Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Welcome Guest Blogger Winnie Griggs

How to Create Your Own Backstory Tracker

Hi everyone.  I’m so excited to be back here at Seekerville - always a fun place to visit. 

Last time I was here I got a few requests for more information on a backstory tracker tool I mentioned, so I thought I’d focus on that today.

I developed the chart below when I received one of those ‘loved your story, but...’ emails from a reader, pointing out a timeline glitch I’d made.  

I was determined to do everything I could to see that that didn’t happen again.

The tracking chart should be fairly self-explanatory, but I’m going to take you through a real life example.  We’ll use the one I developed for an earlier work of mine, A Will Of Her Own. 

When I’m just getting started, I sometimes develop the hero and heroine’s charts separately until I feel I have a pretty good handle on things.  In this book I started with the idea of a hero who was part of the English aristocracy and, at a fairly idealistic stage of his life, was betrayed and rejected by people he loved and trusted and exiled himself to America.  So I started with Will.  I gave thought to how old I wanted him to be when the story opened, what the family milestones might have been and what the life-impact events would have been.  And I came up with the chart below.

If you notice, there are several references to Maggie on Will’s chart.  Maggie is, of course, the heroine of this book.  At the same time I was developing Will’s chart, I was giving some thought to what kind of heroine would work in this story and starting to work on her chart as well.  Maggie is an American who has had her own issues to deal with.  Orphaned and left to make her own way at the age of 16, she has been struggling to find her place in life.  I decided that her and Will’s life collided shortly after Will arrived in America.  Will has been attacked by highwaymen and left on the roadside to die.  Maggie is serving as companion to a snobby woman and they come upon him.  The woman wants to move on and perhaps send help back from the next town,  Maggie insists on getting out and seeing what can be done.  She loses her job over the incident and thus Will feels an ongoing obligation to her.  Her chart eventually looked like this:

While I was playing around with Will and Maggie’s charts, I was also giving some thought as to what time period I wanted to set this in.  Since I’ve always enjoyed the Regency period in English-set historicals (as a reader at any rate) I decided I’d open the story in 1820 - the end of the Regency period.  That decided, I quickly backtracked through the charts and added all my dates.

Once I had my dates in place, it was time to undertake the last step.  Before I get too caught up in immersing myself into the book itself I’ll focus on that last column.  Here I’ll do some research and list information about political leaders, wars, innovations/inventions, popular music, literature, entertainment, fashions/fads, scandals, climatic events, etc that shaped the environment the characters grew up in.  You might be surprised what kind of additional story ideas this can spark for you, as well as adding another layer of richness to your characters and an additional flavor of authenticity to your writing.  What I ended up with on my first pass was the chart below. 

A couple of notes here:

I usually have a row for every year between birth and story opening - if for no other reason than that there may be something of note to place in the Socio-political event column.  For purposes of this example, however, I deleted several non-impact rows to try to keep this as short as possible.

Also, this can include years before the character’s birth if there were events that have a story impact, such as the birth of an older sibling or the origins of a recent feud, or some such.

Once I have my charts combined and fairly complete, I step back and take a look at the grid as a whole.  Do the various pieces fit together properly?  Often times I’ll find I need to do a bit of tweaking here and there.   In the case of this particular chart, I only got as far as looking at the political events that paralleled my story to see I had a problem.  Did you spot it?  The US and England were neck deep in the throes of the War of 1812 just about the time I had my hero starting his new life in America.  Even though I might have been able to make that work, I didn’t want to further complicate this already complicated plot with the political issues of that period.  So I rethought my approach, moved the story forward in time 10 years and had it open in 1830 rather than 1820.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t happen as linearly as I described here.  I go back and forth between the hero and heroine’s charts as things come to me.  I also rearrange, insert and delete as I learn more about my characters and my story needs.  If I don’t know exactly when a backstory event takes place I’ll slot it at a ‘best guess’ spot so I don’t lose it.  Eventually I’ll figure out where it goes and get it slotted properly.

It’s important that every time you unearth some tidbit about your character’s history, even if you don’t think that particular footnote will ever make its way into your book, that you record it on the chart.  It doesn’t take much effort to do, and you never know when it might come into play.

And when you’re making your final pass through the book, keep this little chart at your elbow so that you can check your facts.  That will go a long way toward keeping your timeline straight so you don’t make the same mistake I did.

One last note:  If you’re like me, you have loads of ideas for projects you want to work on either very soon or “someday”.  I have an Idea File that I keep track of these in, a place where I jot down notes and tidbits about these ‘someday stories’ so I don’t lose the gems as they come to me.  I’ve now added this backstory tracking document to each of these files and it provides a handy one page view of my characters as they begin to take shape.

