You’ve got this amazing story idea. You think you know your characters inside and out. So, what happens next? The age-old battle between developing a story outline versus “winging” it still rages on. I have to admit that, up until about a year ago, I was what’s known as a “pantser,” meaning that I preferred to just sit down and let the story flow onto the page. Now, I thought that worked well until I realized something: it really didn’t. My manuscript is a longer work (80,000-90,000 words), which makes it extremely easy for me to lose track of time. This is something that I just realized as I was working on revisions.
Why is keeping track of time important, you might ask? Well, first of all, it can have a huge impact on the development of your setting. For example, A Gift of Love begins in late October/early November and is set in New York City and Westhampton. Remember this is crucial to developing a setting and my characters’ actions in order for my story to make sense to the reader. For example, I wouldn’t want my main characters to decide to go for a swim in the middle of January – if there’s not snow on the ground in NYC that time of year, it’s very cold! Your goal is to advance your plot through the use of setting, which includes placing your reader into the story in terms of location, weather, and other pertinent details.
How do you keep track of it all? Because I’m not one who sits down and develops and detailed story outline (although I do have a quick one that helps in preparing a synopsis), I’ve opted to use white-boards, on which I jot down a story timeline. That way, I’ve can look at what I want to happen when, and prepare the setting, as well as little details of character development such as clothing worn and that type of thing, and weave it together so that it all makes sense.
So, while I’ll most likely never turn into a full-blown outline user, I have definitely learned that some type of tracking is a very useful tool! I figure that if I can’t even remember what I did yesterday, how am I going to keep track on the daily lives of two or three characters? The key is to just play around with it until you find what works for you!
Happy Writing, Everyone!!!