Tying up your timeline

I recently read a very good blog post by Mari Hannah in which she talked about the benefits of sticking to your book’s timeline.

I didn’t have one when I wrote my first book – in fact, I didn’t even know what a timeline was back then – and now that I’m into the final stage of editing I’m really wishing that I’d known this sooner.

I’m fortunate that I now have my novel on Scrivener so I have a sort of timeline in that I have a list of scenes but that isn’t quite what Mari meant.

What she’s getting at is much deeper than just knowing the order that your story runs in, it’s knowing exactly what the characters are doing and when. What I’ve found to be important is knowing the specific timescale, as in the progression of days, and also what the characters are doing when they’re not on stage. For instance, having a character go missing, being reported to the police as missing and being found dead, without working out how much time elapsed between the three events has left me in a bit of a pickle. When I started to add in new scenes as part of the edit, it was difficult to know the right order. A timeline would have saved me from having check facts time and time again during the final stages of editing.

So, once again I’m realising that a sophisticated writer has a process. They don’t just haphazardly throw some words down on a page and hope for the best. Instead they use a tried and tested system of planning.

Mari has written lots of books and clearly her way works. Her Kate Daniels novels are brilliantly plotted with twists and turns and just the right amount of tension to keep you gripped. That doesn’t happen by accident. Yes, some of it comes with experience, but it’s clear that a written timeline helps to not only keep things in order but also to make sure you keep the plot moving along at the right pace.

Either way, it’s definitely something you can and should learn. I’m learning it the hard way, so take a tip from me. Get that timeline sorted before you start writing. It may change once you start writing, but initially you should spend some quality time on it.

Yes, I know you’re desperate to get started and the words simply want to burst out of your pen onto the page but stop and take a deep breath. Think through your story, analyse it, really scrutinise it. Write it all down on paper, move the bits around, do whatever works until you know what order your story goes in.

Done that? Right, if you’re sitting comfortably, then begin.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – Mel Sherratt #FollowTheLeader

LM Milford:

Another reblog – but this is how life can be turned into fantastic fiction. Enjoy!

Originally posted on SJI Holliday: Author:


Mel Sherratt‘s latest novel – the much anticipated follow up to Taunting the Dead – is a corker. Not just a perfectly executed, entertaining read for crime fans, it covers a topic that many people will relate to, but not many have the courage to talk about.


I’d like to hope that some people never experience bullying of any kind, whether it be at school, in the workplace, online, or even from family and friends. If you’re one of those people, you’re one of the lucky ones.

So here’s a very brave and personal post; Mel’s story, told in typical Mel fashion. From the heart.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

by Mel Sherratt

I’m often known for wearing my heart on my sleeve. And sadly I’ll never have a poker-face as my emotions are written all over it. But one thing I do have is…

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My 2015 roadmap

I’m not a fan of new year resolutions. Everyone starts the year full of great intentions, over-stretching themselves as if they’re trying to prove something. And I’m no different. I’m a very driven person, meaning that once I set my sights on something I pursue it to the very end.

However, this year I’m trying something different. I got a very useful document from Charlie at the Urban Writers’ Retreat, called “The Roadmap: 2015 writing planner”, which you use to set your goals for the coming year.

It starts with an assessment of your successes from last year. I always struggle with this kind of stuff, because I find it difficult to define success, but this time I had several to report. The biggest one was the positive feedback I received on my book from a structural edit. When a professional editor uses the word ‘engrossing’, then you’ve got to pay attention. That book is now into the final stage of self-editing. Last year I also entered short stories into two competitions and came up with a strong plan for another book.

So with the 2014 review complete, the planner guides you towards what you want to get out of the coming year. Obviously, for me the big one is finishing off my first book entirely and getting it published. Also of a high priority is developing an editing strategy to make the process less like pulling teeth. This involves researching editing methods and then experimenting with them on the novella I wrote in 2013. I’m hoping that because it’s shorter and simpler, the editing experience will be easier.

The planner has a section for setting out how you’re going to go about achieving the goals you’ve set. My plans haven’t been fully set out yet. The first half of the year is already mostly tied up with non-writing stuff, but I’ll be picking off the final bits of editing and such like as I go along. From August onwards, when my time becomes entirely my own, then I’ll start work on the next book.

I have long term plans, which I won’t go into now, but this year will go some way to getting me started along that path. At the moment it’s all about the baby steps. I’ve learned a lot in recent years. I know more about writing but I also know more about myself. I know that I have to take things one step at a time to protect myself and my health.

This year is the first step on a longer path, but when I fill in the 2016 Roadmap I’d like to be reporting that my key success is that I’m a published author. That’s my priority and I’m excited about it.

Can Crime Fiction Work Without A Law Enforcement Protagonist?

