#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Structure & Timeline #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo
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. If you’re just joining us, you can catch up with the previous posts here.
One of the things we’re going to work on in Days 20–30 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 always, click the image for a larger view.
As you can see, I intend to use the Seven Beat structure for outlining my story. Obviously, I haven’t filled anything in yet—because we’re not at that part of the process yet! Although, I have been working on it longhand:
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: See below.
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.
Right now, this is all I have for The Spymaster’s Daughter—mainly because I’ve decided I need to pretty well scrap just about everything I’ve already written and start all over again. (I mean, I can keep some scenes and conversations, but the locations/settings and travel/destination have changed, which necessitates revising the timeline significantly.)
If you’d like to see a much more elaborate example of story-timeline tracking, check out last year’s Day 4 post.
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 the calendar I kept for the Matchmakers series (again, see last year’s post, linked above), in addition to the summaries of events, I put the chapter numbers on the dates when they occurred 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 calendaring (yes, I just made that into a verb) as Word is, so I will probably use the calendar template in Word again once I really dig in and figure out where my characters need to be in relation to the actual historical events I’m building the story around.
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 1: Create a section in your Story Bible for your story outline and synopsis.
- Have you ever outlined your story before writing? Do you have a favorite outline structure you’d like to share? What are your concerns with trying to outline if you’re a solid seat-of-the-pants writer? What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you if you’ve never outlined ahead of time before? Do you know enough about your story that you can start filling in a structure chart like the Seven Story Beats? If you don’t like the Seven Story Beats structure, what do you think might work better for you?
Assignment 2: Create or find a calendar/timeline format to use to track the timeline of events for your story.
- Have you made a point of tracking (“calendaring”) a story’s timeline before? How did you do it? What method do you think will work best for you with the manuscript you’ve chosen for this challenge? What do you already know about your story’s timeline (such as holidays or historical events that have to fall on certain dates) that you can start plugging in?
- Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to email (Opens in new window)
- Click to print (Opens in new window)