Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Snazzy Timeline Tool and a Word War is Coming!

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.


One of the hardest parts of writing a historical is keeping tracking of what's happening historically alongside what's happening in your story. Several weeks ago as I plodded along with edits, I realized that I had no idea what time of year this part of the story was happening. And 1924 was a very chaotic year crime-wise in Chicago, so I needed to get this figured out.

I made myself a very simple spreadsheet. It's so simple that I'll just show you mine rather than giving you a blank downloadable one:



I wanted to keep mine as simple as possible, but you can certainly get more elaborate. Color code. Follow twenty characters. Do whatever helps you most.

That first column is, of course, for historical details. Mine is blank right now because I haven't come across anything that was happening in history that week that would have impacted my characters. This doesn't have to just be battles or political dates either. This would be a great spot to mention any weather that could have impacted your characters or sports/movies/books they might be talking about.

I picked three characters to follow in detail since they impact the plot the most. Piper is my main character, Mariano is the detective working on her friend's case, and then my villain. I deleted my villain stuff since I didn't want to totally give away what happens in my book, but that's been the most helpful part of this so far. I loved seeing what that character is doing alongside my good guys. (It also showed me that I had given my villain too much time off at one point!)

In the "others" column, I make notes about things that other characters are doing that might impact my main character. The "other" characters are important enough that it might have been worthwhile to track them too, but again, I was trying to keep it simple.

I only wish I had made this for myself during my first draft!

Also, yesterday I mentioned that Go Teen Writers will be hosting a word war! This Thursday, I'm flying out to California for a writing/brainstorming retreat with Jill Williamson and Shannon Dittemore. We'll be in Lake Tahoe, which is one of my favorite places ever, and it should be a really good time of productivity, encouragement, and fish tacos.

Last time I was in Lake Tahoe, thirteen years ago, I got engaged. As wonderful as Shannon and Jill are, I doubt this trip will top that one :)

While we're retreating, we thought it would be a fun chance to host a word war on the blog. It'll start Thursday, October 9th and go through Tuesday, October 14th. 

Wondering what a word war is? It's when you and another writer (or in this case, lots of other writers!) compete to see who can write the most in a designated period of time. It'll be a come-and-go thing. You can participate everyday or just one of the days, whatever works for your schedule.

The goal is to buckle down and focus on our manuscripts whenever we can, make good use of our writing time, and encourage each other as we do. Hopefully you'll be meeting new writers and deepening friendships as the weekend goes on!

You'll be able to connect with each other in a few different ways:

1. In the comments section of the blog. Something as simple as "Just wrote 1,000 words in the last hour!" is fine. There's strength in being able to encourage each other and in knowing that others are hard at work too.

2. On Twitter, using the hashtag #GTWwordwar or on the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. (This is a closed group, so if you're not a member yet, apply to join and then shoot me an email telling me so that I can get you approved pronto.)

We're looking forward to a fun weekend of writing with you!

47 comments:

  1. YES! So excited about the word war! I only have a few thousand words left in my story at the moment, so I will have to develop my next idea to be writing during word wars.

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    1. Congratulations on being so close to the end!

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  2. Love the timeline! I am so going to have to make one. That should help me keep track of all my characters (and the villain, too. Mwuhaha!).

    Can't wait for word wars! It'll be my first!

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  3. Yay! So excited about to the word war!! (Let's just hope I'll have enough words left in my story to last me the whole time...) All of your historical writing posts are really making me want to write a steampunk novel that i've been wanting to do! lol!

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    1. Congratulations on almost being done! How awesome!

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  4. Dragon's teeth. The word war falls on the days when I have a PSAT and a two-day chemistry intensive. :P I'll try to participate anyway, though.

    I like the timeline; I may have to make one of those for my story when I edit it . . .

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    1. Oh, yikes! Maybe writing can be a reward :)

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    2. And my mother has informed me that the PSAT and chemistry intensive is the *NEXT* week(end), so i'll be able to properly participate! HUZZAH! REJOICING!

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    3. Yay! That's great!

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  5. YAY!!! I am really excited for the word war, although, I will be busy a lot of the time :(. My goal is to get to the halfway mark in my novel!