LM Milford:

Great interview with two great writers – what do you think of an amateur sleuth taking on the job of investigator?

Originally posted on Rebecca Bradley:

Earlier this week I interviewed crime writer Janet O’Kane for the bite-sized interview pieces I am doing on my YouTube channel. The point of the bite-sized interviews are to only spend ten minutes (this one goes slightly over at eleven minutes) with any author and to discuss one specific topic. You can sign up to the channel Here.

With Janet, we discussed whether a crime novel can function without a detective as a protagonist. Janet’s protagonist is a GP. So we discussed where she came up with the idea, the level of scope her GP, Zoe Moreland has and how this works within the crime genre. You can find Janet on Twitter and Amazon. I hope you enjoy the interview.

What are your thoughts on crime novels with protagonists that aren’t in the law enforcement agencies? Can they work?

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Life after editing bootcamp

I promised to check in after bootcamp and here I am. The result of last week’s beasting is that The Big Edit of the book is done. And, oh my word, what an effort it took! But it’s done and I’m now into what is hopefully the final stage of self-editing – the tinkering.

What I learned from last week is that I messed up the editing process entirely. In fact I’m not sure I even had an editing process. Or if I did, it was a half-hearted mixture of things other people had suggested.

The week started so badly that by end of Tuesday I was seriously thinking of jacking it in. I couldn’t edit and it was a complete mess. I went to bed feeling very low and disillusioned but by the next morning I had rallied. So much so that I earned the description of being a ‘keep on-er’ from Mel Sherratt. Anyone who knows Mel’s back story will understand why that’s such a huge compliment.

So I gave myself a stern talking to. I only had til Friday and the end of my annual leave and I had to be finished – there was no compromising! And do you know – I did it and I could not be more impressed with myself. I now have the book on my Kindle to do the necessary tinkering (and yes, I’ve already spotted mistakes) but if last week has taught me one thing it’s that I need an editing process. I can’t just launch in and hope it’ll all come good because – to coin a phrase – that way madness lies.

So my aim in the coming months – apart from coursework for my diploma – is to work out what my process is. Fortunately I have a novella just crying out for some attention so it’s a good place to start. I wrote it about 18 months ago and I loved it to let’s hope I can do it justice.

Any suggestions for editing or recommendations for books on editing – jot them down below. All help is welcome!

Retreating into editing

Next week I’ve set myself a challenge. I’m going to finish the edits on my as yet unpublished book once and for all. Yes it’s a bit of a challenge but I’m confident I can do it.

So in line with an earlier post about retreating I’m preparing for the week. I’ve booked the time off work, am planning how to tackle it and even doing some cooking so I don’t have to do it next week. And this does include naughty treats as well!

Editing and working on this book has been dragging on for far too long; as one friend put it “it’s so close – just bloody get it done”. With encouragement like that, you’ve got to do it haven’t you?

My plan is to work on the book as if its my 9 to 5 and make the maximum amount of progress. But it has to be planned. So every day will be organised into a daily diary so I can monitor progress. I’ll be making full use of my CDs of writing music as well as Classic FM for my entertainment.

Social media will be a no-no – it’s not allowed in my bootcamp. So if you don’t hear from me in a little while, don’t panic. I’m only retreating!

I’ll post after bootcamp and let you know how I got on. Wish me luck!

If you want to do retreating in true style, then check out Retreats for You. I’ve blogged about it here.

IWSG: Editing, editing and more editing…

Come and join the club!

Come and join the club!

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how much I hate editing. I’d much rather be flying ahead, writing more and having fun. However, I understand the need for editing and doing everything you can to make your book better.

With that in mind, on the advice of a very wise friend who knows, I recently commissioned an editorial report. What an eye opener that was. First off the editor was very positive about the book overall, describing it as ‘engrossing’ and well plotted. Tick on the chart. Using an amateur rather than a police detective as a main character is good, so far so good. Then she started getting into the nitty gritty and revealed she guessed who the killer was. Ah. Not so good. But there’s the benefit of editing; imagine if I’d put that out to market. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

The report has given me food for thought and lots of stuff to work on so yet again I’m standing at the bottom of a mountain of editing and frightened to start climbing. I think the trick will be to break the work into chunks and focus on one bit at a time. The only problem is that the chunks are going to be quite big.

So, I’m just going to have to fasten on my crampons, tie my rope nice and tight and get going. Getting started is the hardest part and I just need to keep my eyes on the summit, a nicely edited book that’s ready to go.

I don’t really have a head for heights so wish me luck!

On the first Wednesday of every month I post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It’s a chance for us to support each other in what can be a very lonely pursuit. You can find out more about the group by visiting the website. Thanks to founder Alex J Cavanaugh for bringing us all together.