Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hazards of that Ticking Clock


Janet here. Stories often have deadlines, a ticking clock that pushes characters to pursue their goals with a sense of urgency. In a suspense novel, the hero might be racing against the clock to find his sister before she dies at her kidnapper’s hand. Of course not all ticking clocks have life and death stakes. But if that ticking clock is connected to your characters’ goals—what they want and pursue throughout the novel—then that deadline is vital to the characters and the readers.

   
In my historical novel The Bride Wore Spurs, heroine Hannah’s goal is to run the family ranch. When events make it abundantly clear that the ranch hands won’t listen to her, she is forced into a marriage of convenience with neighboring rancher Matt. The wedding will take place in three days. That short time frame ups the tension. Hannah must get her mother’s wedding dress altered and endure the startled reaction of others, all the while grieving her father’s failing health and the lack of love between her and Matt. With this short time period till the wedding, the heroine and I had no problem keeping track of the days.

But I did lose track once.


In my novella, “The Last Minute Bride,” Brides of the West, Elise and David are estranged but must join forces to provide a lovely reception for their best friends’ wedding in two weeks. All the while Elise is hurting by what she believes is David’s betrayal. As I wrote the novella, I had no problem keeping track of the days, but during revisions, I reordered some scenes, easy to do with cut and paste. The problem—I somehow missed that in the new version of the story I’d messed up the passage of days. I was able to fix the discrepancies during editorial revisions. Still, that blunder unnerved me.
 
Since that experience, when writing a story with a specific deadline, I’m very aware of the importance of keeping track of the passage of time. So how do I make sure I get it right? And don't have the crazy urge to rid the story of that ticking clock?





                                 Eliminate Ticking Clock Hazards with a story outline

As I write, I like to outline my story, giving the briefest mention of what happens in each scene of each chapter. The outline is invaluable when my story has a ticking clock. I not only list the scenes in each of the chapters and the briefest mention of events, but I also add in large bold font the date and day the scenes take place. I may have more than one scene or even more than one chapter under that date. If a scene doesn't take place for a day or more, then I must be careful to include them in the passage of time. At the end of writing the draft—or my version of a draft, which is never rough or fast—I’ll have a complete outline of the book.

This outline is a great resource for me. As I write, the outline allows me to check facts like a minor character’s description or the name of the hero’s dog without having to scroll through the manuscript. I find this handier than the Find feature in Word.

Some may find the idea of dividing your story into chapters as you write bazaar, especially if you don’t write linearly. Still, you do create scenes and if your story has a ticking clock, you can decide what date those scenes should fall under. If you like to skip around writing scenes, beware that writing out of sequence is another potential hazard of the ticking clock.

In my current manuscript heroine Carly must have a bridal gown and trousseau made in three weeks, the date of her customer’s wedding. If the deadline is vague, then keeping track of the days and weeks might not matter, but in this case, the deadline is specific and reputation of her business is at stake. Try not to create a deadline merely to add pressure to the characters and up the emotion. Deadlines should force characters to take actions that forward the plot. Everything that happens in your story should forward the plot.

Here’s a peek at the opening of my story’s outline. Notice I give only enough details to trigger the scene in my mind. I don't list every event. For example before Carly looks for the deed in Chapter Three, she puts her son to bed. No need to remind myself of that little detail. Scenes may be in the same chapter but take place on different days. I add any information to the outline that I might want to check like minor character or store names.  

Tuesday, March 1, 1898
Chapter 1: Carly buries Max. 

Friday, April 1, 1898
Nate visits Carly’s shop. Sister Anna has deed won in a poker game by Anna’s dead husband Walt. Carly faints. Nate promises 6-year-old Henry he’ll help his mother.
Chapter 2: Carly won’t give up shop without a fight. Nate agrees to make livery repairs in exchange for Morris Mood’s empty house out back. Stray mutt.
Chapter 3: Carly questions Sheriff Truitt about legalities of shop ownership. Is told the Circuit Judge must rule. Lester and Lloyd Harders in jail. Carly searches house for deed and fails.

Saturday, April 2, 1898
Nate moves Anna. Visit cemetery on way.
Chapter 4: Carly gets Vivian Schwartz’s big bridal order for April 22 wedding in 20 days. Nate returns with Anna. Carly hires Anna.
Chapter 5: Nate moves Anna and stray dog she names Maizie into house. Carly and Henry bring food. At Stuffle Emporium Nate asks about outlaw Shifty Stogsdill.

Monday, April 4, 1898

You get the idea. I keep the outline open as I write and add to it as I go or soon afterward while events are fresh in my mind. Note that I had no Sunday scene, but the dated outline ensures I won’t lose track of the ticking clock, even when I skip days.

When I first used this outline technique, I added page numbers of the chapters but then was always changing them. I don’t need page numbers to find what I need when I use the Bookmark and Find features on Word. 

                              Eliminate Ticking Clock Hazards with Scene Headers.

If the idea of an outline still makes you nauseous, but you have a ticking clock in your story, you might want to consider adding the date at the top of the page before you write a scene. If you add the point of view character’s goal, you've given yourself a nifty guide for writing the scene. For example, Monday, April 12, ten days till the wedding, Carly hopes for no interruption so she can… That helps me stay on track with the scene's goal and time frame.

To learn more about the importance of scene goals for your characters, click my post here.





Not that we want to show that ticking clock by starting scenes with the day of the week as if writing in a journal.To make a ticking clock an effective tool, writers should show characters scrambling to meet that deadline in the story itself. Make readers worry by planting roadblocks that stymie progress and raise the stakes. Start scenes with a hook and bring that information in during the action.   

              Eliminate Ticking Clock hazards with a  Historical Calendar 
  
Historical writers must make sure the days of the week jive with the year of their story. If the aforementioned wedding takes place on April 22, 1898, then I’d better know what day that falls on. It’s super easy to check the old calendar online. These calendars show what day holidays fall on and even identify the phase of the moon. If you want a romantic full moon in your historical, you can make sure that’s feasible.

For breakfast I brought yummy store-bought goodies. None of the “Use by” dates has expired so the donuts, muffins and pastries meet my freshness ticking clock. My goal. LOL

Have you written a story with a ticking clock? If so, please share how you keep track of the passing of time. 

As a reader do you enjoy stories with ticking clocks? 

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.




119 comments:

Tina Radcliffe said...

I personally think ALL stories should have a ticking clock. URGENCY!!

I love it.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

Oh, this is a great post! In my last Love Inspired book, the heroine has three different ticking clocks.
1) She has a court date with a judge to see if she's can be awarded permanent custody of her nieces. Will she get it?
2) She has two weeks to find a new apartment, and move them from one to the other. Will she find a place?
3) She's falling in love with the co-coach on the mission soccer team for the kids, and the season is winding down. Will they see each other after the season has ended?

It got really crazy sometimes, especially when revisions included moving scenes 100 pages forward or 40 pages back. :P

Marianne Barkman said...

I agree with Tina. The urgency needs to be there...of course, that just keeps me on the look out (or hungry) for new books as I seem to devour them rapidly with or without ticking clocks.
Thanks, Janet. I LOVE your stories!

Melissa Jagears said...

I tend to put a bubble note on the chapter heading/first word of scene to tell me what time/date it is. This last one I wrote had the most ticking clock I've ever tried and I messed it up a lot and had to readjust. Ticking clocks and believable romance growth tend to be hard to get together right!

Cathy Shouse said...

I love your photo, Janet! I like the added tension of reading stories with deadlines of some sort. I used one for someone who inherited a business and has a temporary license to operate it for 6 months, when she must have gotten a permanent license to run it officially. It isn't a day-to-day deadline, although your tips are a good idea for doing that. Thanks for sharing your techniques.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm with Melissa.... I mark the chapters to try and cue my head and I still mess up. Timelines aren't my forte in my first draft. I clean them up in my second go-through, once the story is clear in my head.

Janet, what a marvelously clean way of doing this! Good for you!

No wonder Vince says you're the cleanest writer he knows. I'm a little jealous right now so I think I'll nibble the ears off an unsuspecting BUNNY.....

