Edit Pass Live Stage 2: The Timeline

Just to keep folks updated, I know I haven’t been on Twitter for a while (or really anything — I’ve been working a fair bit, and I’ve been travelling twice in the last couple months, for a friend’s birthday and then for a cousin’s art exhibition. Well worth attending but my time hasn’t been my own for a little while, and for that I apologise).

I have, however, finished what I wanted to do with the character work. I actually didn’t do all the little drabbles I said I’d do. I’ve been massaging them while I was working on my notes and worldbuilding, and when I went to write out the drabbles, I didn’t feel like they were adding anything.
Plus, the first one I tried, I managed to pick the two least communicative characters and had them speak in implications at each other, so I ended up learning more about the world history and lore than I did about the characters themselves and their relationship, but that was something I should probably have seen coming in advance.

However! I have decided to put those aside for a while. I may come back to them before I start to actually write the story if I feel I need to warm up or smooth out some edges, but I think in order to do that I’d have to change the drabble topics, because the current ones aren’t really going to work for me. I’d prefer to move on to other things rather than continuing to beat my head against that particular wall. I still feel like I need to work on a couple of those characters, but I want to rethink how to do that.

As for what I’ve been moving on to, I’m in the middle of redoing the timeline right now. Currently I’m deciding whether I want to stop here or keep going.

Let me explain. At the moment, I have re-timelined about to where Book One ended (I’m still keeping the Big Change Moment that I wanted to end that book on). I already know what needs to happen in the next part — I know my midpoint and my endpoint (I actually want to talk a bit about some structure problems I’ve been working on, but I’ll write that up in a separate post).

But when I was timelining the first section, I noticed that I’m going to have to be a bit squishy in my planning — there are a lot of things that I need to set up and I don’t feel comfortable timelining those so much. I feel like I have the overall shape, but I have changed a lot of the character motivations and I feel like I want to let that play out for the first part of the rewrite before I make a decision on how that information needs to go. I’ve got a few options and I need to get used to the characters again before I could say which one is the most natural.

For this same reason, I don’t want to start on the second book’s timeline, because I actually don’t know what I’m going to have set up already, and where the characters need to go to get to that end that I need.

Plus, I can already see that there’s a little section at about the 3/4 mark where I may need to adjust my pacing — I may need to add some elements in order to keep things running parallel the way they should, given I’m juggling three plot points and I can’t just have one group of characters doing nothing for a couple weeks when they’re supposed to be feeling a sense of urgency. But what I end up having them work on depends a little bit on how a couple of earlier scenes play out, so I won’t know what they have been doing or working on till after I’ve gotten my feet wet and actually got some scenes on the page.

I feel like I could put down a timeline for the second part, but I think what I’m going to do instead is put down a list of elements and character moments, and I’ll decide partway into the draft what order I actually want to put them in.

When we hear writers talking about plotting and pantsing, this, I think, is my current happy medium (my process may change later, but for now, I always find myself coming back to this method). I used to think I was a pantser, but the longer I’ve been writing, the more detailed my outlines have become. However, I never like to put in all the character notes; I prefer to add those as I write, and plan them much closer to time — I’ll write them out as a guide for my ‘next five scenes’ lists, which I make as I go rather than at the beginning. I also tend to get sketchier on the timelines towards the end of the story anyway, to leave myself room to adjust timing, pacing and positioning as I go.

But anyway, that’s where I’m up to with the timelining. I’ll be back soon to talk about the structure issues, but for now I’ll get back to work.