So there’s my method.  I know it won’t work for everyone but it helps me work through and keep track of all those backstory issues that help me figure out what makes my characters tick.
Once Upon A Thanksgiving All that stands between Ruby Anne Tuggle and a fresh start is an escort to Tyler, Texas.  Rancher Griff Lassiter is too kind to refuse, but too wary of being hurt again to offer anything but protection on the journey. 
Then a fever forces an unexpected detour and a chance to find the place they both belong...

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for Winnie's October Release Once Upon a Thanksgiving

Find Winnie online at:


  1. First!!! First!!

    If not I am going to be so embarrassed.

    I cannot believe you are actually sharing this with us, Winnie.

    THANK YOU!!!

  2. WOW! How cool is that? I love the charts, everything is all neat and organized...something that I have to work hard at LOL!

    The book looks great Winnie. :-)

    XOXO~ Renee

  3. Hi Winnie!
    We met at the RWA conference in NY this summer, and I caught you off guard when I told you I've read your books. Loved your humble and modest reaction.

    I downloaded Once Upon a Thanksgiving yesterday. Linda Ford is another of my favorites, so this book is a 'no brainer' for me...I had to have it!

    Thanks for sharing your tricks of the trade with us today!

    Best and Blessings,

  4. Go Tina!

    I love that! I have something similar. I use a calendar for the book/series itself - the time actually covered in the book so I know what day is which etc. I had it a vague 'springtime' for 10mos in a WIP once... then realized I should probably do something about that ;).

    Great advice!!!

    [I hit 1673 words today. How's the other NaNo-ers doing?]

    carolmoncado at gmail dot com

  5. Thank you for sharing, Winnie.

    I have something vaguely similar that I use. I also have been known to utilize a calendar.

    The coffee's on tap.


  6. Winnie, a chart I actually understand! Fabulous!

    No need to enter me since I received my Seekerville prize copy in the mail today. Can't wait to open it up.


  7. Click on those spread sheets and they get larger, if you can't see the details.
    Winnie, you're so organized.

    I am scum.

    (slinking off to try and match some of the socks in my fifteen sock drawers)

  8. Very nice, think I might just add that to my arsenal of jumbled not taking! I had to change the years of my WIP once and that was a catastrophe, but if I had this already nice and neat, it would have helped!

  9. This is wonderful, Winnie!! My timeline organization is currently in a state of mewling infirmity. But not for long! I've been looking for a way to organize back-story and this is great! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Very helpful, makes sense. Thank you.

  11. Oh my goodness - what a bunch of early birds you all are!!
    For those of you who might have trouble reading the small print version of these, I have full size versions posted at this link

  12. Tina and Renee, glad you like the charts

    LyndeeH, Thanks and hope you enjoy the book!

    Carol, I also have a different chart I use to keep up with time on the story itself - we should compare notes! And congrats on the NaNo word count.

  13. LOL, Tina!

    And Mary, I have about 7 junk drawers. When I was a kid, my mom had ONE. Evry one of mine has a certain type of 'junk' but my kids all laugh about my term 'junk drawer'.

    This was an awesome post! It reminded me of something I read once about 'unpacking your character' and for the YA crowd it was called 'unpacking your characters backpack'! So, once I wrote out a list of things in my heroine's giant purse. :)

    Winnie, those charts look really detailed. Is that an excell sheet or did you just use a word program?

  14. Helen, You're welcome! And no coffee for me - I'll be toddling off to bed soon.

    Christina - glad you find the chart easy to use. And I hope you enjoy the book!

    Mary - LOL, I'm glad I SEEM organized - good to know I have some of you fooled.

  15. Carol! I've done that, too! I had the school year proceeding but for some reason the weather stayed hot...

    And I started my NaNo yesterday and got a good 1200 words. Getting a very late start tonight (thank you, toddlers) but hoping to hit some pivotal scenes!

  16. Melissa, yes this is especially helpful when you have to change up your timeline - you can get an immediate idea of the domino impact.

    Natalie - Glad you find it helpful. I'll be glad to email you (or anyone else here for that matter) a templae of this in either Word or Excel

  17. Virginia - this example was done with a Word chart, but I use Excel as well.

    Word works well for simple charts. But Excel is better when you have a lot of columns to track - like I do when I have a series of related books and want to track the backstory for ALL the characters in the series on one chart.

    And congrats on the stellar start on your NaNo project.

  18. What a wonderful lesson in your post Winnie. Thank you. I'm sure it helps keep your story straight. :)

    Love the cover of Once Upon a Thanksgiving! Would love to be entered to win a copy. :)

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  19. Tina, you were clearly first.

