Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Time Tracking by Brenda Anderson

Do you have trouble keeping track of time while writing your book? Brenda Anderson has a couple of tips for you. -- Sandy

Brenda: My Coming Home Series follows a family—one couple in particular—through a period of eight years. It’s difficult enough keeping track of characters and dates for a single book, much less through four books and several years. It’s enough to make your eyes cross, but I came up with a system that works well for me. A system that requires marrying an old-school tool with a modern one: calendars and spreadsheets. 

For each manuscript I keep an actual paper calendar in my files. On the calendar I record what happens when in the plot, plus I mark character birthdays, anniversaries, and other important details. As a visual writer, not only does this track my timeline well, it also gives me a more palpable sense of time passage in the novel. It’s easy to see what holidays or birthdays you might want to highlight. Or maybe there’s a full moon that will provide a romantic setting…

If you don’t have calendars lying around, now’s the perfect time of year to collect a few—my toolbox is well-stocked! Many businesses love to give away calendars, as do some cities or counties, so you don’t even have to pay for them. You may not hang it on your wall, but your characters might. J If you’re not spotlighting an historical event, the actual year on the calendar shouldn’t matter. The important thing is to document the passage of time.

For a series that spans years, unless you happen to have a several-year calendar, you’ll need something to track the characters from book to book. That’s where spreadsheets come in. I transfer the important dates (dates that might come into play in future books such as birthdays or birth days, anniversaries, deaths, major plot twists) from each calendar onto a spreadsheet, which I keep side-by-side with my calendar. On the spreadsheet I label the fictional year, name the character, give his age during that year, then record other pertinent plot info. Then as I write, I always have a sense of time. Also, it’s an easy, at-a-glance way to gauge relationships as they will change from book to book, particularly if you’re dealing with young people.

How do you track the timeline in your novels? If you have a series that spans years, how do you track the time from novel to novel?


CHAIN OF MERCY (Coming Home Series #1) 

A devastating argument. One reckless decision. An unforgiveable sin.
Manhattan businessman Richard Brooks was at the top of the world, drunk with success, wealth, and women. Until one disastrous evening, when his world came crashing down.
Richard flees to Minneapolis where he repairs ancient boilers instead of solving corporate problems, and he’s determined to live the solitary life he now deserves.
But Executive Sheila Peterson has other plans for the handsome custodian. Richard appears to be the perfect match for the no-strings-attached romance she’s after, but she soon discovers that he’s hiding more than the designer suits in his closet.

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She resides in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 26 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.
Her debut novel, Chain of Mercy, released on April 22, 2014, and the prequel, Pieces of Granite (a semi-finalist in the 2012 Genesis Awards), comes out on November 18, 2014.