I’d like to welcome my very special guest blogger ALAYNA WILLIAMS. Alayna has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she’s never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses. Like the Pythia in Dark Oracle, she’s been known to belly dance. Unlike the Pythia she’d never consider herself a professional.
Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.
Writers tend to get into a lot of trouble with time. There’s making time to write, managing deadlines, and the vagaries of market timing.
One issue with time, however, is entirely within the author’s control. And that’s the timeline of the story.
I never paid a whole lot of critical attention to time when I read. Sure, I was conscious that some passages in stories could be languid and slow-moving like a drippy faucet. Others were exhaustingly rushed. I never was quite able to put my finger on why.
And then, when my first book was accepted for publication, I discovered the answer: books can grow timeline issues. They’re very subtle, but can really cause problems with the reader’s perception of a work.
A timeline issue occurs when characters have too many events crammed into a period of time – or not enough. A timeline problem happens when too much stuff is packed into a single day. A succession of tasks emerges that would require the bending of the rules of the space-time continuum or superhuman abilities to accomplish. It occurs when your main character hasn’t slept for days. It happens when she travels an impossible distance in an hour. It can take place when your main character hasn’t worked regular hours at her day job without explanation. This goes for crazy amounts of overtime, or not working at all. It happens when your character is doing “cop stuff” for seven days in a row without a day off or at least a pro forma request for overtime. It’s easy for an author to lose track of what day it is, and a character can get trapped in a month-long weekend or a year of Wednesdays.
Mundane concerns? Maybe. But they catch an editor’s eye and seep into the subconscious of the reader. And sometimes, we’ve gotta pay attention to the rules of the real world – like time – in order to allow the reader to suspend disbelief for the really magical things we want to do with the story.
My editor asked me to turn a timeline in with my book. Something simple, listing the day, night, and all the scenes and events that happened in each. By reviewing my manuscript in this way, I could see where I crammed too many activities into the heroine’s day – or (eep!) not enough.
I’ve turned a timeline in for every book since, whether or not I was asked. And it’s really reduced the amount of time I spend fixing structural issues in revisions. Now, I tend to work with that timeline in my head, and it keeps me honest. It keeps my very human characters from turning into Wonder Women and Supermen.
Not only do I have to manage time, but my characters do, too. Maintaining a timeline is a front-line editing fix I suggest that every writer keep in her toolbox.
Alayna’s newest release ROGUE ORACLE is the second in her Delphic Oracle series.
The more you know about the future, the more there may be to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around – and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards – and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams – suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen…