Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 3: Getting Your Ducks in a Row

*All information given during the 30 day challenge comes from the Writer's Digest manual "Write Your Novel in 30 Days."  Click here to purchase it!

Yes, I am aware the the first bird in that row is, in fact, a seagull.  Using  free stock images my selection of pictures is a bit low... these are the pictures, people.

Okay, first off I need to confess something.  I actually did Day 3 before I left for my vacation, but since I can't remember how it went.... well, I guess this will be a 31 day challenge :)

Today's assignment was to complete the At-A-Glance Outline and to take notice of topics that will need further research.  Oh, and to continue working on the scene cards.  Since I haven't yet completed my Structure Plus outline I worked on that until I realized I was having some serious issues with the timing and chronology of all of these events.  I decided to take Laura Whitcomb's advice from her book Novel Shortcuts and set up some kind of a timeline.

Laura suggests trying a few techniques for timelines.  First, the plot web.  A plot web is a way to visually link all of the major plot points and subplots to a particular character.  Place a character's name in the center of a circle and add a line for each storyline you need to remember.  Here's the beginning of my plot web for my character Margarete:
The advantage to using this format is that you don't have to slow down to make sure you're remembering each thread of your storyline.  Just glance at it before beginning a scene and take note of which items should be included or foreshadowed.  If you find yourself rewriting or reworking scenes so you can include plot points you forgot about, this is the method for you.

A second method: the timeline.  The timeline is a chronological list of dates and events in your story.  It can help you keep track of where in time your story takes place, thus avoiding "embarrassing mistakes like having your characters' kids going to school on a Saturday or having two full moons ten days apart" (Whitcomb, Novel Shortcuts, pg 155).  Because my book involves real people and events I made a timeline which includes the reality juxtaposed alongside my "creative interpretation" of when the events should have occurred.  
Here's a little sample of my timeline with the blue being fiction and the green reality:
     *Belinda's death
     *April 24thSamuel captured
     *Samuel returns – early summer
     *Friedrich takes Marg to his cabin and tells her the story of his mother – late summer
     *September 17th – Charles goes to the Brussels with prisoners in tow

Having exact dates isn't necessary.  Laura suggest dividing your story into major sections based on the events of the story.  For example, Section 1: Margarete doesn't love Friedrich.  Section 2:  Margarete loves Friedrich.  Section 3:  Margarete is trying not to love Friedrich.  Section 4:  Margarete and Friedrich admit they love each other.  With these major events in the book I can then categorize what types of this occur in each section.

The final suggestion for lining up your info is the Plot Menu.  This is a very basic method, taking your information, lining it up in (typically) chronological order, and crossing off each event after you've written about it.

MY DAY 3:  My marathon analogy from earlier proved to be only partially correct.  In reality I was totally pumped to get back to work and I spent the day neglecting my kids, house, and laundry.  However, at the end of the day I looked back at all that I had accomplished and it wasn't as much as I'd hoped.  Believe it or not I'm STILL working on the outline.  I got all distracted when I realized how much research I had yet to do, so yesterday was almost entirely a research day.  I'm still not sure if that was a good use of my time.... I've heard some people use research as a way to procrastinate.  For my part, it is probably true; but I still think that the most of the research I did yesterday will help me better capture the 16th century.

Another project of yesterday:  I printed off all of the photos I've collected in association with my book -  dark castles, green forests, dashing young 16th century men - and put them up on a giant corkboard above my writing desk.  Laura Whitcomb suggests using this method to help you get into the moods and emotions of your story more quickly when you sit down to work.  I'll let you know if it works :)


  1. It does work! I collected pictures like that and made a wallpaper for my laptop and used it in the background when I wrote my first draft. It was perfect.

    I had some chronology issues in my book, which I noticed on the first read. I'm working that out now.

    And about the research, I know it can be used as a way to procrastinate but sometimes research is a great help. It can even give you ideas for plot points. So don't worry too much about that as long as you keep moving forward!

  2. I've definitely been able to get into my time frame quicker because of my collage wall, so I'm thinking its a keeper of an idea.

    As for the research, thanks for your comments. Its nice to feel justified in the research because whenever people ask me how far I've gotten on my book I feel ashamed to answer "still doing research."