Thursday, June 24, 2010

Now, This Was Just Me Being Lazy-Stupid

The editing lesson I want to share today shows an incredibly lazy part of my writerly self.

I'm banking on the hope that one or two of you are equally lazy and might be able to commiserate...erm, learn along with me ;)

Okay, so we've all heard of keeping character journals and time lines as we write, right?

Here are my previous thoughts on both


I know my characters, I don't need to write down their hair color. that's lame.


I don't even know my characters until I write can I lead w/ all that info?


yep. that pretty much sums up the thoughts that I had every time I heard the phrase character bible/journal or time line.

Well...I was wrong.

We don't have to start w/ all the info...but, as we put it in our manuscript, we should jot it down on a notepad somewhere.


Because it is downright embarrassing when that ms sells and the editor says note the father as 6'5" here and 6'3" later

or, the equally embarrassing...
you have them upset to be leaving, but this is the day they were scheduled to leave. do you not realize it is day 3 of their stay?


now, this ms had been through many eyes before it got to this point. None of us caught those mistakes (and, there were more than the two, btw).

So...I'm rethinking the time line and character journals.

they don't have to be fancy. they don't have to be long.

but they do have to be.

less you look (and feel) like an idiot *cue picture of me*

Tell Me:
what are your thoughts on actual, written out time lines and character journals?



Lynnette Labelle said...

LOL You're so funny! Good thing your editor's on the ball. I've caught those types of mistakes in published books before. Now THAT'S embarrassing.

Actually, I'm pretty anal, so I already do that stuff. LOL It's a good thing because I often have to go back and see what hair color so-and-so has.

Lynnette Labelle

ali said...

ROFL I love how you try to deflect part of the brain by pointing out that other people had read it before and not caught those mistakes. :D Nice.

I didn't used to keep a CB or timeline either, but I've come to use them. I'm hit and miss on remembering to jot stuff down though. So one whole swipe through the book is to note all those boring little details. Snooze-fest is right. Oy.

I don't always keep a timeline, unless I really have to. Like I have a sci-fi that I actually did a real honest-to-goodness timeline for, and then I mapped out a dystopian with events happening in a certain order because it needed the action to be non-stop.

So yeah, I'm a convert, but it's still not second nature to me.

Michelle said...

I skipped over all the character stuff with a new character once, and the Slushbusters totally called me on it. We all do it from time to time.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm terrified about making errors! I've been writing notes about my characters as I'm writing my first full length novel...At the end of each chapter I make a note card telling who was in it...(But I'm not at home with my bulletin board.) Yesterday, (I'm only on chapter 7) I realized that I've already lost a family somewhere...I've got to go back and find them! They went looking for water between air raids and never came back! YIKES!

Stephanie said...

LOL! I have some projects where I didn't do anything, but one of my projects I have some pretty detailed character sketches that I did do before really starting the story. I seem to try out all different methods for my writing!

Amy DeTrempe said...

I cannot write one ahead of time because I don't know them. But, I do have cards that I jot down color of hair, eyes, etc, which I determine when I actually have to described them in WIP. I've also recently started using OneNote, which lets you keep notebooks, etc. When I add something, it is a quick click to add it to the character sheet, etc and I can move on. I've start timelines in OneNote also and just add to it as events happen. It also comes in handing when that fun synopsis needs to be written (ugh)

Scott said...

The basics, only the basics. I have an Excel sheet where I keep track of the character basics: eye color, hair color, height, weight, etc. As for timeline . . . well, I'm really bad about that, but I try to make a note at the top of each chapter as to how much time has passed - 1 day, 1 week, 3 weeks, etc. Now, in one book it was easy because each chapter was a different month.

As for big snafus - copy and pasting, editing, blah, blah, blah, send the MS out to betas and . . . not one of them catches that I have Chapter 13 in the book . . . TWICE! Heck, even I missed that one somehow. Ha!

Sarah said...

Tess, I feel that I learn about my characters as I write them- at least in the first drafts, so I always found it difficult and counter productive to create a profile and THEN write.

But I can totally imagine keeping one as I write. It would help maintain consistency and serve as a reference during revisions...

storyqueen said...

