On the Clothesline of Novel Organization

Posted on August 28, 2009. Filed under: novel writing, scene writing, story arc, time management, writing organization |

Since we’ve been talking about how to get your info correct without interrupting your writing session, I’ll go to the next question I often receive about novels: how to take what you’ve done so far and fit it into a timeline. Again, not rocket science, but many writers suddenly find themselves with lots of scenes that are only loosely connected. Your readers will usually demand to know where and when they are at all times, so sorting out the timeline is a useful detour, especially when you are writing the last third of the story. Some can likely do all this in their heads, but for the rest of us, it makes sense to create some sort of flowchart.

Writing Tip For Today: A flowchart sounds scary but it needn’t be. Try sketching that now-familiar “story arc” on a blank paper, three x five cards or sticky notes on a wall (one of my students even makes a clothesline). You remember Story Arc: A=Inciting Incident, B=Things Get Worse, rising action (tension) until you hit C=Climax (do or die moment) and then D=resolution or denouement. Plot your scenes along this story line as written, and step back from it to check the flow of scenes. Are there “big” scenes that come too soon? Are there several scenes that feel “busy” or non sequitur? Are there gaps in the timeline that you haven’t accounted for? By arranging and rearranging the scenes you have written you’ll gain a better feel for what’s missing, what’s clogging your forward movement and what blocks of Time need to be addressed. Remember, your story is only as good as your ability to create rising action. A good clothesline wouldn’t hurt. Next time: Time! How do I account for it in my novel?

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