How often have you been writing and suddenly lose track of who is where and what day it is? it happens to me sometimes.
The reason it doesn’t happen more often is because I write out a timeline or a storyline program and keep it updated as I go.
Consider this, in projects such as say a building project, there are a whole number of parts to it. There is planning, investigating, design and tendering all happening before a builder comes anywhere near the site. Once the builder arrives, he has set up, site clearance, foundations, drainage and so on all the way up to commissioning and hand over to the end user.
Even for a “simple project” like building a few houses, there would be chaos if a program wasn’t in place and kept up to date. You can use this principle in your writing. This is especially the case where two or more events are happening simultaneously to get people/situations to come together. If they take different amounts of time and have events or situation along the way with people and places coming in and out on route, it is easy to get the timeline wrong.
The easiest thing is to get a piece of paper, line or squared and put time along the top of the page (or date if you prefer) and the events down the side. Starting with the earliest at the first line write down what happens and fill in the day or date. That way you can see where everything goes and in your story can use wonderful phrases like “a few fays later” to keep things where you want them.
It is important to do this because losing your place can be very distracting. Take a saga, epic fantasy faery tale, or a war. It is easy to see how this can go horribly wrong if you don’t keep track of who is where and what is happening all of the time.
If you are familiar at using spread sheets, this task can be made much easier. A spread sheet can be simple and will help you keep track of things. Date or time lapsed among the top, item down the side.
I have prepared a simple program below to show you.
|Dave asks Julie out in the library||X|
|Julie gets caught shoplifting||X|
|The big chat with mum and dad||X|
|The big fight at school||X|
|Dave and Julie run away||X|