Tools for Managing Time

Your novel’s timeline is one of its most important aspects. If your readers are confused as to WHEN they are in the story,they just may give up reading. Tools for managing TIME in your story range from how you construct sentences to which scenes you include or exclude.
Writing Tip for Today: Think about the following when you work on mastery of these various tools for managing time:
Keep It Moving. When you decide to include a scene or part of a scene, you’re implying that the readers MUST know the info/actions detailed in that scene. Go ahead and draft scenes, but at some point you’ll want to take a “forest” perspective instead of the “trees” you see when you’re deep in the manuscript. If a scene–no matter how interesting, character revealing or clever it may be–isn’t moving the story or otherwise giving readers “MUST HAVE” info/actions, it can probably left out, trimmed down or blended into other scenes.
Keep a Timeline. Even if you’re a “pantster” like me, by halfway through the draft of the story, construct some sort of timeline so you can keep readers clear on “when” they are. This timeline need not be fancy, but I suggest you write a sentence or phrase that names the scene and then enter it into the timeline. You can make two different lines if you are including a lot of back story–one for real time, the other for the flashbacks. Your timeline might be nothing more than a list of scenes with some sort of time stamp on them. By doing this you can see at a glance if a scene is out of place or if there are scene “holes” that need filling.
Keep Time Tight. In every scene, the PACE at which the readers imagine the story scenes is extra important. Write scenes too long and readers feel the “drag.” Too short and readers are left needing more. These tools for pacing are mainly used during revision–don’t hinder your forward progress by trying to perfectly pace your novel while you draft it. But after that draft is complete, you will want to test every scene to see if it passes the “time” test. A story board, scene list or time line can help you get your novel’s time issues corrected for maximum reader enjoyment.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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