Chocolate, of course!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Coffee is here! I put the pot on early because it's revisions week at Ruthy's house and a good pot of "joe" makes everything go better!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Great tips JANET, I find it really helps to outline. LIke you, I messed up my timeline in a rough draft (thankfully my crit partners saw it)

One of the things I do now when I write is I get a big wall calendar--the office kind you buy at Staples or Office Max. Then I put the scenes in those big squares so I'm sure I know what day I'm on.

Janet Dean said...

Tina, you make an excellent point!
When I was writing this post, I realized most of my stories didn't have an exact deadline that required me to keep track of time. Hmm, something to think about.

Janet

Kav said...

Wow, there's so many little details that going into creating a polished story!!!! I don't have any specific ticking clocks...but I am trying to keep track of the days. Oh...and worse, I'm having problems with the time of day. Like I had a scene that started in the morning and turn to dusk in under an hour. LOL.

Janet Dean said...

I'm impressed, Virginia! How did you keep track of three different ticking clocks, especially with moving scenes?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Marianne. I think all good stories have some sense of urgency if the characters have strong goals they're working toward.

You've made my day with your sweet words! Thank you!

Janet

Rose said...

Hi Janet,

I have a ticking 'time' clock in my current WIP. The story happens over ten days and I know I have to fix some of the time passages during revisions, but like you I listed 'Day One, Day Two, etc" on a sheet of paper and jotted down what should be happening on those days.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Melissa, I totally agree that ticking clocks complicate the romance. Especially in a suspense when the hero and heroine are fighting for their lives. Don't know how suspense authors manage to have them fall in love. Debby does!

The bubble note will definitely jump out as a reminder of the date. I'm guessing outlines would make you crazy.

Janet

Jackie Smith said...

I am a reader of Christian fiction and do appreciate all you great Seeker writers! I do enjoy some urgency in books!
Thanks for your giveaway, Janet.

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Cathy! Great to see you here. Glad you like the snapshot. I'm tired of my ancient author photo.

Six months gives you more leeway. Is it hard to keep the action going for that long? Most of my stories take place in a couple of months. Not long for the hero and heroine to fall in love. But they do. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Ruthy! I'm the jealous one! I have no chocolate bunnies to eat off the ears. LOL When I did, I always started with the ears. Who can bear nippling those innocent eyes? ME.

I'm sure keeping the time frame in your head is easier when you write fast. Or maybe the problem is my shriveling brain cells. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Sandra! The huge wall calendar is a great idea! Years ago I used those giant pads of newsprint and made a calendar. Do you have room to write the day's events? Or do you just check the date off? I'd probably have to change the days of the week to coincide with the year my story is set in.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, thanks for the coffee! Hope the decks are cleared for your revisions and they go smoothly!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Kav. Your sunshine to dusk in an hour made me grin. Weather and time are on the long list of details we must manage. Yep, nothing easy about this gig.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Rose. Wonderful to know I'm not the only one who uses an outline. I'm impressed that your story takes place in ten days. It has to be action packed. Is this a suspense?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Jackie! The Seekers appreciate their readers! Thanks for hanging out in Seekerville.

Janet

Eileen said...

Great Suggestions on keeping track of clock. I have an real historical event that my characters are careening toward and many times wonder if I have crammed too little or too much into the '8 weeks'. I am going back and outlining to be sure.

Glynna Kaye said...

Keeping track of time--tricky business, Janet! I print out a blank calendar for each of my stories and jot in what happens on each day as I write. If the timetable changes, I change it on my calendar. Then when I'm finished (and again in the edits stage), when I'm reading through a final time I check off each event on the calendar to make sure I have things occurring on the correct day (don't have a teacher going off to the high school on Sunday or everyone gathering for weekly worship on Monday morning or Thanksgiving occurring on a Tuesday).

I like a ticking clock...even if something just as simple as knowing that a character is only in town for a given length of time or they're waiting for word on results of a job interview that could mix things up. Or a deadline for a dream coming to fruition will soon be expiring and they may have to give it up once and for all. Like you said, it doesn't have to be something HUGE like trying to stop a literal time bomb from going off. But it's an awareness out there, in the back of the character's (and reader's) mind that adds tension.

Connie Queen said...

