Writing a novel entails dozens of scenes, locations, many characters—both vital and secondary—and the interactions between them, along with nuances, innuendos, hints, and foreshadowing to keep the reader enticed and turning the pages. Keeping track of all the finer points can be daunting, and the last thing you want as creator is to confuse the reader, or be unsure yourself.
A Story Calendar eliminates such potential disasters.
Once the ingredients of a story have congealed—character, setting, problem, enticing moment, and plot (though any part is likely incomplete at this point)—I pull out my blank monthly calendar . . . before I write a word of the story itself.
IMPORTANCE OF A CALENDAR
Setting up the calendar at this early stage accomplishes 4 main things:
Produces a story starting point, date and time
Establishes an overall time frame
Grounds your characters in a place
Eases many burdens during revision
Think of a calendar as a catalog of the people and events of your story, a place you will return to dozens of times during the first draft and several revisions a publishable manuscript requires.
Knowing the preliminary information, I start by asking questions: what time of day does the story start? Does the story-line require a specific date, such as holiday, or a particular day of the week? What about the weather?
The importance of having a calendar is multi-faceted, but the purpose is singular–consistency.
Readers are smart. They’ll remember that on Tuesday Dwight pawned his .45 to buy his girlfriend a present, so he couldn’t have it Friday when he robbed the convenience store; they’ll be aware that Brad wore a pale blue shirt in the morning (if you reveal this information), so he can’t be wearing a navy blue shirt after work if he didn’t have time or the means to change.
You better know these particulars, and a thousand more tiny details or your reader will gladly point out the glaring errors to you. A calendar will save such embarrassment.
Calendars work as an outline of events, times, weather, travel, and any other important factor for your characters and their world.
Character placement (their physical location), who they are with, and what they possess needs to be completely clear in order for your story to be “true.” Any relevant information can be noted in the daily blocks on your calendar.
In my Veil fantasy series, the world has two moons, and their placement in the sky and degree of visibility is integral to the world and the story’s plot. I keep track of that on the monthly calendar.
Regardless of story setting, characters move. Realistic time to allow for travel is required for believability.
In fantasy, travel is primitive: by foot, wagon, or beast of burden; a modern story will allow for cars and an assortment of other travel types, but the distance between destinations and the time required to reach them must be accurate; Science Fiction is no different, only the mode of travel changes.
A calendar virtually guarantees you consider travel as a prerequisite to your character’s location, movement, and the plot in general.
I drew a map of my fantasy world before I started writing and calculated distances: the island continent of Ananyll is 350 miles east to west, 250 miles north to south. The numbers had to be adjusted to those dimensions, I realized, because of the calendar.
A horse can reasonably and safely travel about 40 miles per day, figuring 8 hours of travel time. (more info on horse travel time depending upon gait). Once I added a couple cities to my map—between which my characters must travel—I found the distances adversely affected my plot timeline.
Knowing the fictional world’s size at such an early stage of development saved hours of tedious and painful revision to shore up reasonable travel allotments.
My story requires four viewpoint characters: protagonist, antagonist, and two others. I had to develop some way to know where each is located at every plot stage, who accompanies them, and their assets. Because the four VPs come in contact with each other throughout the tale, it became imperative the plot included travel distances and times for one to reach another. The calendar was the perfect solution.
My novel covers a year and a half, so I had a stack of 18 monthly calendars by the time I finished the first draft.
Below is an example of the calendar for The Returning’s opening chapters and pages:
|Ch. 1,2 ½ moon
King Theldron “taken”
B4 sunrise—Syjer escapes
PM Theldron w/Elvrym
Syjer meets women warriors; Syjer, Uleyha, Raelda @river
The main things I keep track of are:
Chapter and scene
Characters’ location and who they are with
Dates (times if necessary)
Manuscript Pages—this is invaluable during rewrite and edits to quickly reference an earlier scene and event.
Your calendar can accommodate items particular to any story (like the moons in mine), allowing for easy look-up when necessary.
Once you have the formulation of a story—before the actual writing—have a calendar ready; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief, especially when it comes to revision.
As a FREE gift, sign up to follow Knights of Writ, and I will send you a blank downloadable calendar (as an attached Word document) that you can print so you have it before you start your next story. It’ll save you time later on, guaranteed.
NOTE: Sign up even if you already have—I’ll eliminate duplicates so I don’t send multiples in the future.
See you on the next page,
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“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne