such an event happened three days before another related event.

This has been the most useful exercise I have done in a while on this novel. I’ve already come up with fixes to smooth out the story, and the best part is, I can easy move around events to see what works best before I edit the chapters. I haven’t completely finished the exercise yet and plan to tomorrow, then it’s back to revising the plot — but this time, I’ll have a plan.

Got any other plot revision tips?

Write On!

P.S. I heard about a very interesting site the other day and wanted to pass it on: Authors Read, on Blog Talk Radio. It’s basically what the name says, a series of audio files of authors reading their own works. I haven’t had a chance to look around it much, but it seems like a great place to try out new books as a reader and, as an author, to promote your work to the public. Check out the site, and if you like it, support the authors on there by getting the word out.


6 Responses

  1. mand says:

    Hi – i tried the calendar idea once and ended up far more confused than i started! Maybe it depends at what stage of planning you do it. Anyway good to meet you. I’m at about 14,000 words myself. I recently read the deepest confidence-crisis (‘It’s a dreadful story, no one will want to read it,’ etc) usually comes around 30,000. So i’m warned. 80)

  2. Hehe Yeah. It happens to the best of us. When I wrote the first draft of my novel, I had confidence crisis at various points, but each time, the desire to tell the story kept me going. Mainly, I found that it happened most when I wasn’t writing regularly, perhaps because the story got a little lost in my head during those times. Now, during my revision, I’m not having the “It’s a dreaful story, no one will want to read it” thoughts as much; I’ve moved on to “I could do it this way, but maybe that other way is better, what if this other way would be better,” which sends me in circles and gets me frustrated. What I should do is just write all three and see which one works out best.

    I like the calendar because I’m in the revision stage. I don’t think I’ll use it for a first draft, because at that point, you just want to concentrate on the story and characters. If the timeline is off a bit (one chapter says it’s the first day of school on a Monday and the next chapter says three days later they went to Sunday school), that can be fixed in the revision.

    Good luck with your next 14,000+ words, Mand. Let us know how it went.

  3. mand says:

    What you say makes sense to me – esp the ‘lost in my head’ part when not keeping up with it. I just read a letter (in Writers’ News) grumbling about the constantly-repeated advice to Write Every Day. But the letter-writer wasn’t published, and the advice-givers are!

    I’m living by the mantra ‘Don’t get it right, get it written’ at the moment and there are an AWFUL lot of timeline and other errors, and i’m not caring… not looking forward to the revision stage though… but the end product will be worth it. ;0)

  4. Yeah, my writing is so much easier, with the words and story just flowing, when I write every day. If I don’t, if I lose even a day, it’s harder to get back into it. When I first started writing my novel, I’d write when I had time, and sometimes, months would go by between writing sessions. But the desire to write was always pushing me to get back to it. So finally I decided to get serious and make the time. That’s when I started getting up a couple hours earlier in the morning to write, and I got to the end of my novel very quickly.

    And about your mantra, that sounds good. You’ll always hear the saying that “writing is rewriting,” and it’s so true.

    That said, I know what you mean about not looking forward to the revision stage. When I did my first draft, I got off track with the story somewhere in the middle, veered away from my original plot plan. And I decided to just leave it and write to the end, fix it in the revision. That’s what I’ve been having problems with lately, and part of me wishes it was sorted about better in the first draft. But I have been able to get it all figured out — with the help of the outline/timeline.

    With The Underneath, Kathi Appelt took out an entire family in later drafts. It must have been quite a job, but definitely worth it in the end. And she might be able to use them in something else.

    But the important thing at the beginning is to just let the creative voices flow, with a purpose (the story), and worry about the editing later. Like you said, the end product will definitely be worth it. 🙂

  5. mand says:

    Hey, ever noticed how writers do long comments? ;0)

    I will restrain myself though. Not in any position to comment on the revision process, really – not with novels, though i have often cut a story by 1/3. Like pruning plants, in the right mood it can be a great feeling.

What do you think?