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  6. The timeline tool should really help me in my novel! I'm twelve and writing a fantasy book based on Norse mythology, so this is a lifesaver!
    PS: Really excited on the word war! I'm not really sure I can participate, but I'll try!

    Jonathan

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    1. I've found it's super helpful for keeping track of how everybody fits together. I hope you do too!

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  7. YAY a word war!!! I am so happy that I will be in a permanent place Friday through Tuesday! :D Thanks for hosting one Stephanie and Jill!!! :D

    TW Wright
    ravensandwriting.blogspot.com

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  8. That timeline tool looks so great! Funny that life can be easy like that ;-)

    Word war! Not sure I can participate, but it's still a great stimulating thing. Have fun out there!

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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    1. I know! It's the simplest spreadsheet, but it really helps!

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  9. I wish I could participate, but I'm doing college visits and won't have a lot of time to write. :/

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    1. Well, that sounds fun too :) We'll do another one soon, I promise!

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  10. So I'm already doing the 100for100 contest... how much harder is a wordwar? XD (In the midst of allll my busy things and NaNo prep. -_- Gaah.) I think I mayyy try though... :)

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    1. It's more time-pressured, but it's basically writing as much as you can in within the timeframe given.

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    2. What Zara said :) It's not "in addition to" the 100 for 100, but rather a tool that you can use to help motivate you during that challenge.

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    3. Yeah, I understand. :) Thanks though guys! I just meant that it's hard enough squeezing in those 100 words daily; a word war is going to make me want to write much more every day! XD It's a good incentive though and if I survive my busyness it will be awesome. >:D

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  11. Lake Tahoe???! I'm on the Nevadian side. You will be so near, yet so far. Looking forward to the word war!

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    1. Lucky! My family had property out there but sold it ages ago. I would have loved to inherit ;)

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    2. I live about half an hour away from the lake.

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    3. Ooh, lucky girl. We're pretty excited :)

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  12. Looking forward to the word war! I need to do a rewrite of some chapters in my story and actually add tons of things and this is going to get me motivated! Thanks for doing this!
    In Christ,
    Kara
    http://savedbygrace7.blogspot.com/
    http://writingtoinspire7.blogspot.com/

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  13. Another Word War! Yay!! Can't wait!!

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  14. Oh my goodness! I really love that idea with the spreadsheet ... how did I not think about that before? Oh well, I will totally be trying it out asap.

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  15. Great post, as always Stephanie!!
    As you mentioned that you are writing a mystery, I thought I would tell you that I'd really appreciate if you could do some sort of blog post about writing a mysery, such as what tecniques you used or any tips that you found helpful.
    This is obviously only a suggestion, you do not need to do this if you don't wan to :)
    Sorry about my English, not my first language

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    1. You did perfect with your English except for the second time you wrote mystery you left out the "T"

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    2. Sure, I could do that! Great suggestion.

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    3. Thank you so much!! :)

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  16. Wow! The timeline seems like a great tool. I can see how it would be especially useful for a historical fiction mystery, but it could also apply to any other genre. I can't wait to try it out. I MIGHT be able to participate in the Word War. However, I'm currently plotting my next WIP, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to. It might be cool to do word wars where I just write a journal entry from the POV of each of my characters, though...I'm excited for the November one, though, because I know I'll be drafting by then! :D

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    1. Agreed, Ana. I think it could be very handy for other genres too.

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  17. This looks awesome, Mrs. Morrill! Thank you for sharing!! :D

    As for the Word War, I don't think I'll be able to participate this time (sad to say). :( Real busy and trying to get in the last of my outlining before NaNo. Have you guys thought of doing a Word War during NaNo? I would definitely jump on it!

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    1. And I hope you all have an absolutely wonderful time with your writing retreat!!! :D

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    2. We had a discussion about a word war during NaNo in the comments on yesterday's post. Stephanie said we will have a word war during NaNo, which should be a great help in reaching my word count goal. I'm so excited!

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    3. Oh, thank you, Ana! We just got back from a family vacation, so I missed some of those posts. How awesome! Thank you, guys!! :D I'm so glad there's going to be a word war during NaNo - I know that will help my word-count goal as well!

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