Friday, March 19, 2021

Story Tracking With A Calendar

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here again. Today I'm in revising and polishing mode and was checking and updating the story calendar and thought that might be a good topic for my current post.



One of the first things I do when I start a new story is to set up a calendar to help me track story events. First, whether it's an historical or a contemporary, I pull up an actual calendar for the year in question. For purposes of this post, I'm going to use one of my older works, The Christmas Journey, which was set in 1892.

From  www.timeanddate.com

As you can see, this gives me a lot of very useful information. It tells me when holidays occurred, when there was a full moon or dark of the moon if that becomes important to my story.

Once I have this information I start populating my story calendar. I add in any fixed events that happen over the course of my story- things like holidays, town events (festivals, civic/club meetings, classes, etc.) A new wrinkle for my Amish stories is they have church service every other Sunday so I note which Sundays are church Sundays and which are "Between Sundays".

If I know the start and end dates for my story I'll mark them. For instance I knew I wanted this story to end on Christmas Day so I plugged that in. I didn't know an actual start date but I estimated based on how many weeks I expected the story to take place over. FYI, my notation legend - Events that are fixed I list in blue text, events I've estimated the date for or am placing on the calendar before I actually write the scene are noted in red text. 

So I started out with the calendar below:


As I write the story I begin filling in the story events. If I transition over any of the days, I shade the applicable cells in gray. But if something happened during the transition period that I refer back to, I also make note of it. That way I can see what happens on page and off.




Here is a look at my final calendar for The Christmas Journey with some of the notations deleted to remove most of the key spoilers :)



Using this method allows me to keep up with my story. It keeps me from having a week that lasts nine days or having two Tuesdays in a row or various other timeline issues that I've actually had in the past. I've also started turning it in with my manuscript and my editor has said it's a big help when she's looking at continuity issues during her editing process.

One other thing I've found that this helps - when I'm writing a series of books set in the same town/world, it helps me keep things straight from book to book.  The way this works is that any repetitive events I've noted on the calendar from Book 1 gets copied over to my calendar for Book 2. That insures I don't have timeline issues between the two.  For instance, if I set up a town council meeting that happens on the second Tuesday of the month in Book 1, I immediately copy that onto my calendar when I start Book 2 as a fixed event. Or if one of my key characters in Book 1 is pregnant when it closes, I track her pregnancy/delivery in the calendar for Book 2.

There you have it, my story tracking method. Let's discuss - does this speak to you? Or do you have a different method that you've developed that works for you?

And since I still have a number of copies of The Christmas Journey, leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a copy.



Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants - for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie's plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan...once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend's daughter, he's ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride...and Josie's sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth - that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.








33 comments:

  1. Reader only here, but tracking with a calendar sounds like a great idea when writing a book. Unlikely I’ll ever write a blog ok but if I do, I’ll borrow this idea!

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    1. Hi Anne. You're welcome to borrow away! And thanks for stopping by

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  2. Good morning, Winnie!

    I always use a calendar when plotting and writing! I also use timeanddate.com, but I usually print out the calendar. Seeing how you use it online is a game changer. I'll have to look into that!

    The most interesting use for it is when I'm writing historicals. Without outdoor lighting, people had to rely on the moon for activities outdoors at night, so I schedule scenes outdoors on those full-moon summer nights. Farmers would get a lot of work done during those times!

    I'm heading over to timeanddate.com right now to look into the online calendars. :-)

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    1. Good morning Jan. Isn't time and date a great site! Lots of helpful info with their calendars. The upgradeable calendar I use for story tracking doesn't come from them though. It's a template I got from the ME Word template library that I tailored for my own use. Will be happy to shoot you a copy if you like

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  3. I love using timeanddate.com for generating calendars. They help a lot.

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    1. Hello BK. I agree, they are my favorite site for historical calendars.

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  4. Great post, Winnie. I love calendars, and this looks like a great way to plot. I should make use of this. Please put me in the drawing.

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    1. Thanks Sandy! Feel free to make use of this if you like. It really does help keep me on track, especially when I've had to step away from the story for a while and need a refresher of what all has occurred when I return

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  5. Winnie, this is such a helpful idea for tracking a story. I love the visual aspect of your method. With the rough draft I just finished, I had to be very deliberate about tracking the time, because there were repairs being made in the shop and I had to make certain I wasn't rushing each process that had to be completed.I looked at a calendar for the year of the story and I kept a spread sheet with the dates on it. Not nearly as visual as your wonderful method!

