Writing Tip

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Measuring Time

With New Year’s Day coming up, Sandra Merville Hart’s article about using a timeline to organize your fiction work seems appropriate.  I have created timelines even though my first book takes place in one week, not counting the final chapter.  I still needed to see when I should place key events and how these key events could take place during the normal schedule of my characters.

For example, my teenage characters all have jobs and can’t call off because their family desperately needs money.  So if a key event could not take place in one of their work settings, I had to place it before or after work or give my character an urgent reason to call off work.  My novel is written in first-person, so when I had days when nothing critical to the plot occurred, I included a quick or funny summary of what had happened during that time so the reader knew time had passed but nothing significant had happened.

Recently, I have been working on a mystery set during October.  I want my climax to take place on Halloween.  So I wrote down the days in that month and began plugging in events.  The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t kick the action off during the first week.  It left too many empty days.  So I condensed my timeline to three weeks.  My timeline is definitely not carved in stone, but it gives me a starting point for organizing the action of the mystery.

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