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#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Structure & Timeline #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comIf 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.

Story Synopsis/Structure
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.

#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Structure | KayeDacus.com
#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Structure | KayeDacus.com

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:

#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Structure | KayeDacus.com

I found an 11×17 pad of graph paper at Staples!

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.

#FirstDraft60 Day 4: Story Timeline | KayeDacus.com

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?
18 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    Wednesday, October 5, 2016 12:56 pm

    Working on this during my lunch break again!! Aren’t you proud? LOL!! I definitely need a timeline even though my story is not going to take place over a long period of time. But timing is going to be vital to the story.

    Like

    • Wednesday, October 5, 2016 10:05 pm

      Sometimes when a story has a very compressed storyline, keeping a detailed timeline may be even more important—so that you don’t have 26 hours worth of stuff happening all on one day!

      Like

  2. Wednesday, October 5, 2016 9:23 pm

    Assignment #1:
    a) Have you ever outlined your story before writing? – Yes but was unsuccessful writing the actual story despite this.
    b Do you have a favorite outline structure you’d like to share? I don’t know about favorite but I recently stumbled onto this amazing beat sheet ( http://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/ )and love it so am going to use it but some of the language in your 7 beat structure is more familiar to me so will adjust some of this one’s wording.
    c) What are your concerns with trying to outline if you’re a solid seat-of-the-pants writer? Pantsing has never really been successful for me but neither was my attempt at full scale plotting so my concern is that after extensive plotting I will no longer feel inspired to write.
    d) What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you if you’ve never outlined ahead of time before? While I have outlined before I know the research is where I often get stuck as I can’t find what I’m looking for and then feel I can’t put it in my story then feel like my entire story has to be reworked etc.
    e) Do you know enough about your story that you can start filling in a structure chart like the Seven Story Beats? I know my basic premise, the heroine’s inciting incident, some of their backstory, and I even know a specific thing I need to research that I have so far been unsuccessful with. lol
    f) If you don’t like the Seven Story Beats structure, what do you think might work better for you? I think the Seven Beat structure or even the Nine Beat one I shared above will work just fine…thinking I will try using the one above and use the seven beat as a fallback 🙂

    Like

    • Wednesday, October 5, 2016 10:06 pm

      What historical detail has you tied up? Maybe I can help!

      Like

      • Wednesday, October 5, 2016 11:51 pm

        My story is currently set in 1818 England, however I’d like to make my hero half Greek if at all possible…however I don’t know much about Greece’s history (tons about it’s mythology lol) but I do know that Greek’s were enslaved (or close to) for a time under either the Byzantine or Ottoman (or both? lol) Empire and that in 1821 the rebels took action and eventually won their freedom again…but I’d like to know more to decide whether I’m keeping my story in 1818 or moving it forward to the 1820s (purely for something for my plot) or not…I’m trying to find out if it’s outside the realm of possibility that an English noble could have married a Greek woman (also not sure of their societal hierarchy yet) in the 1780s as they would need to have in order for my hero to be the age I’d like in my story…but even moving it up a few years would only his parents would have had to marry in the 1790s…basically I just haven’t done a ton of research yet and when I do I feel like I’m searching all the wrong things and not finding out what I want. lol Will do some more tomorrow so I can move forward with some plotting work. 🙂 Any suggestions you have would be most welcome, thank you!

        Like

        • Thursday, October 6, 2016 2:27 pm

          Hmmm . . . that would be hard to research. Can you write the first draft without having the definite date/year and adjust it if you’re able to find out the specific info later?

          Like

  3. Wednesday, October 5, 2016 9:27 pm

    Assignment #2:
    a) Have you made a point of tracking (“calendaring”) a story’s timeline before? Yes, the story idea I am currently revamping had a detailed storyline
    b) How did you do it? I just kept chronological order on Word and always kept it open as I was writing for easy reference.
    c) What method do you think will work best for you with the manuscript you’ve chosen for this challenge? I’m going to use the same method but will put it in Scrivener with everything else and it will be even easier to reference.
    d) 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? Nothing at this point as I may be moving my story ahead a few years from when I originally set it…just depends on that research. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thursday, October 6, 2016 2:27 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who needs the calendar (in whatever form it takes) open while I’m writing!

      Like

  4. Thursday, October 6, 2016 2:24 pm

    Outlining: I am planning to play around with the snowflake method for this book. For my other manuscripts I did lots of freewriting to figure out the story, which is effective for me. But I’d like to experiment with a more structured method this time.

    Timelines: same as above. I think better if I write it all out in paragraph form, I guess. I love the idea of attaching chapter numbers to the dates/months. Common sense, but I didn’t think to do so before!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thursday, October 6, 2016 2:26 pm

      I already had four or five books published before I thought of the idea of putting the chapter numbers in the calendar. Live and learn, I guess!

      Like

  5. Friday, October 14, 2016 8:08 am

    # 1: ~Have you ever outlined your story before writing?~
    No. Usually, I write the story SOTP and then edit to make it fit a story structure. I recently took Laurie Schnebley’s “The Braid” workshop and got a workable plot for my story from that. So I’m good to go.
    ~Do you have a favorite outline structure you’d like to share?~ I quite like Laurie Schnebley’s “The Braid”. Also LOVE Susan May Warren’s “Deep and Wide” craft book.
    ~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?~ That my story will already be told. Although after doing the workshop I didn’t feel that way. I think my challenge will be sticking to the plot once I start writing and the characters take over (naughty character!).
    ~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?~ The class I recently took used a similar structure to the Seven Beats so it’ll work for me.

    #2: ~Have you made a point of tracking (“calendaring”) a story’s timeline before? How did you do it? 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?~ Excellent questions! And I’d not thought of this. Seeing as I’ll be writing when Australia’s history is brand new there won’t be too many holidays to keep track of. Australia Day will be one, and celebrating the Queen’s birthday. I’ll need to check into that.

    Like

  6. Sunday, October 16, 2016 11:36 pm

    #1: 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?

    I’ve done outlines and I’ve written without a clear path. I have found that my process is pieces of both. I write notes on how it should start and where it should end. I then figure out the large pieces that must happen and let the rest happen as organic thoughts (often fueled by caffeine). I do use the 7 Story Beat structure.

    # 2: 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?

    I do use a calendar in my writing. I generally grab a blank one and then fill it in appropriately, verifying there is enough action to keep the reader engaged.

    Like

  7. Tuesday, October 18, 2016 12:45 am

    #1 Have you ever outlined your story before writing? Yes, I work best that way.

    Do you have a favorite outline structure you’d like to share? yes, I like the chart I found here: http://mattgemmell.com/structuring-your-novel/
    It is more in depth and it helps me with some of the details that I have a difficult time seeing.

    Do you know enough about your story that you can start filling in a structure chart like the Seven Story Beats? I think so, at least most of it.

    #2 I had not thought of using a calendar since my story is a fictional historical story. It’s based on the ancient Biblical/Sumerian time period, and I have things happening in a certain season, but not specific weeks. It takes place over the course of about 18 months.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Writing is Hard and Frustrating and I Can’t Make Myself Stop | Carol Collett
  2. #FirstDraft60 Day 9: Monday Motivation–Don’t Think. Just Write. #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo | KayeDacus.com
  3. #FirstDraft120 DAY 120: WE MADE IT THROUGH!!!! (Timer Tuesday) | #amwriting #1k1hr #2017goals | KayeDacus.com
  4. 2017 Writing Challenge–What’s Your Writing Goal for 2017? | KayeDacus.com
  5. #FirstDraft90: Days 1-30 Prep Work Schedule | KayeDacus.com

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