Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mark Your Calendars

The lives of most characters revolve around the school/work week or the seasons – depending on the genre. I like to use a calendar as a revision tool. I draw a grid and label it with the days of the week and the names of the months, scaling it to the time span of my novel. I note major plot events on the appropriate spaces. 

In my current project, timing is particularly important because my protagonist is a potter. My initial estimates of the time required to throw, dry, fire, glaze and re-fire pottery were too short. After I adjusted the pottery schedule, I noticed other time-related issues. Some events happened too quickly, while others were unrealistically delayed. 

A calendar provides a simplified view of a novel on a single page. I can trace the narrative arc without getting bogged down in details. A calendar is also a useful tool for tracking pacing. I can easily see how many events happen on a given day and how much time elapses between events. 

11 comments:

Patti Richards said...

Love this Ann! I've never thought of using a calendar in this way! Thanks for the tip!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Thanks, Patti. Right now I'm singing, "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen."
;-)

Kristin Lenz said...

Great idea. I've written out a timeline, but never an actual calendar. Looking forward to reading about your potter character!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great idea. I do something similar with my outline, noting what day it is.

Buffy Silverman said...

You should submit this tip as an article for SCBWI--and someday put all your tips in a how-to book. Not that I'm tackling a novel, but your tips always seem brilliant to me.

Vicky Lorencen said...

Very smart!

Ann Finkelstein said...

Kristin, Natalie, Buffy and Vicky: Thank you. You are too kind. There's something about seeing plot events in calendar format that helps me see problems. Really, how long could business trip last? Why does that week have two Wednesdays? And what took the father so long to notice the dented fender?

Krysten said...

I actually did this before and realized I had too many weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Krysten: I'm juggling the weeks of Homecoming which is flexible and when college applications are due which is not.

Kathy Wiechman said...

I always use a calendar with historical fiction, so I can mark the factual events & make sure my fictional events line up properly.

Ann Finkelstein said...

Kathy: I can see that a calendar would be essential for historical fiction.