Janet, this makes so much sense.

I don't keep track very well of my timeline. On my current wip, I have the heroine and hero meeting on Friday so they can have the weekend. I just now realizing it ain't working. This changes everything.

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Janet, GREAT advice on having a written timeline or calendar!! I learned this the hard way on debut book, A Passion Most Pure, when a date I was forced into by the ages of the characters and other dates connected to important scenes (i.e. Good Friday was the day US entered WWI) ended up being a few months short of what really happened, making my scenario an impossibility.

I cried buckets because this mistake on the timeline of the book threatened to derail the entire plot until I prayed and God gave me an out through the timely suggestion of a well-read friend. :)

From that moment on, I have kept a timeline, and in fact, my copy editor does the same thing, forcing me to keep track of the dates and times mentioned so that they are feasible.

Hugs!
Julie

kaybee said...

Thank you, Janet. This was helpful, especially the bit about the historical clock. I did not know how to do that.
In "Trail," the book I'm shopping around, the hero and heroine have to get through the mountains and to Oregon Country before it snows. And they have three different passels of villains tracking them. There's not a specific date they have to reach, but more of a general "get there or else."
Ew, I just realized something in one of my WIPs. A scene begins at dusk and ends at Midnight Mass. Except not enough happens between dusk and Midnight Mass to justify the time stretch. I'll have to make it an earlier Christmas Mass or extend the action in the beginning. I have to have Mass because Julia is clinging to the altar and pleading for sanctuary as she tries to keep her long-lost daughter, who was hidden from her for six years, from the mobster. You know the drill...
Kathy Bailey

Mary Connealy said...

I don't do enough ticking clocks.
I sometimes have them for some things but this 'whole story' ticking clock is something I love to read.

I need to write it more.
Thanks Janet this is really jump starting some ideas.

YAY!

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Eileen! I don't think you can cram in too much if events fit the characters' goals.

A real historical event in the story ups the pressure of getting the timeframe accurate with the year it took place. Hope the outline helps!

Janet

Myra Johnson said...

Such great advice here, Janet!

I can't think of a specific story where I've used a ticking clock, but I am meticulous about tracking the passage of time in my manuscripts.

For one thing, I always begin a new project by creating a calendar in an Excel spreadsheet. If it's historical, I find the exact year I want and use those dates, also noting where any historical events fall.

I also learned in an ACFW workshop years ago to make note of the moon phases . . . just in case you want your H/H taking a romantic stroll under a full moon.

And, since I'm a "linear pantser" who writes in Scrivener, as I begin each scene, I type the day and date on the first line of the little scene card on the right side of the screen.

After completing the scene, I write a brief summary on the scene card, then enter the highlights on that date in my Excel calendar. Also, if I determine there's a significant event coming up in my characters' future, I enter it on the calendar so I remember to build toward the event.

Crystal Ridgway said...

Love this post, Janet! Ticking clocks definitely ramp up the tension. I write historical romance too, but I've never tried to match up date and day. I just have one or the other. ('Course, I'm not real good with dates anyway)

Off to go write now...

S. Trietsch said...

Out of date doughnuts are my excuse to eat the whole box!!

A tracker or story outline to keep up with time of year is my goal to tackle this week. I love ticking clocks in books I read!

Enjoyed your post~ Stephanie

Janet Dean said...

Hi Glynna! Where do you find this blank calendar?

A less specific deadline is far easier to keep track of, but doesn't have that tension you talk about.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Connie! Sorry your scenario isn't working, but good you caught it. Wishing you the best with your wip!

Janet

Cara Lynn James said...

Janet, I keep track of the days the same way you do. I also add the date at the beginning of each scene in bold red. At the end of the story I just delete. Very easy.

My editor suggested I do this since I sometimes got the dates mixed up.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Julie, I can imagine your despair. When I'm struggling with plot, my dh always says, "Just make something up." Easy for him to say. We have to make the story feasible and historicals can be tricky since they have to fit the facts. You're blessed to have a copy editor that is looking out for you!