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  6. Hi Jeanne. Yes I've tried other methods before, but when I developed this one it really clicked with me.

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  7. This is a great idea. I do refer to calendars online when plotting but will be printing them out and taking notes on them in the future. It's really helpful to see how other authors go about plotting and planning.

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    1. Glad you like the method Jamie, different things work for different writers. I actually don't print them off - I prefer online because it's easier to change things up or move them around if I rethink how my timeline is laid out

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  8. Wow! This tracker is a great idea, I will have to try it out.

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    1. Hi Angeline. If you do try it out, let me know how it works for you.

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  9. Winnie this was wonderful! I have looked up old calendars on my phone, hand drawn time lines, etc.,...why had I never thought of this? Duh moment. My first glance at your calendar made me realize how important the moon phases would have been during the era I love to write about. This has been so helpful. Before I could even finish reading your article, all kinds of possibilities started popping in my head. Sorry, got to run, I feel a story coming on and I have to catch it! Would love to be in the drawing!

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    1. Hi Lynne, and LOL on your burst of inspiration! We need to capture those critters when they get in a talkative mood don't we :)

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  10. This is a great idea. I never even thought of looking at the moon cycles on a calendar, but now that I hear you say it, I'm like, "Duh! Of course!" I write contemporary, but I've still had to pull up calendars and figure out when Easter or Christmas falls, etc. When I see you plotting the whole thing ON a calendar, a whole new world is opening to me. :-) Thanks for sharing this neat idea.

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    1. Glad I could be of service Amy. And yes, it's surprising how important moon phases are, especially in an historical. Of course if you just made it up most readers wouldn't notice but it's much more satisfying personally to know you used the actual data.

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  11. Thanks Winnie for sharing your calendar. I use a blank calendar and pencil in chapters with scenes. But I like the idea of transferring recurring events to subsequent calendars for the series.

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    1. Hello Lee-Ann. And yep, it sure does beat having to dig back through the manuscript for the previous book(s) to find what day of the week I decided the Ladies Society meets :)

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  12. Thanks Winnie for sharing your calendar and also The Christmas Journey sounds like a great book I would love to be entered ! Thank you for your post!

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    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by and of course you are entered.

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  13. Winnie, what a great idea, especially for books that take place over a long period of time...or a series, as you mentioned!

    My stories usually take place over a few days, but I've gotten mixed up on some of my dates and end up making note of the days of the week, etc, at the beginning of the chapters, at least in my first draft. Your method seems much better!

    Thanks!

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    1. I used to do something similar Debby, but it drove me crazy to have to thumb through the manuscript to figure out my timeline. I realized I'm a visual person and it worked so much better for me if I could see it all on one page, especially when I have transitions that span multiple days or days that are spread over more than one chapter.

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  14. Love seeing how you keep up with your timeline of events. I used to try calendars, but wasn't successful in keeping them in sync with my story.

    I write in Scrivener, so I use the Notes section to add the date, day, time of day (morning, mid-morning, afternoon, etc.) and any other important information needed. Then when it's time to send to my editor I export the short scene descriptions to excel and add the dates and time of day.

    It definitely helps to have all that charted out, esp. if characters are travelling or two groups have to converge at a designated spot.

    I remember my editor questioning how long it would take for my characters to travel a certain distance down the MS river on a flatboat in the 1790s. I can't remember if we had to tweak it or not, but at least we had enough information in the spreadsheet to make sure the timeline worked. :)

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  15. Hi Pam. I here good things about Scrivner and keep telling myself I'm going to try using it one of these days, but I'm a creature of habit and can't get myself motivated to change.

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  16. This speaks to me! I love using a calendar to track the scenes in my story...I even used Track Changes and put the date in the margin so when it comes time for the line editor to go through the story, she can see what I thought I meant the day to be and double check my dates!

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    1. Oh Erica I LOVE that idea! It ties the manuscript and calendar together in such a neat way. And by searching the comments you can quickly find a section of your story if you need to rearrange your timeline (which I do often as I write). I am definitely going to try that out on my next book - thanks for the tip.

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  17. I’m just a reader but sounds like valuable information. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Hi Lucy. NEVER say "just a reader". Readers are my favorite kind of people :)

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