Novel Prep: The Master Timeline

It's two days until Nanowrimo starts!  Are you ready?

You have two more days to write character dossiers, descriptions of locations, and figure out the plot. The rules of Nanowrimo state that you can do as much prep work as you like, so long as you don't begin the actual writing of the novel until November 1.

I highly recommend doing prep work for your novel.  As you might guess from this statement, I'm a plotter, not a pantser.  When I fly without a plan, I go off on tangents and my characters' motivations and actions tend to make no logical sense.  So I like to plan a bit ahead of time.  However, a bit is the operative phrase–I write character dossiers, figure out where they live and work and hang out and get a loose outline of the plot down on paper.  I like to leave room for the magic to happen–for a new character to walk on, or for an existing one to do something unexpected–and this method does that for me.

I've been puzzling over the plot of my WIP.  I'm not officially doing Nanowrimo because I've already gotten some words written, but I'm thinking I'll write along with those of you who are doing it as a way to kick-start this novel.

So I've been working on prepping.

And I've hit on what for me is a brilliant aid to figuring out the plot.

It's the master timeline, which is a timeline that mushes together all the events in all the characters' backstories.  I've made individual timelines for characters lives before, but never done it this way, with them all together.  For some reason, it works brilliantly for me to not only keep track of what happened in the past (when characters married, divorced, bore babies, etc.) but also to generate ideas for plot and character.

I've always had the theory that if you keep an idea book, the ideas in it mate and bear children while you aren't looking and I think the same is true with the master timeline.  The characters on it talk to each other and create activities and ideas when I'm not looking, I swear.

I started the master timeline to get a solid idea of the cast's backstories as I was finding myself confused with what happened when.  Now that I've gotten that all down on paper, I'm realizing I'm going to go even farther with the timeline, plugging into dates and events from the actual plot.

It's brilliant, I tell you, brilliant. 

So try it.  You've got time before Nanowrimo starts.  You can thank me on December 1st.

How do you prep for writing a novel, or any kind of book?  Or are you a pantser who just starts writing?  Leave a comment!

, , , , , ,

12 Responses to Novel Prep: The Master Timeline

  1. J.D. 10/30/2013 at 04:06 #

    The timeline is … brilliant :-) I like Nano–though I’ve never participated–but I’m sitting this one out. I hope you write a great book.

  2. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 05:19 #

    Thanks, J.D.  I can't claim to really be doing Nano, just using it for energy to write a lot of words every day.  I will remember your call for me to write a good book and do my best!

  3. Ledger D'Main 10/30/2013 at 06:37 #

    A month? It takes me that long just to fix the typos and to figure out, it’s, its, and it’s…

  4. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 06:47 #

    Ah, you're just joshing me.  Aren't you?  And yeah, I love it, it's and its.  Easiest way for me to remember how to use it correctly is that "it's" is short for it is.  It's not a possessive.  Clear as mud, right?

  5. Ledger D'Main 10/30/2013 at 08:02 #

    Nag, would I josh you? Remember when we talked about speed typing, just dumping the story onto the page and fixing it later? And then there’s adding after ‘he said’…he said with a wink and a nod to the dead horse that he was riding…Question: what percentage of a novel (85k) would you say is fluff? By fluff, I mean such things as describing what a character is wearing or how a room is furnished, etc…I ask this because I’m working on a detective/bad guy take over the world story and I took a moment (actually three) to read a little of the Maltese Falcon online and see how Dashiell wrote the story, and I came away with the impression of it having a lot of fluff…so how much fluff is there to fill out 85k?…

  6. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 09:52 #

    Okay, now go read Elmore Leonard and tell me how much fluff you see.  Yeah, that's right, not a whole lot.  Bear in mind that Dashiell was writing in a different era, when things were slower, and people had more time to read (or so I imagine–they were probably just as busy as we are, but in a different way).  The point is, there's no formula for your so-called "fluff."  Some writers like a lot of description, others don't–same with readers.  You've got to figure out your own style and how much you like to put in.

  7. Ledger D'Main 10/30/2013 at 10:32 #

    I have no style, I’m neither in vogue nor out of tune, I am the dog that purrs and the cat that howls, a seafarer on dry land, a painter without an easel and yet an orchestra of words lay hidden before me on the whitened page. I have slain serpents of lore and have died alone on a forgotten moon, answered the call of oceans deep and sailed among the stars in ships made of gossamer wings, but this I know—I am that I am—lol…

  8. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 10:36 #

    I get to differ, my dear, just by reading your comments we can discern your style!

  9. Ledger D'Main 10/30/2013 at 11:07 #

    And pray tell what ‘style’ should be listed on the police report?…

  10. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 15:31 #

    A wordsmith of depth and cleverness.

  11. Ledger D'Main 10/30/2013 at 16:34 #

    “Hmmm,” he mused, the white smoke from his pipe loafing past his vested ascot and interweaving with the last vintages of white hair that hid beneath his deerstalker cap…lol…
    And don’t tell anybody that I paid you to say that…

  12. Charlotte Dixon 10/30/2013 at 16:41 #

    "Of course I won't," she said, taking a sip of the very expensive wine his payment bought.

Leave a Reply