In April I gave you a tip on how to create and keep track of your characters; this month I’ll tell you how to keep track of your plot, more specifically of what is going on with who and when. It’s really simple actually: you open Word (or a similar program) and create a table with the following fields:
- Number of Day
- Day of the Week
- Chapter Number/Title
- What Happened
What do we know now?
That on Day 1 of the story – most likely Friday, Riley met members from the Silver Bullets pack for the first time; it also tells us which members. Since the day is not explicitly mentioned “not mentioned; could be Saturday or Sunday” is written.
With this, if I get to Ch. 20 and don’t remember whether Everett was with Rhys that night, I could easily check.
Also, keeping track of the number of days helps me with my pacing.
Is it too soon for the main characters to go on a date?
Let’s see… They met in Ch. 1, Day 1 and now it’s only Ch. 8, but it’s Day 33. They’ve known each other for a month so yeah, I’d say it’s time for a date.
OTHER COLUMNS YOU COULD ADD TO YOUR TIMETABLE SO YOU COULD KEEP TRACK OF MORE THINGS:
- Month and Date – This one could be in the same column as Day of the Week. For example: “Friday, July 15”. You could also add the year to that which is especially helpful with series where the story takes place over long periods of time.
- Who Was There – You can separate this in Main Characters and Other Characters.
- Where Did It Happen – Town, pub, club, someone’s house, etc. This will help you with your descriptions. Can’t remember whether the MC had stools or chairs in their kitchen? Look at this column, see in which chapters you wrote about the kitchen and check.
Let’s look at You are the Answer for another example.
Now, I know who was there that night (you might remember the MC-s, but it’s easier to keep track of minor characters this way) and if I need to check whether I described the parking lot or not, I know in which chapter to look. This helps to avoid inconsistencies with descriptions. I can also check the characters’ appearance, although for a general one and not just what they wore that night, it might be easier to look at their character sheet.
The third example of a timetable that I want to give you is for the times when you are re-writing from another POV. In that case some fields will apply to both books (Day Number and Day of the Week), while others will vary (Chapter Number (unless you are rewriting chapter for chapter), What Happened, Where Did It Happen, Who Was There).
Here’s an example with You are the Answer and We are the Answer. They cover the same events, but the former is from Riley’s POV and the latter – from Rhys’.
As you can see, only the first chapters correspond. Rhys’ POV has a lot more details and content that Riley couldn’t have known about and described in his version of the story.
Something else you might’ve noticed is that Ch. 3 of WATA is present in two places. This is not a mistake. It’s because the chapter starts on Friday and then there’s a time skip so the rest of it takes place almost a week later, on Thursday.
I hope this tip helps you keep track of who is doing what, when and where, as well as give you some idea of how the pacing of your book is going.
One last suggestion before I leave you to go and create your own timetables: if you are writing a series with books that are consecutive, put all the books in the same timetable.
For example, Book One takes place from Day 1 to Day 93, Book II from Day 94 to Day 142, Book III from Day 200 to 268 and so on. This will help you not only keep track of the timeline in one book, but in the whole series.
If you try this tip, feel free to tell me how it worked out for you. If you have your own version of a timetable or tips on pacing, you are welcome to leave them in the comments.
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