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Thursday, August 09, 2007


No, I don't mean Michael Crichton's novel, although the book had a really interesting premise and was a LOT better than the movie.

I've been working on a new proposal, and one thing has really helped me. A timeline. If you haven't tried this before, let me put in a plug for you to do just that.

Have you ever noticed the time frame of a mystery/suspense/thriller novel? Sometimes, it doesn't take so long for the story to unfold. I grabbed a few titles from my shelf and here's what I found:

Brandilyn Collins: Web of Lies Thursday, Sept. 22 through Monday, Sept. 26 (Epilogue Saturday, Oct. 22)
Lyn Cote: Dangerous Secrets March 1 through March 26 (Epilogue, May25)
Brandilyn Collins: Violet Dawn Saturday, July 22. Total time (not including flashbacks and epilogue) less than a day.

I could go on. In fact, I had at least 2 more books I could have listed: Gayle Roper's See No Evil, Hannah Alexander's Death Benefits. But if you're a Love Inspired Suspense fan, pull those from your shelf and see what you find. Or, take another book and check the timeline.

Working with a timeline can give you an excellent frame for your story. You can see what you have room for. What's really backstory, and what's vital to the present moment of story. You can also learn where your story really begins. Sometimes we start too soon, before that pivotal moment of change that kicks things into gear. You don't need a buildup to the inciting incident. A timeline can help you see all these things.

Right now as I'm working on this new proposal, I'm starting with my time line. I took a piece of printer paper. On the blank piece of paper (turned horizontally), I drew my timeline, and started labeling. The beauty of this system is you can always start over if you realize you have too many things happening in one day--or maybe that's how it should be. At any rate, a timeline makes it easier to see the big picture of the story. I'm a detail-girl. I can see the little things without trying. But sometimes the larger elements--like time passage--fly right by me.

"But that's too restrictive and confining! How can I be free to write my story?" someone might say.

Think of it this way: Your timeline is your curtain rod. It has a beginning and an end. But--what you hang on that curtain rod is entirely up to you. Silk drapes, cotton, 70's plaid... No matter what your style, a timeline can help everything hang in place.


Anonymous Susan Page Davis said...

Good suggestion, Lynette! I use a calendar or a chart. So often I'll find I've accidentally sent a character to work on a weekend or skipped a major holiday if I don't pay attention. Even though you CAN pack a ton of action into one day, we have our limits!

7:38 AM  
Blogger diamonz said...

I really enjoyed reading your page,


9:05 PM  
Blogger Crime Fiction Lover said...

I think timelines are very good tools. They can be broken down day-bt-day, or even hour-by-hour. They help to see if the story makes sense as written.

10:02 AM  

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