    Oh how I love charts and lists! I've done this same kind of thing but I think you've nailed it, Winnie. It pretty much gives you backstory at a glance, besides protection from those chronological mess-ups. I love it!

    Thanks for sharing and visiting and I need to go see what there is to eat around here.
    Can I interest anyone in pumpkin pancakes? Warning. I love to cover 'em with chopped pecans.

    When do you overnighters sleep?

  20. I'm going to try this for my next manuscript. Thank you for sharing this very valuable tip.

    Congrats on your success! Your new book looks like a great read. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

  21. Hi, Winnie. I've always enjoyed your workshops. I always learn something from you. Great info once again. Thanks.

  22. Wow Winnie,
    That is AMAZING!
    I'm totally impressed and reminded just how disorganized my life is. :-)

    I'm going to join Mary at the sock basket.

  23. Wow, what a cool process! I really enjoyed how you melded the time lines of the hero and heroine.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  24. Also, if you wear long pants and boots, no one knows your socks don't match. See, winter isn't all bad?!

  25. Great ideas, Winnie! Thanks so much for the helpful breakdown of your methodology. I intend to borrow some of it!!

    Tracking is so important for any book, but when you're writing more than one book for a series (which many authors are doing these days) this is especially critical to keep things straight.

    I often create horizontal timelines, one above the other, for each of my main characters, so I can compare how old and where each character was in their life events in comparison to the same timeframe for another.

    There's always so much to keep in your head when writing a book or series of books, so your spreadsheets are a fantastic, practical idea!

  26. Hi Winnie,

    This is fabulous! I like how the chart helps you spot social and/or political issues that might make a writer want to move their timeline forward or back. It's frustrating to finish a manuscript only to find a major social change or political happening that needs to be incorporated or the story needs to be set in a different time.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  27. Wow how cool! Your book sounds so interesting.
    Rose M.

  28. This is terrific, Winnie. I love anything that will help me stay organized. Thanks!

  29. I love it! I get so confused with keeping track of who, what, where, and why in my own stories, but I know, as a reader, you see everything! Any inconsistency, and bam! Taken out of the story. This is a huge beef I have with TV shows. Even my favorites have HUGE inconsistencies. I can overlook the glaring mistakes for love of the characters and stories, but I want to say to the writers, "Come on, get with it! Do some research!" I know they have different writers for the shows, and collaborate with multiple writers on each episode, but some things are just so obvious. Watch a couple eps before writing one!


    So, thanks for sharing this, Winnie! It’s one of my biggest worries in weaving a story. Inconsistencies and believability.

    Please enter me for the chance to win Once Upon a Thanksgiving. : )



  30. Welcome back, Winnie! It's great to have you here. This is a great chart to use! I'll have to come up with something like this for my contemporary books. I usually just draw a timeline on paper, but it would be nice to have a file in my computer.

    A thought hit me as I was reading about your chart. For those of you who write in a particular time period, you could do a basic chart with the basic social/political events of the time period listed and save it to use for all your books.

  31. I'm not a writer, but your charts are so impressive! Your book sounds so good, and I would love to read it!

  32. Love the chart, Winnie! Thanks for sharing.

    Mary? Sock drawers? I have one sock basket. That way I can move it around from room to room. :)

  33. Hi Winnie! Love having you in Seekerville! What a great post! I struggle with charts but this grabs me. Thank you!

    Once Upon a Thanksgiving looks terrific, as I know it will be. Love your stories!

    I brought apple fritters and hot cider this morning.


  34. Oooh, very good chart! Normally I hate charts and things, but I am HORRIBLE at remembering my characters' ages. Just bad with numbers, really. lol
    Thank you so much!!

  35. Welcome to Seekerville Winnie, Great information. Thanks for sharing.

    Enjoy your day at Seekerville.

  36. So simple yet so helpful.
    I need to do this on 2 of my wip. It's a series and this would help tremendously.

    I wrote over 3100 words yesterday on NaNo, but they wasn't all new. I'm not going by the rules, but what's best for me. I have a wip that I have on an old computer that I can't retrieve the info, only open the document. I'm writing some new scenes and retyping the story from my old computer onto my laptop. It's the first in a series and I've been putting off the story. I'm hoping to have it all down on paper by the end of the month.

  37. Love the chart, Winnie, especially the inclusion of socio-political events. Seems like it would apply mostly to historicals, but really, contemporary novels could benefit from this too. Like how many heroines, some ten or twenty years from now, will have had lives informed by the current recession, housing bubble, etc?

