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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Importance of Timelines

Back in April, I participated in a National Novel Writing Month ditty called Camp NaNoWriMo. It was one of two that are set to happen this year. The next one will be happening in July, and I plan on participating in it as I did last month’s. I did not “win” last month. I finished about 2,000 words under my 10,000 word goal. (Camp NaNo allows you to choose you own word goal, which is very appealing to writers with ADD like me.)  But, I was able to start two new stories: The Tunnels and The Secrets of Lookout Mountain. The Tunnels came from a writing prompt in the Toronto NaNo chat room, and is about Dragons living in the subway tunnels in my hometown of Toronto. The Secrets of Lookout Mountain came to me after seeing some photos my (surrogate) sister took of the Festival of Lights at Rock City atop Lookout Mountain at the southeastern tip of Tennessee. An information board about Gnomes was all it took to make room for a plot bunny to move in. I have decided to write that one for my sister’s son. I have quickly realized that writing for an 8 year old is quite difficult. But, I have taken a break from writing The Tunnels and The Secrets of Lookout Mountain to work on something that I have been working on for almost 5 years now.

It is a trilogy called Pangaea. Each book has yet to be titled, but that will probably happen once they are finished. It began quite innocently from a conversation I had with a friend. “I should write a story involving Unicorns,” I said… and then it snowballed into this epic about four friends who are summoned to Pangaea to save its inhabitants from being wiped out, and ultimately, the imaginations of Earth’s children. It’s been a slow go, as I write it by hand and have had to write the first 10 chapters of the first book over again. (I can also now relate to one of my favourite authors, George R.R. Martin.) But, I’ve taken a break from writing it to focus on ironing out some details. I’ve been focusing on the timeline of the trilogy. Overall, it has changed about 3 times, and I have spent the last week or so ironing it all out, much to my characters’ chagrin. I could feel one character smack me when she found out her 4 day walk between two cities was now going to take 9 days. You may think a week is a long time to work on only one aspect of a story. But, considering how long I’ve spent working on this trilogy, a week is really only a pittance of time. And this timeline is extremely important. Because this story spans three books (and because I am an author who has to know everything), it’s important for me to know just how long everything is going to take, from the characters getting from place to place, via walking or cantering horses, to how long they stay in those places. It also informs me of how long they are going to stay in Pangaea. And the character who smacked me earlier has just smacked me again. The group spends a total of exactly 20 months in the world they are trying to save. The timeframe of exactly 20 months was both coincidental and planned. When I finished the timeline, I realized they were arriving back home two days before the 20 month mark. So, I just decided to move it back by two days.

Working on this timeline has not only provided me with an excellent plan for the course of the epic, but informed me as to where I am going to end Book Two and begin Book Three. I’m known from very early on, how Book One is going to end and that hasn’t changed. But, for five years, I’ve had no idea where Book Two was ending and Book Three was picking up. In taking a week to complete the timeline, I, finally, know the courses of all three of the books. This is an extremely exciting thing for me, because it means that everything to do with this trilogy is falling into place and the path to writing it is becoming clearer. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be any easier. There are going to be scenes that will rip, tug and toy with my emotions (one already has), and I’m okay with that. Writing isn’t going to be any easier; just clearer, and I am perfectly fine with that.

Working on this timeline has brought much needed clarity to my trilogy for me as a writer, and, hopefully, for the reader when I am able to publish it. I feel like I have made great progress in completing the timeline. A small feat for some, but a milestone for me. A timeline can do amazing and important things. And now that it’s done, I can get back to work on the trilogy itself.