Sep 30, 2008


by Terri Wagner

The devil is in the details as they say. And one detail that keeps tripping me up is timeline issues. Now, I know you’d think this would be an easy detail to keep straight. However, I seem to get it wrong more than I get it right. I recently read a twology (I didn’t know they made such things, but leave to sci fi to come up with it) and nearly laughed out loud when I realized yes indeed they had messed up their timeline. Made me feel better. Course when you’re dealing with elves, dwarves, warrows, men and fairies, you don’t really have to be that right because who can say you’re wrong?!

It seems easy enough to keep straight morning, noon, night, midnight, but seasons give me a headache. I’ll have an ice skating party, then want it to be early fall because suddenly someone has to travel and how can I have them traveling in the 1800s in the bitter winter? Yes, I realize some of our gallant pioneers did just that, but it was after all under necessity. And my particular characters are not in that desperate a strait. Although, hmmm, that’s an idea!

Painfully, I am learning what a very successful writer once told me: write down your characters, your locales, your timeline and your plot, THEN write your story. Doing it any other way means endless editing on details that cause you to miss bigger issues. Ones you can bet no publishing company editor will miss. I thought it would interfere with my creative spirit. I also thought it would be reducing it to some scientific experiment.

Maybe I really ought to listen to the “habits of highly successful writers,” eh?


  1. A "twology"??? Shouldn't it at least be a "bilogy"? (Like "bicycle/bilogy" and "tricycle/trilogy"? Sheesh. Who comes up with this stuff? LOL!

    I appreciate your post. I'm really bad at pinpointing what "season" my stories take place in. Like you say, I guess I should give that a little more thought before I start! You've given me much to think about, and much to try to put into action. Thanks, Terri!

  2. I learned early on that a timeline and a map (I'm terrible at geography) were essential in telling a story. I find that after a book is written, I forget it, and it's the dickens to go back during a later edit and try to puzzle over time and place.

  3. Great post. I have to write details down so I don't mess them up later.

  4. Good advice, but remember that sometimes you need to change all those details once you start writing. But I think for the most part you're right. My stories have been stronger when I know the details beforehand.

  5. Interesting post. I agree that it's good to get a basic plot with characters, locations and a basic calender ahead of time, but my struggle is being willing to leave it behind when I flesh out the story. Sometimes characters don't want to behave- sort of like me.


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