    Very nice.

    NaNo update: 2,059 words yesterday. Congrats, Carol, on your great start.

  38. Hi, Winnie! As one chart lover to another, I can relate! It's so important to keep all those ages, dates, life incidents, and world events straight.

    My projects don't always require so much attention to backstory, but one manuscript in particular required a chart very similar to yours. EVERYTHING about the heroine's past affected her present and future, as did the hero's.

    So I basically did their charts side by side to compare where each of them was in her/his life when something significant happened.

    Anyone ready for a mid-morning snack break? I brought cranberry scones and chai latte!

  39. Hi Winnie! And thanks so much for sharing your backstory organization. PLEASE, organize me, LOL!

    I love how you blend the characters as you develope. Makes so much sense.

    Printing this post and will refer to it often.


  40. Thanks for sharing Winnie! Great system!

  41. Great post, Winnie---thank you so much for sharing your chart ideas with us. I'm ALWAYS looking for new ways to organize information (and keep things as simple as possible for myself, LOL).~ Your Thanksgiving book cover is beautiful! :) Thank you again for being with us on this Wednesday, and I've brought along some Georgia Pecan Pancakes with warm maple syrup to share---Enjoy! Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo :)

  42. Winnie,

    This is GREAT! I love it! And perfect timing for my Nano story!

    I hit 2,206 words yesterday! yay. But now I'm thinking my first scene should've started in a different way, so I may have to re-arrange some things today. Better earlier than later though. Hmmm...

    Thanks, Winnie! Very useful tool.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  43. Sounds like a great tool. Do you ever get so bogged down in the planning that you find it hard to find time to write? This is how I am with housework and I'm almost afraid to try to be so organized with my writing for fear I won't get to the actual writing.

    Would love to be included in the drawing for your book!

  44. EVERYONE: When your heroine has lost all hope, how do you dig her out of the pit?

  45. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Er. Right.

    Back to stuff.

    Another 344 while waiting at the dentist's office for the 6yo to get a filling. Now sitting at Chick-fil-A waiting for her mouth to wake up. We probably won't wait here the whole time but we had chick-n-minis and milkshakes for breakfast :D.

    I've got some set up on the picnic table for anyone else who wants some.

    I do actually have a chart similar to this for my 5 book series. Sort of. I have two sets of twins and I have a year/age/grade thing for both sets with a couple of notes on one of the sisters who gets her own books later. I'd love an email copy of it, Winnie.

    Okay - trying to add a few more words while my 6yo trooper colors for a few minutes.

  46. Winnie, your charts are what I've been looking for! I've been keeping details on scraps of paper, but then when the cat walks across my desk...well, you get the picture.

    (By the way, has anyone else developed strong forearms from typing with a cat lying across your arms?)

    I'll be hunting up my various paper scraps and transferring everything to an Excel spreadsheet today!

    Once Upon a Thanksgiving looks like just the kind of reading for I need for our snowy weekend coming up - it's on my "to buy" list if I don't win it!

    Did I see scones and chai somewhere? I haven't had breakfast yet.

  47. Such detail! Thanks for this peek into your writing process!

  48. Winnie, I am not a writer, but just reading those timelines makes me want to read your book A Will of Her Own. This book sounds great!

  49. Linette - your heroine has lost hope? What a great time for the hero to step in! He can throw her something to get her out of that pit!

    And it's Julie's birthday!!! Happy Birthday, girl!!!

  50. Winnie, what an organized way to keep track of things! I don't write historical, I love this concept! Thanks so much for sharing it. If you were to use it for planning out a contemporary story, would you make any changes?

  51. Once again, Seekerville proves its worth. This is a master class Winnie. Thank you so much. Powerful, useful... PAWSOME!!!

  52. Linnette, she's lost ALL hope? Yikes!

    I think persistent people (children, best friends, hero) are good for getting out of the pit. People who need and love the heroine.

    Maybe she'll climb out of the pit to make a better life for a child or because she promised her (now-dead) grandma/mother/best friend that she wouldn't give up.

    NaNo didn't go so well last night. Teething toddlers are a PAIN! For them and for me. I think the last count was 300 words or something. Ha!

  53. Yea, Tina! You weren't embarrassed! You really WERE First!!! :) Happy for you.

    Yea Carol on the word count! Yea for others who are tallying up word counts, too! I hit 2,750 yesterday. So amazed. :)

    Myra,I love cyber scones and chai because I can partake with no pain. :) While I'm here, I'm bringing along some yummy Mexican hot chocolate to fend off the chill in places where it's snowing (like here). Also, I just took some chocolate banana muffins out of the oven to share.