Well, I don't have character journals or timelines, per se, but I do have THE MANIFESTO in which I write all pertinent information...notes to myself, etc. Every novel/chapterbook I have written has one.

Unfortunately, THE MANIFESTO is usually a garbled mess of disorganization...but the info is always there....I just have to find it!


Sarah said...

Storyqueen, I have something like your manefesto, though it is not so significant that it would earn an all caps spelling. : )

I have my 'bits and pieces' file that includes portions of text that I loved but couldn't bring myself to entirely delete. I can only cut them out of the MS if I know I can keep them in another file. I also journal thoughts about what I'm writing in that file as well, so it includes pages of rambling as I try to sort out characters or plot. It, also, is hugely disorganized. I'd have to use the find function to go to any one spot.

Tess said...

some great ideas and processes you guys have ... thanks for laughing with me and weighing in on is helpful.

Carolyn V. said...

I love time lines. I think it helps so much in the plot.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Okay, I think you just convinced me to do this! I've caught these things in my current manuscript, and it's embarrassing when you know betas are reading it right at that moment. :S

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Another author wrote a thank you to a copy editor who saved her from having two sunsets in one day. I've started a log to try to keep the timeline straight. The first time I did it on an almost completed novel, I found that I thought a few weeks had passed but it was months when I figured it properly. Yikes. Right now I keep trying to remember eye color for certain characters. That would be so easily remedied if I did a quick sketch of each character.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Oh, Tess, I am soooo with you! The timeline for my present book is killing me, but I did have to write one eventually because I was noticing errors and confusing myself (which was not a good sign). I'm just not a very organized person, and I'm very spontaneous, so this type of thing does not come naturally to me. But it's part of the *job*. :)


Janna Qualman said...

I have notebooks with details, but I'm not too too particular about them.

This, though, is a good argument!

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh yeah! I'm so glad we aren't the only ones who do this stuff. Even worse we're editing book 2 in the series now and you wouldn't believe the mistakes we're making. Oy. I always thought series bibles sounded annoying and cumbersome, but yeah, we NEED one. Bad.

Hope all is well with you, Tess!

Susan Fields said...

I couldn't live without them. I can't possibly keep all my facts straight without having them written down. Especially my latest wip because it's on a very strict three day timeline, with the date and time listed at the beginning of each chapter. I had to be really careful to keep all that straight, and double checked it more than once.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I'm with you, Tess! I'm working on my fourth novel and I am writing character notes and timelines like a crazy lady. More so with this manuscript than with any previous novel. Live and learn? Probably. : )

lotusgirl said...

I've had to work on those things a lot. Especially lately since I just shortened the timeline of my WIP I. I had to rejigger everything.

As for character journals, I have lists about the different characters. All kinds of different things about them. A lot of things on the lists don't come to light in the book, but it helps me know the characters better and hopefully translate that into their actions.

Amy Saia said...

I'll bet you're not alone in this. For me personally, I do really well with remembering physical characteristics, but street junctions and dates can get a little blurry. I think I'm going to have to draw out each town when I write a book, so that I can reference it while writing.

Thanks for the great information once again, Tess! I always learn something when I come here.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I started a journal on the characters, then got lazy, then set the whole ms aside. I'm pulling out the journals along with the novel when the time is right.

Jill Kemerer said...

Ha! I've changed my character's eye color mid-way through without realizing it. Sad.

I keep an excel spreadsheet with all the pertinent info. Just a click away. No, I don't keep a journal. I like list-y type things!

J.A. Palermo said...

So funny. I posted today about character and back story and adding to my process. I think it's more than a list of stuff. Character can be more about what the reader isn't "told" than what the reader is told. That is why two people can read the same book but have a different experience. ANd it's all in the "bible."

Heidi Willis said...

This is SO me!! I used to never write things down, then i was constantly going back through the document to figure out if I'd given someone green or brown eyes, what their parents' names were, or what the name of the random coffee shop was.

I'm in awe of JK Rowling and wonder what her notebooks of notes must look like to keep all those details straight. :)

Tess said...

So, I spent the last couple of weeks working out these charts and let me say ... it would have been SO much easier to do it as I went along. lesson learned!