Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dreadful Writing Advice: Timelines are Bad

Perhaps you’ve been wondering where I’ve been for lo these many weeks while my unfortunate internet platform has been withering and dying.

Well, I’ll tell you: I’ve been rewriting.

During which, I was saved from hum-drum tasks such as going to the market and washing my hair and having any leisure time whatsoever because, ta-dah, right from the start, I stood fast to my writing motto, “Chaos Works Good,” and eschewed the timeline.

(Also, the outline. But I’ll save that for several other helpful posts.)

Here’s the thing. In this rewrite, I took three years of story and boiled it down into a more intense single year. Actually, more like nine months. And during this process, which was already hard enough, I decided to avoid unpleasant mathematical endeavors, such as counting. Because I prefer to allow my characters to float freely through the time-space continuum, throwing caution, the laws of nature, and the story arc to the wind.

Soon I had chapter after chapter of events all unfolding organically during quite the protracted fictional month of December. As it turned out, my characters had revealed themselves exquisitely (and don’t forget organically) during a month with 84 days in it.

Sadly, this book is supposed to be realistic contemporary, so I was trapped with the conventions of my genre.

What can I say?

But let me assure you that the book was much, much better before I became enslaved by the calendar and the soul-snuffing dictates of the timeline, and had to spend weeks and weeks digging myself out of my deeply creative hole.

So if you, too, are a deeply creative soul, so fully immersed in your own process that counting the days in a month would introduce tedium and crassness to a universe of inspiration and flashes of magical whatsit (as indeed you should be), avoid that timeline!

You didn’t want to go to the market, wash your hair, or finish that book anyway, right?


  1. They call it 'Revision Cave' for a reason. Welcome back, cave-woman!

  2. I had just the opposite problem in my last novel. I was going ninety to nothing and found out my characters never slept, so everything happened in one day. Luckily, I caught that early on and had to go back, figure out when things happened, and let them turn in for the night a few times.

    1. I hope you made this discovery sooner in the process than I did!

  3. When writing it's easy to lose track of time in the story and in real life!