Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making the Calendar Work for You

I love this time of year when I get a new calendar or day planner to set up. I have electronic planners but there is something about holding that new little book in my hands and thumbing through the pages of a new year. But if you think organizing my time is what this post is about, think again.

It turns out this is a great time of year to pick up a free calendar from church or a small business. I have several old calendars I have saved through the years. I have used them to teach math lessons or play games with first graders, offer the pictures as story starters in writer workshops, and as of late, lay out my story in a reasonable, albeit linear fashion.

When I was writing Breathing on Her Own, I used an old calendar to outline the sequence of events. I found it helped me think through the story from beginning to end. When I learned more about civil lawsuits in Ohio, for example, I used the calendar to map out the process my character, Laney, would face in a wrongful death suit.

I also discovered a few details for my story I may have missed without the calendar in hand. For example, my character was involved in an accident late on a Friday in February. In the story, her parents are taking care of the children while she is fighting for her life. Initially, I had only thought about the cold, snowy days of winter and the despair Laney’s mother, Molly would be feeling as her daughter lay injured in the hospital.  When I looked at my calendar, I realized Laney’s children would have been affected in other ways. Here is an excerpt.

“The children missed their Valentine party at school on Monday, so while Hunter labored over his math assignment, Ellie sorted her Valentines on the floor of the family room.  Molly hadn’t even given a thought to the celebration of Valentine’s Day.  Although she and Travis had never been ones to actually celebrate, she knew Laney and Rob had always shared a candlelight dinner for the occasion.  Molly wiped tears from her eyes at the thought.”

The calendar helps me think about the weather, events, and sequence of my story in a meaningful way.

For my newest endeavor, I pulled out a twenty month planner from 2010 I had barely used. It was too big to serve me well at the time. I think my story will fit within that time frame. I am starting to write down what I think will define the main events of my novel and those elements I think will serve as turning points for my characters. Of course I am writing it all down in pencil. I pulled out a few sticky notes for the major scenes I want to include. That way I can move them around in my calendar if I need to do so.

My story doesn’t start in January but I can easily start anywhere I like. I can add another calendar page if needed. It may just be a more visual way to outline a story, but for me it works.  If you are a writer or would like to be one, I hope you will give the calendar method a try. Let me know what you think.

Another day closer! 

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