    Happy Birthday, Julie!!

  54. Fabulous chart, Winnie! I love organization and I may have to try this. I'm currently reworking a mystery in my WIP, and something like this could help me keep the clues straight.

    Carol, Virginia, Patricia, Susan- great work on your first day of Nano-ing! I had planned to edit last night but came home from work with a terrible headache and ended up laying on the couch most of the evening. Hopefully tonight I can make up for lost time!


  55. Jan, the forearm pilates move. I believe it's pretty common. You should do a workout video of it. Make a million dollars.

  56. Jan -

    Not from a cat but from a 4yo sitting on me...

    Back home. Still waiting for the mouth [and nose apparently] to wake up.

    DH weighed the big pillowcase o' candy this morning.

    18 pounds.




    Of candy.

    The dentist will love us even more [they want to keep the 6yo around for entertainment purposes as it is ;)].

  57. Terrific job on Nano-ing, too, JeanneT!

    Lynette, I find that when my heroine has lost all hope, it's when God steps in and gives her a nudge. This can be done through a friend, the hero, or even just God's still, small voice. Lately, I've been using nature or a Scripture being suddenly recalled to mind.

    Although, personally, I find a good, long cry makes me feel a whole lot better. It might not change the situation, but it gets out all those feelings with the tears!

    But I'm with Jan, the hero stepping in is much better (and he doesn't have to see those tear-stained cheeks and red nose!)

  58. Cindy - glad you like the cover, I think LIH does an awesome job in that department

    Debra - another chart lover! My critique partner gets antsy just hearing the word chart :). And those pumpkin pancakes sound delish!

    Annie - glad to hear you found this interesting enough to give it a try - let me know how it works out for you

  59. Mindy - oh what a nice thing to say! And you're quite welcome

    Pepper, LOL - this chart is just one attempt to try to organize my otherwise disorganized life

    Sherri - Thanks and glad you like this method.

  60. Glynna - borrow away! And you're right about tracking being important with a series - especially if the series involves fellow family members. The life events of one will carry over to the other.

    Kirsten - I didn't have that socio-political column the first few times I used it but it has proved invaluable since I added it. Really gives me a sense for the environment my characters grew up in.

    Rose - Thanks for the kind words about the book

  61. Sandra - glad I could help!

    Whitney - you're welcom, hope this tool works for you

    Missy - you're right about using a master chart of historical events - I often go back to past charts when my new story covers the same period as a past one

  62. winnie,

    thanks for sharing your 'method.'

    and thanks for the chance to read your fabulous novel, too :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  63. WINNIE!!! Where were you a few years ago when I SOOO needed you and your incredible charts???

    WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE and what a GREAT tool to share!!

    I'm a seat-of-the-pantster, but by the third book in a multi-character (14 major characters on stage at any given time!!) family saga, I quickly became a plotter of sorts with my own Birthday/Anniversary/Age chart that would boggle the mind. Like you, I made too many timeline blunders, although Revell is WONDERFUL at catching most of them, thank God!!

    But I just may ditch my form for yours, you know?? EXCELLENT!!


  64. Thanks for sharing this with us Winnie. I am not good with charts but if it works, that's great.

    I love your books and I can't wait to read this one.

  65. What great information for any writer out there! Thank you so much for all your tips!

    Brittany Roshelle

    The Write Stuff

  66. Jackie - LOL on them being impressive - they were actually an act of organizational desperation for me

    Bridget - you're welcome!

    Janet - Thanks, I LOVE visiting Seekerville - you folks really know how to make a visitor feel welcome. And that hot apple cider sounds just the thing...

  67. Jessica, not everyone likes or even needs charts (my critique partner being one!). But this is what works for me.

    Sandra - thanks, and I ALWAYS enjoy my time at Seekerville

    Connie congrats on your NaNo progress - wish I could claim even half that much!

  68. Patricia - I've written one contemporary and found this quite useful for that as well. It was fun to see what events, music and cultural mores would have informed their 'growing up ears'. Allowed me to add some nuances I might have missed had I not done it.

    Myra, sounds like you and I think a lot alike in this area.

    Audra - LOL, trust me, you wouldn't be happy with the results. I have trouble even organizing myself!

  69. Eva - you're quite welcome

    CatMom - glad you like the chart AND the cover of my book. Gotta love the art department at LIH.

    Susan - figuring out where a book REALLY starts is always tricky for me as well. I've been known to rewrite an opening a dozen times before I'm happy with it.

  70. Welcome, Winnie, and thank you for this! Backstory/timeline is something I am really struggling with in my current WIP (both the hero and heroine have very complicated backstories!) and I would never have thought to make such a clear and organized chart. This will be a huge help! Thanks for being with us today and sharing this great idea!