I'm reading and loving Dare to Love Again!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good morning, Kathy B! We all have issues with time it seems! You could just divide the scene into two. An earlier scene then the clinging to the altar scene. Sounds like an action packed story! Check out the year of your story on the calendar. Fun to know what day of the week the date falls on. Wishing you all the best with it.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary! I need to have a ticking clock more, too. Your stories have oodles of action and tension but a ticking clock would up the ante.

I can imagine your heroine strapped to the rails with the train due. Good part of that short fused ticking "bomb," you don't have much time to keep track of. :-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Myra! Wow, you're a master of the ticking clock! You should've written this post. I knew someone would bring up Excel. But it wasn't going to be me. LOL I don't use Scrivener but those scene cards sound cool. As prepared as you are, you could easily handle a ticking clock in a story.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Crystal! You might want to check out the historical calendar online. It's fun and super easy. Have a great writing day!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Stephanie!

LOL about those out of date donuts. Of course we don't want the fresh ones going stale either. :-) Always an excuse to overeat donuts.

Wishing you all the best with keeping track of the time in your story.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Cara! Bold red is a great idea. Wise editor. I tend to highlight anything I don't want to miss. Red would be prettier.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Won't be long till lunch when I'll be adding a platter of cold cuts and cheese, a bowl of Panera chicken salad, a variety of breads and mixed fruit to the buffet.

Janet

Piper Huguley said...

Great post! I see a lot of the historical people are talking all about timelines. They do matter for everyone but have a special meaning for historical people.I bought the Aeon Timeline app. Have you used it, Janet? I think I remember that Carol Moncado used it...

Meghan Carver said...

Thanks for the great suggestions, Janet. I'm writing a romantic suspense now for the Killer Voices search, and I've found helpful exactly what you recommend. In my outline, I wrote the day and time and place for the beginning of each chapter. I never thought of using the find feature, and I never knew of the bookmark option. I need to explore Word a bit more!

Jennifer Smith said...

I do enjoy ticking-clock stories, and I appreciate the advice you've given here. I've found in my own writing that there are elements I've had trouble keeping straight.

Saving this post for future reference! :)

Jan Drexler said...

Great post, Janet!

When I start a story, I go to http://www.timeanddate.com/ and print out a calendar for the year I'm working on. Their calendars have the phases of the moon (important for lighting in both indoor and outdoor scenes when your setting doesn't have electricity) and also tells you when important holidays were.

I write when each scene happens on the calendar - in pencil! For my first book I wrote in pen, and had to reprint my calendar several times :)

And thank you for the reminder to put a deadline in my story. That's why I come to Seekerville first thing in the morning!

Jeanne T said...

Great post, Janet. I like the way you think. :) I like outlines too. For my second ms, I did something similar, and I assigned each POV a color. I would write the description of the scene in the POV's color, to help me also have a visual of what was going on and if someone had too many scenes. :)

I need to work at putting more deadlines in my story. Thanks for this!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Piper! I haven't used the Aeon Timeline App. What is that? Others might be interested too.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Meghan! Very exciting to be writing a suspense for the Killer Voices contest! Do you have a life or death ticking clock? Sounds like you have a good grip on keeping track of the time.

Do you have the bookmark icon in your toolbar? Even with an outline, I use it often to zip me to the chapter I want, especially during the revision process.

Janet

Wilani Wahl said...

Great post!

Since I am writing my first novel, I am trying to soak up every thing I can. I am writing it in Journal form so I have an outline with events and events in the future so I won't forget.

As a reader I do like ticking clocks especially when I am reading suspense.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jennifer! Makes me happy that the post has value for you. I always hope there's nuggets that writers will find helpful.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jan! Thanks for sharing the link! Putting the month's calendar on landscape makes it slightly bigger. I need to experiment to get more size.

I think I would still need my outline to keep track of everything.

We historical writers have a few issues we must deal with, but really all writers need to know the phase of the moon.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jeanne T! A different color for each POV is a great idea! I only use the hero and heroine's so not as hard to keep track of. Usually I try to alternate them, but not always. Must look at that. :-)

My next manuscript, I'm going to think about adding a ticking clock. More work for us but it sure ups the tension.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Wilani! At least its afternoon here. Barely.

