Timeline Troubles

So for the past two weeks I’ve kind of fallen of the ROW80 railway tracks and have been tramping through the forest instead. Almost two weeks ago now I decided to finally get off my backside and write up a thorough time-line for Utopians (which might have been a task I’d been putting off since I first wrote the outline for the novel about two years ago now…oops). Having an accurate timeline doesn’t always matter in the novel, but for Utopians, where I am rotating through 3 different POVs, I really needed to confirm that all the events lined up in the correct order.

I was less than 5 chapters in when the alarms started sounding in my brain. Something was wrong, possibly massively wrong, with the start of my novel. Having committed the classic beginners mistake of starting a story in the wrong place before, I now take great care to ensure the first chapter is provides the perfect opening to the story (and I still love the opening of Utopians that finds my MC Mila waking up in a body bag). The problem was that Chapters 2 & 3, rather than providing similar openings for my two other MCs Jett and Austin, not only failed to introduce them the way I would like but also didn’t fit in at all with the timeline I’d managed to construct.

I bit of serious brain storming (and maybe a few glasses of wine) later and I managed to come up with a fix – the novel needs 3 extra chapters! Which leads my to my new goals.

Goal 2: once goal #1 is achieved switch to editing mode on The Utopians,ย aiming to edit half a chapterย a day
Scrap that ๐Ÿ™‚ Editing has been temporarily abandoned in favour of drafting those 3 extra chapters. I completed one chapter this week, plus some reworking of the surrounding existing chapters. 2 to go!

Goal 3: keep up with my aim to read 50 books this year.
Not a good week on the reading front once again. But the next (new goal) goes someway to explaining that.

Goal 4: complete beta-reading of LS Engler’s novel – Soulless.
I wanted to put this in as an official goal so I stay on track. I’m just over half-way through the story and (good news here LS) well on track to get it back to writer on time ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you write timelines for your novels? Do you sometimes have difficulty trying to decide on the perfect place to start your story?As always I love hearing from you.

Jody Moller

6 responses to “Timeline Troubles

  1. I like the way using an analytical tool — like that timeline — helped you to “see” a new way to introduce your characters! Could it be that a timeline is suspiciously like an outline (oh, dreaded word!). Generally, I begin to write scenes around dates and key events and gradually build a key word timeline/outline. But here, how lovely to switch from editing to writing and back again. Very nice progress!

    • Haha. Sadly I’ve grown to love my outlines over the years, I don’t think I could write a novel now without one. Unfortunately I completed the outline for this novel without including the timeline (ie POV and individual scenes but no dates at all), I think perhaps because I knew subconsciously there were going to be problems. Discovering those three chapters not only has allowed me to introduce all the characters in a better way it has also allowed me to provide a lot of the background info I think the story was missing. Win win ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I don’t always write timelines, but I’m currently working on a 14 episode serial set over 7 weeks, and I quickly found that I needed one. I kept setting up dates and appointments, then forgetting when I’d made them for! (It’s sad enough when you do that in your own life, but doing it to a character is even worse.)
    But it’s great that you’ve worked out the problem so early on, and didn’t finish the first draft then think ‘hmmm, something isn’t right…’ I hate it when I do that. Good Luck.

    • A few years ago while writing a story set largely in a high school I actually had to construct a complete subject timetable for my students because I kept forgetting which days they had which subjects. The joys of being a writer ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Thank you for sharing your story about the timeline issue. It’s great to read about you listening to your gut on what’s been written and then finding a way to smooth out the problem and make the writing better. Well done on being able to step back enough from your work to be able to look at it objectively. Not easy.

    Some advice that I’ve recently taken to keeping in mind is the importance of images. The opening image in a book is so important, so someone waking up in a body bag ticks all the boxes on that score. Now that I’m revising my own WIP, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my opening image and how to introduce the protag and foreshadow what’s to come.

    All the best with your new chapters. And thank you for stopping by my blog. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I like the concept of thinking of the opening purely in terms of images, I will probably have to go back now and check what opening images I have given my other two characters, certainly nothing as impressive as waking up in a body bag – but that was always going to be hard to top ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks xx

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