#FirstDraft60 Day 4 — Choosing How to Track and Organize Your Story’s Timeline and Structure
If you’ve worked through the assignments for the last few days, your Story Bible should be mostly set up and ready to go. Today, we’re going to add two additional, important sections to it.
One of the things we’re going to work on in Days 21–30 is the development of your story and structuring it to help give you momentum and security as you write (security that you know where your story is going and what you’re supposed to be writing when you sit down every day to do it).
As you can see, I intend to use the Seven Beat structure for planning my story (working title: The Linguistics of Love—I’m not happy with it, but until I know more about the plot and themes of the story, that’s what I’m sticking with). Obviously, I haven’t filled anything in yet—because we’re not at that part of the process yet!
You don’t have to decide yet what structure you’re going to use in order to create this section of your Story Bible, but if you’ve never tried pre-planning/pre-plotting or if you haven’t yet settled on one that you like, it’s a good time to start researching the different options for outlining/structuring your story.
Assignment 1: Create a section in your Story Bible for your story outline and synopsis (we’ll be working on both later this month).
Your Story’s Timeline
Way back when I was editing fiction, it didn’t take me long to get to the point at which I could easily differentiate between an author who had actively tracked her timeline as she wrote/revised and one who hadn’t. As readers, often times this becomes clear, too—because it doesn’t seem like things are happening in a logical flow of time.
You don’t want that to happen to your story!
Tracking your story’s timeline is as easy as can be, and there are multitudes of options for how to do it, from the simple to the complex. Probably the most simple is to use the Calendar template in Word and print out calendars for the number of weeks/months your book covers (if it covers years, I’d suggest year-at-a-glace calendars, not weekly or monthly . . . that would be a lot of wasted paper).
Or if you don’t want to print them, set up a new calendar online or on the computer using Google or Outlook. Or just track it as a text timeline in Excel or Word or OneNote along with the rest of your notes.
This is the calendar layout I used for the Matchmakers trilogy. Because I knew from the beginning that Caylor and Flannery would have their own books, I needed to track what was going on with them during Zarah’s book. And it was helpful to have something easily at hand to be able to refer back to when I was working on Books 2 and 3 instead of having to search through the previous manuscript(s) to figure out how long it had been since something happened. Not only do I have a summary of events that happen in the book (whether on page or not), I also included holidays, regular events in the characters’ lives (for example, if Caylor or Flannery had a regular event or meeting on a certain day or evening, I put it on the calendar even during the timeline for Zarah’s book—after all, they’re best friends and spend a lot of time together, so I needed to know when they could plan stuff together and when they couldn’t).
Unlike some of the other parts of the Story Bible which will get updated sporadically throughout the writing and revision process, the calendar is something I use almost every time I write. In this one, for the Matchmakers, in addition to the summaries of events, I put the chapter numbers on the dates when they occur as well, for quick at-a-glance referencing. That way, if I needed to go find exactly what I wrote about a specific event, I could look at the calendar and then go straight to that chapter instead of having to search through each chapter file.
OneNote, for all that I love it, isn’t quite as functional for calendering (yes, I just made that into a verb) as Word is, so I will probably use the calendar template in Word again. In fact, I really like this one from the Matchmakers. Hold on, I’m going to go do a Save As . . . and then clear it out for LoL. (Ha! Yes, I’m slow and just now noticed that the acronym for Linguistics of Love is LoL. Hopefully that will happen while people read it, too!)
If the calendar idea doesn’t work for you, Google “create a story timeline”—there are bunches of ideas out there of how other writers have had success tracking their story timelines.
Assignment 2: Create or find a calendar/timeline format to use to track the timeline of events for your story. And don’t forget to check in with your progress!
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