Glad to see another outline user! How exciting to be working on your first book! I remember the sheer joy of getting that first story on the page. Wish I'd had Seekerville for support and to help with craft, but this was before I PCs.

Janet

Tina Radcliffe said...

I should have mentioned that I track my time line on Excel spread sheet along with scenes and plot points.

But I don't get overly concerned about it until the revision stage.

Heidi Robbins said...

I enjoy stories with a "ticking clock" since it creates a feeling of anticipation. I think it's especially effective in suspense novels. Great article! Please add me to your giveaway! :)

Glynna Kaye said...

Janet -- I LOVE this calendar. I just copy and paste it in a 'landscape' Word doc for the months(s)/year that fits my story, then delete the things I don't need on it so there's room to write in or type in. I love it, too, because it helps me keep track of when the sun rises and sets at my setting location so I don't have the sun rising/setting or it being light/dark at the wrong time of the day.

Sorry I don't have time to do a refresher to provide a direct link -- day off work to do edits, so no time to "play." :)

http://www.sunrisesunset.com/usa/

Jackie said...

I try to keep a sense of urgency in my stories. Thanks for showing us your process!

More than one ticking clock makes a story even better.

Have a great day!

Janet Dean said...

Tina, the only time I use Excel is to keep track of words written. Is there an advantage of using Excel over Word?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Good afternoon, Heidi! I'd think a ticking clock is almost a must for suspense writers. Though sometimes the suspense is not knowing when something terrible will happen. Always having to look over your shoulder...

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Glynna, the sunrise/sunset calendar is so cool! Thanks for sharing. It doesn't go before 1901so doesn't fit my wip, but would have other stories I've written.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jackie, you're so welcome! I'm shaking in my boots thinking about juggling multiple ticking clocks!! Have you had more than one in your stories?

Janet

Chill N said...

There have been times when I've stopped reading a book and counted maybe a dozen pages to the end ... and wondered how on earth everything will be resolved by the end of the book. The end of the book is a type of ticking clock, too, I guess :-)

Thanks for an informative post, Janet!

Nancy C

Chill N said...

Does anyone know of a source for a calendar like the one Glynna shared regarding sunset and sunrise ... but goes back to the 1880s in the US?

Thanks,
Nancy C

Janet Dean said...

Hi Nancy C. I agree. There's a fine line between a fast paced, page turner ending and a hurried ending that disappoints.

Why do we even have the nerve to write books?? LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Nancy, you can get the calendar for earlier years at the time and date link that includes the phases of the moon, but not the time for sunrises and sunsets.

I don't think its necessary to include the exact time to write a great sunset or sunrise scene. But, if our characters are admiring the full moon, we'd better know there was one. Not that most readers would check.

Janet

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I am slightly annoyed that Jan Drexler!!!!! is so stinkin' much smarter than I am.

I must go eat more chocolate.

Elaine Manders said...

Hi Janet

The ticking clock is one of my favorite tools for tension, but I'm always vague about the exact date and about the exact place of my fictitious setting too because even though there might be a full moon, if it was cloudy you couldn't use it. If I was writing about a specific historic event, I'd have to go check the weather and the events of the day, and the way the planets lined up...which is why I don't use specific events.

Mary Connealy said...

I just wrote a Christmas book that goes through Advent and at the top of my document I had a calendar from that year so I could keep track of the day of the week and the date.
It was easy to find, copy and paste.

Mary Connealy said...

You know, Jan, I should do this. It's a solid idea.
I'm working on a book right now.
I could go do this right now.
I think I WILL go do this right now.

You know the book I'm writing is, a quick count that could be off a little....my 45th book...or so. It's not to late to learn new things!!!
(I haven't of course done this yet, but it'll happen!!!

Becke said...

I use XLS because the format lends more to short and sweet and it's easy to add columns or worksheets. The workbook is my one stop shop for key elements in the book.

In addition I add one-sentence notes to the beginning of the document so I don't forget to add something. As the element is incorporated into the story, I delete it from the beginning page.
b

Debby Giusti said...

Great post, Janet. I have urgency in my stories but not real ticking time bombs. And I should. Shame on me.

Something to work into my future stories.

Jan D, love that site you mentioned. What a wealth of info.