  71. Y'all who are doing NaNoWrMo (did I get that right??), way to go!! For those who are disappointed in your can do it!! Ra Ra Ra!! (That's me with pom poms, cheering) :)

    Carol, EIGHTEEN POUNDS?????? Oh. My. Stars. That blows me away. And I'm wondering how much of that is the good stuff: chocolate?? :)

  72. Missy -

    We'll sort through it tonight most likely* but just from looking at it, most of it looks like good stuff :D.

    Not like... the yucky black or orange wrapped peanut butter candies but like Skittles and Reeses PB Cups and full size Twix and mini bags of popcorn and Twizzlers and... I should post a pic on Facebook...

    Okay here it si. Hope the link works. May not if you're not a friend of mine [I know you are Missy :D. Just in general... And if not, here is the public link to the whole album.]

    *The kids were going to do it last night but three of them were fighting so no go. We sort into several piles:

    a. Candy Mom likes
    b. Gum
    c. Suckers/lollipops [may be combined with b depending]
    d. Stuff no one likes [usually take it to school to put in the bowl because someone else will like it]
    e. Everything else ;)

  73. Linnette, you can always try Mary's solution. Have your heroine shoot someone.

  74. Linnette - LOL, only all the time. I'm the world's biggest procrastinator.

    Carol - congrats on your wordcount! And sure, just email me through my website with your email id and let me know if you'd rather have a Word or Excell template.

  75. Oh, I'm so late for such a good post, Winnie!!!!

    Now of course, I do not organize.

    So this is all Greek to me, but do you see, my dear woman, how HAPPY YOU'VE MADE MY FRIENDS?????

    Oh my stars, this should keep them quiet for days... weeks... months, possibly????


    Hey, we are doing chicken wings here. Do not ask why, suffice it to say that they need to be cooked.

    So hot?



    Your choice.

  76. Jan - I hear you on the scraps of paper thing. I'm forever jotting down notes on backs of envelopes and then losing them! And thanks for the kind words on my book.

    Erica - you're welcome!

    Sylvia - A Will Of Her Own is an older book that is no longer in print. I've gotten the rights back, though, and may try to give it a new life in the future

  77. JeanneT - I did, in fact, write one contemporary story and I used this chart pretty much as is. It was interesting to look at the cultrual and political climate of their growing up years to help me get a clearer picture of the people they became

    KC - LOL, I'm not sure of the idea of this being a master class but thanks so much for the thought.

  78. Just took a break to laddle up a bowl of my leftover 'anything goes' soup - there's more on the stove if anyone wants a bowl.

    Now to get back to reading all your wonderful posts...

  79. Stephanie - glad this was timely for you!

    KarenK - You're welcome

    Julie, LOL - I was right here! And yes, the chart is a real lifesaver when doing a series of connected books. I'd love to see your charts if you want to share - always looking for ways to improve on my processes

  80. Virginia - you're welcome and thanks for the kind words about my books.

    Brittany - Thanks!

    EC - Glad you found this timely and helpful. I've always thought getting a good handle on your characters' backstories was a key to great characterization.

  81. Winnie, would you be willing to send me a template? I really like your idea. :)

  82. I love that idea --I think you could probably even do that with book series that you are reading to keep track of what is happening as the story progresses (if you're like me and have trouble remembering or having to go back and look up things from earlier books). =)

  83. Winnie,
    Great info. Love your charts and your mind. I want your mind even more than your charts! :)

    You are such a teacher at heart. Am I right?

    Congrats on your new release. Lovely!

  84. Winnie, loved your post!! That chart is so cool and easy to understand. What an awesome idea!! I know how important it is to get the facts right--as I've often read books that had something wrong in the timeline, and it's kinda distracting. What a way to ensure, as much as possible, that it doesn't happen!

    Thanks, again, for sharing your tricks! ;-)

    ~ Katie

  85. Ruth - I love how you always make me smile!! As for the chicken wings - the spicier the better!

    Jeanne T - Absolutely. Just give me your email id and let me know if you prefer a Word or Excel format.

    Lady Dragonkeeper - glad you liked the charts

  86. I'm with Winnie - I wanna see Julie's chart!!!!!

    Will send you an email via your website later tonight :).

  87. I'm stopping by again with BIRTHDAY CAKE!! For....JULIE LESSMAN!!! Happy Birthday dear Julie, and I hope your day has been and will continue to be WONDERFUL!!! Enjoy the cake! (my apologies if someone else brought cake and I overlooked it, but I guess you cannot have too much cake, right?!). Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  88. Debby - LOL, Believe me, you'll get a whole lot more out of my charts than out of my totally disorganized jumble of a brain. I don't know about being much of a teacher but I do like to share what I've learned and learn from others.

