Big-Picture Work for the Detail Oriented

DSC00642I’ve avoided it for a long time. A long long long time. But this week I finally knuckled down, put in the hours, and tracked the timeline of my entire book.

The novel’s grunt-work really didn’t deserve such epic procrastination, but somehow I kept pushing the novel forward instead of stopping and figuring it all out. No damage done, thankfully, but now that I’m on the other side of the process, I wonder what all the fuss was all about.

For those of you who feel like 85,000 words is difficult to keep track of, find hope here. I’m a detail-oriented small-picture person, but organizing my thoughts enough to see the big picture is incredibly helpful and surprisingly easy–as long as I’m willing to spend the time on it.

As you see above, my makeshift work setup allowed me to access my manuscript doc and chart each scene on a large sketchbook. The days run down the side and I list the important factors across the top:

  1. Land
  2. Sea
  3. Villain

In your book they’ll undoubtedly be different. I chose those three because I needed my characters in each location spend the correct amount of time before they meet again. And since my villain bounces back and forth between the two, I must ensure that he doesn’t end up at two places at once.

I scrolled through my manuscript, matching scenes with their corresponding time blocks. For example, I wrote in the Wednesday row:

  • 3.43-45 A. @ Home (early morning)
  • 3.45-55 L. @ H–>B–>H w/ A. (mid morning)

The breakdown is simple:

  • Chapter.page-page POV Character @ Location/s (estimated/exact time).

Maybe this code will work for you, maybe not. But I’m sure that by laying out a simple grid with pertinent factors, you’ll get a great bird’s eye view of your novel’s progression. All you need is a ruler, a large piece of paper, and a way to prop it up. Though you could definitely use create excel spreadsheet and type it all in, I’d recommend a more visual and tactile approach.

Interested in reading more? See my other articles, The Visual Writer’s Writing Day, and How Frozen’s Logic Defying Story Thaws Hearts.

Before you go, I’m curious. How do you normally chart your novel’s progress? Any insights that you’d like to share? 

 

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