Debby Giusti said...

Went to BAM today and bought the first book in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series, KILLING FLOOR. Thanks for mentioning the stories, Tina.

The clerk thought a different story was the first...and I said, "No, Mary Connealy mentioned KILLING FLOOR and said we all need to start at the beginning."

I found it! YAY!

CatMom said...

Great post, Janet - - thank you! A definite keeper for me.

Even though I do write a basic outline as I go along, your post gave me ideas to improve mine. And something that really jumped out at me in your post (I've even written it to keep beside my computer, LOL) is: EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN YOUR STORY SHOULD FORWARD THE PLOT. Yes, I know I *should* always remember this, but having your reminder is a big help!

In my current WIP that I'm revising, the heroine has a deadline about deciding to do mission work (overseas).

Thanks again for sharing today, and I'm looking forward to reading more Janet Dean books (I've loved all of your LIH!).

Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

Mary Connealy said...

I DID IT! Printed up the calendar. I almost never print anything.
And you know what? I needed to do this because I realized I didnt' even know what MONTH my book was in let alone what day.

So this has forced me to some orderly thinking (which is always painful...but no doubt good for me!)
Thanks Jan...and Janet.

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

FORTY FIVE BOOKS.

*passes out*

Virginia Carmichael Munoz said...

I just finished my 11th and I was feelin' like a real hot diggity dog.

Stealing Ruthy's chocolate bunny and curling up in the corner....

Piper Huguley said...

Here is the website for Aeon Timeline.

http://www.scribblecode.com/

I'm still playing with it, Janet, so I don't quite know all it does. I just saw Carol talking about it and it was on sale. I still like my story boards, calendars and sticky notes though...:)

Jenny Blake said...

hadn't thought about the ticking clock before. I know I have read books with it and I like them.

Hadn't thought about needing to know sun rise and moon phases. I know in different places sunrise and sunset are different.

Tanya Agler said...

Thank you for your post today.

When I started my WIP, I used a notebook to separate the different dates and actions, but I'm in the process of trying to convert to Excel. My back will thank me (and Tina Radcliffe) as I'm carrying about six notebooks with notes, calendars, outlines, etc., along with my laptop.

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, where is that chocolate bunny about now? A few crumbs on the counter?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Elaine, I'm into fiction that gives the flavor of reality. So no clouds to hide my full moons. But I'm with you. I don't write actual historical events.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, never too late to do something new. I find that exciting!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Becke, should've known you were Excel savvy! What do you mean by workbook??? Sounds very interesting!

I delete scene notes to myself as soon as I get the job done, too. No danger then of leaving them for an editor or judge to read.
:-)

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Debby,

Your stories of life and death feel urgent, even if there's no exact time or day when the trouble hits.

Will be fun to see if those of us who want to add that ticking clock can create a plot that works.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Patti Jo! Your middle name must surely be Encourager. Thanks so much!

If it's any comfort to you, I also forget that everything that happens must forward the plot. You know why I think we forget? Our stories are not real life. Though I'm grateful for it, who wants to read a book about my ordinary life?

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Mary, you don't know what month your story is set in?? What do you type in the left hand corner of your opening chapter?

LOL

Never mind. Your stories rock, but I'm tickled pink you've got that calendar. And yes, I did have one in the post. LOL

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Virginia, you hop out of that corner. :-) Your eleven books are ahead of me, but then who isn't? But this isn't a race.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Piper, that's amazing. It may be too amazing for me to grasp. LOL Will look at this more. Thanks for sharing. Love how we all are out to help.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Jenny, Thanks for sharing the perspective of a reader. I like ticking clocks, too.

The fun thing about online calendars is there's calendars for foreign countries as well as the U.S.. Must look up Australia.

Janet

Piper Huguley said...

I'm still grappling with it myself, Janet. but I couldn't resist the price....did I mention I haven't started my Scrivener trial yet....:)

Janet Dean said...

Tanya, I have outlines, critiques and things to remember, scenes I want to write. It's endless. Glad you can ease the weight on your back from toting all that around.
Wishing you all the best with your story!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

LOL Piper! I never used my Scrivener trail. Sigh. I'm a creature of habit. Caught in the rut of routine.

Janet

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

My story doesn't have a ticking clock, but it has a ton of urgency. :)

Audra Harders said...

Janet, I just tried writing by outline and LOVED IT! Ticking clock or not, just having a quick reference of scenes is a life saver.
Excellent advice!

Pam Hillman said...

I have a ticking clock in a story. The heroine and her family must get to Lincoln, NE by a certain date or they lose their land. And, of course, there are ALL kinds of obstacles in the way.

Lyndee H said...

Great post, Janet. Keeping track of what happens on what day has always been a fixation of mine. But, like you, I've managed to get turned around during editing. I hate when that happens! Glad to know I'm not alone.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Janet, I used to keep up by using a calendar, or planner, to keep up with what happened when, as I wrote the story (since I don't do outlines!). I should probably do that more often, since I seem to have at least minor problems with this with every one of my books, and my editor catches it, and then I have to do some fumbling to fix it. But the ticking clock is always a great thing to have in a story.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Anna,

You're right. A ticking clock isn't required to have a sense of urgency. It just lets the characters and readers know exactly when the ax falls.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Audra, Wahoo! Glad you love an outline as much as I do. Now do you mean you wrote the outline before you wrote the scene or after? I try to outline before I write too. But that outline gets revised a lot.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Evening Pam! Your ticking clock sounds exciting! Land was vital if they made their livelihood farming or ranching. Hope they made it over all those obstacles you threw in their way!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Lyndee! That's one of the many things I love about Seekerville. There's always someone who learned the hard way and relates. Nice not to suffer alone. :-)

Janet

Loves To Read said...

I'm not a writer but I love keeping up with Seekerville. Great post Janet! Thanks for the chance at the amazon giveaway.

Janet Dean said...

Hi Melanie! Have you tried adding a heading at the top of every scene to remind you the date/day? That's quicker than an outline and more in your face than a calendar.

I love having that outline as a reference. Can feel your resistance even from here.
:-)

Janet

Terri said...

Love your post, Janet. My current WIP has a ticking clock. The heroine only has 7 days to live. I keep track by writing the day and then what is going to happen underneath it.

Mary Preston said...

As a reader I find that the ticking clock adds to the drama & tension. I am almost holding my breath sometimes.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I'm laughing at Virginia fainting, then hiding with chocolate, but that's silly because she's a stinkin' spring chicken.... Honey, at your rate by the time you get to CONNEALY'S AGE....(laughs hysterically and somewhat, almost meanly!!!!!!) you'll have gazillion and one books... I'm just sayin'...

:)

Sorry, Mary, couldn't resist.

And Piper cracked me up with "haven't started the Scrivener trial yet...." THAT'S MY GIRL!!!!!

:)

When it comes to gizmos and gadgets, I'm a straight-line write the book kind of girl. BUT...

I do know we all work differently, and I got nothin' but love for that! As long as we work!!!!

Janet Dean said...

Hi Terri! Wow, that is a ticking clock with life and death urgency. Know the story will be a page turner.

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Mary P! Take enough breaths to keep those brain cells soaking up the story.

Janet

Missy Tippens said...

I'm sorry I missed dropping by yesterday, Janet! What a great post! I have a 2 week ticking clock in my wip. It's fun to fight that clock. :)

Janet Kerr said...

Hi Janet,
My book has a ticking clock (abduction) so I date it. My titles correspond to the event.
I enjoyed your post.
Jan

Christen E. Krumm said...

I have to write my "ticking clock" out like a timeline to keep up with it!

Thanks for the post!

xo,
Christen
ChristenKrumm.com

Olivia said...

Thank you, Janet. As I finish Tina's class I will incorporate the time line to add more urgency to my characters' quests. Please enter my name in the drawing

Janet Dean said...

Good for you, Missy! I don't have a ticking clock in my wip. Will learn something from you!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Janet K,

You're doing a great job with keeping track of the ticking clock!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Christen,

A timeline is another great option. Whatever works!

Janet

Janet Dean said...

Hi Olivia! Congratulations on graduating from Tina's class! We want to keep our readers on edge.

Janet