    Katie - Thanks for your enthusiasm!

  89. Carol, our dentists do a candy exchange where we bring in 1 lb of candy and get $5 gift cards to the book store! WIN WIN!

  90. /does the math and decides to move where Virginia is/

  91. LOL Tina... 12:03? I have this image of a dozen Seeker friends sitting at their laptops with their comment all ready to go and their baby finger poised over the enter button waiting for the clock to flip to midnight.

    By the way - what time zone does it strike 12 in Seekerville? Maybe I should try one of these nights. Haha.

    Great post, Winnie. I have a similar set up with a spreadsheet so I'm relieved to see I'm on the right track. :)

  92. Great post, I can totally see how this is mega helpful!

  93. Well, girls, I received rejection #2 today. It was a very nice rejection letter. They are impressed with my writing but it's not what they are looking to place at this time. So... where's the chocolate?

  94. love seeing the charts a good way to keep up with the characters. The story looks really good too. do like the LIH books.

  95. CAROL, oh sure, you little brat -- let EVERYONE know I'm older, why don't you??? :) Seriously, thank you, sweetie, for your b-day greetings, both here and on FB. And trust me, you do NOT want to see my chart. :)

    JAN, thanks for the greetings, both here and on FB. It's been a wonderful day!

    Thanks, JEANNE, as well! I spent the day on my deck with hazelnut coffee, 72-degree sunny day and Steven O'Connor -- not too shabby. :)

    PATTI JO, you sweetheart, you!! My MIL fixed me a cake on Sunday, my daughter yesterday (for both her boyfriend and me since he share my birthday), but none today, so THANK YOU!! Hope it's white cake or red velvet ... YUM!!!


  96. WINNIE ... like I told Carol, you do NOT want to share lists with me!!! It's not pretty, trust me. :)


  97. You had me at SPREADSHEET!

    Loved this, Winnie!

    And, you might have mentioned this, but I didn't see it...Once you plug in those neat socio-political events into a spreadsheet, you can just make a new copy for subsequent stories set in the same time period and voila, you've got a head-start.

  98. lol - I commented b4 I read the other comments and now see that Missy had the same idea about recycling your socio-political column.

    It's a good idea: Missy said so!

  99. Anita Mae - Thanks. And there's lots of different approaches to this kind of tracking, so you just gotta find that works for you.

    Faye - glad you found it helpful

    Linnette - sorry to hear about your rejection, but it sounds like it was one of those good, almost there kind of rejections.

  100. Ausjenny - Thanks for the kind words about my book!

    Julie - holding out on us are you. Oh well, since it's your birthday I guess you get a pass :)

    Pam - ahh, another spreadsheet fan! And yes, the environmental events column can be recycled for other stories set in the same period. But then again, looking for new entries is such a guilt-free way to procrastinate!

  101. Hugs on the rejection, Linnette!

    But what a nice, encouraging rejection. He's saying you've got what it takes and not to give up!

    Be encouraged, dear heart!

  102. Winnie, I'm trying to read between the lines to see the bad stuff he's NOT saying. He said my book isn't what they are looking to place at this time. Still, I think this email may be worth framing. I'll probably never get another rejection letter quite like it. I'd post the awesome things he said, but I kind of feel like that would be tacky. I will show you this though: "Please continue writing, developing your craft and reaching out to agents and readers. I have no doubt you'll find the right place for your stories. All the best in your pursuits. I have no doubt our paths will cross again."

    All in God's time, right? And I get the feeling he is saying that it's good but still just a tad bit short of where it needs to be. *shrugs* Still, he didn't have to say anything and I'm so thankful he did!

  103. Love, love, love this although I am SO at the sock drawer. My husband's the organized one around here. I I try to organize, I make a mess of the organizer. *sigh* I dream about being organized ... someday.

    I do have one thing to add - thanks to my organized husband I can even find it on the bookshelf.

    Years ago we bought a book called The Timetables of History. It starts in 5000 BC and goes all the way up to 1978, The early years are bunched in periods of 50 years, but in the year 500 it begins going year by year. For each year it lists events in:
    History and Politics
    Literature and Theater
    Religion and Philosophy
    Visual Arts
    Science and Technology, and
    Daily Life

    It's a treasure trove of historical minutiae.

  104. Linnette,
    Sending chocolate your way! One night of pouting is allowed. But no more. Tomorrow you're back at work, right!

    And it was a very good rejection! Hugs!

  105. Linnette - "All in God's time' is a very good guiding thought. But I still think overall it was very positive feedback.

    MaryC - So this is like the boy next door huh? Love it but not something that you want to take home with you. And that reference book sounds awesome - I'll have to look around for a copy.

  106. Hello Winnie,
    You have given me some good information on tracking. I too love to track!

    Jan K.

  107. Mary C - I have that book - the Timetables of History! Used it for homeschooling and keeping my copy for reference. It's a wonderful resource, isn't it? And they update it every few years, so for everyone else who is thinking of getting one, it's readily available. I just checked on e-bay and there are several copies for less than $10.

    Linnette - Hugs, and here's some chocolate from Wilbur Chocolate (the best, located in Lititz, PA). Take tonight to wallow in that wonderful, encouraging rejection, and then get to work tomorrow!

  108. Winnie- that's a great way to keep up with all of your info. I usually use OneNote to chart different things in a bulleted list. I'll have to try something like this to see if it makes tracking these small details any easier.

    Thanks for the tip.

    Would love to read you book also. It sounds awesome!

  109. Janet - glad you like the tracker - hope you can put it to good use.

    Dianna - I've never used OneNote, is it a tool you've found helpful for keeping track of things?

  110. Winnie, I think it's a good complement for crit partners to be opposites on the pantster/plotter teeter totter! Makes for a nice balance. Thanks for all your helpful suggestions today.

  111. LOL, Winnie. Never thought of it that way. I'll give it a try. I'm great at trying. Keeping up might be a different story.

  112. Oh that would be wonderful, Winnie! And if you would consider sharing, I'd also be interested in the one you mentioned for the timeline of the story itself. Thank you so much!!


  113. Oh! And Excel would be great if that's alright. I'm coming to love that program. lol :)

  114. This is backward.

    Julie has a birthday.
    I receive a book from her.

    Happy, passionate birthday, Julie!!!

  115. Linnette:

    Hugs and blessings.

    Keep writing and putting it out there.


  116. Oh, you don't need to enter me into the contest. I was just wanting to comment on the book! Thanks! :)

  117. Debra - you're welcome and you're so right about complementary approaches and skills!

    MaryC - Glad to give you a bit of perspective :-)

    Natalie - I'll get those out to you tonight!

  118. Natalie, PS: Since I didn't really discuss the front story tracker here, I'll send you instructions with it.

  119. Christian authors are some of the most generous people in the world!

    Thank you for sharing this info, Winnie. As someone still struggling to write a novel, this is invaluable!


  120. Winny,
    Great information. Thank you so much!

    Sandy Elzie

  121. Winnie, thank you for the information. You are one of my favorites!

  122. (((Hugs))) ladies! Thanks for all the pep talking and chocolate! Pouting aside, I'm on a roll. Rejection #3 just in:

    Rejection #3 - "...we've already taken on more novels than we can handle for a while. We must decline. Wishing you success as you find the right home for your book."

    I will survive! *hunts for the crumbs of Jan's chocolate*

  123. (((Hugs))) ladies! Thanks for all the pep talking and chocolate! Pouting aside, I'm on a roll. Rejection #3 just in:

    Rejection #3 - "...we've already taken on more novels than we can handle for a while. We must decline. Wishing you success as you find the right home for your book."

    Yes, they were receiving subs when I sent it in. And, yes, I will survive! *hunts for the crumbs of Jan's chocolate*

  124. Question: What software did you useas your story tracker?

  125. Makes me want to go back and read A Will of her own.. might have to look around for a copy!
    Please enter me in the drawing!

  126. Jan - Glad you like this. Please let me know how this works for you.

    Sandy - you're quite welcome.

    Margaret - Hi!

  127. Linnette - {{{Hugs!}}} Love your attitiude - that's what it takes to survive this business

    ElkGrove - I normally use a simple Excel spreadsheet, though MS Word will work just as well

    Patty - what a sweet thing to say! A Will Of Her Own holds a specil place in my heart. It was the first full book I ever wrote, though I published 3 others and reworte it significantly before it finally found a home.

  128. This sounds wonderfully organized! And very like something I should try. My wipe begins in 1879, but the backstory starts several years before the Civil War. It gets tricky keeping it all straight.

    And I'd love to win if it's not too late.

  129. I'm a spreadsheet fan(atic) and this will help me sooooo much! I clicked to see the larger version of it and studied it and will be adding it to my spreadsheet set (a compilation gathered from several people, including Myra *wink*).

    Thanks so much, Winnie!

  130. Andrea and Patty, so glad you found these charts useful. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions as you work with them.