Monday, January 15, 2007

Keeping a Calendar

The ice storm turned out not to be quite as dire as was predicted. It rained so hard that it pulled down some of the warmer air from a layer above the cold air that it warmed things up to just above freezing. It didn't go below freezing for a long period of time until most of the rain had stopped. Whatever was already on the ground froze and is still frozen because it's still below freezing. I never lost power, so I didn't need the Duraflame log, anyway. I'm thinking of getting a non-electric fondue pot as a contingency plan in case I do lose power. When you don't have heat, the last thing you want to eat is cold food, and I could at least heat soup that way (there's no gas in this particular area -- it's all-electric). The neighborhood roads seem clear, but there are still problems on highway overpasses and bridges. Not that I plan to leave the house today. It's colder than it was over the weekend and I have no urgent need to be out and about. I think my driveway is still iced over, too. When it rains, most of the water seems to pool right behind my garage, which means I'd have to back out onto a skating rink.

It was a perfect reading weekend. I finally read the new Dick Francis mystery. There had been talk about whether or not he'd be able to write after his wife's death, but this one was just as good as his older books. I still love his characters. There's also something about his books that makes them kind of addictive. You can't read just one. If I read one of his books, I'll then develop a taste for that kind of thing, and that's all I'll want to read for a while. So now I'm re-reading his previous book. It's been long enough since I read it that I've almost completely forgotten it. Of course, I'm sure it will all come back to me just when it becomes most suspenseful.

But now I have to get back to work. Saturday, the ringing doorbell dragged me out of my warm bed when the FedEx guy showed up with my editor's revision notes on book 4. The big, bubble-wrap package spent the weekend blocking drafts from the lower corner of the front door, but today I shall have to open it and see how much work I have to do and how soon I have to do it.

I am now one-fourth of the way through the potential book five, and here's my writing tip of the day: Use a calendar to chart events in your book. Even if you don't specify within the story exactly what year the book is taking place or exactly which dates are involved, the calendar helps a lot with internal consistency. A lot of software is available for printing a blank calendar page for almost any month of any year (I've been using iCal since I don't use it for my personal calendar and that means it's not full of appointments). Then, as you plot or as you write, make a note in the appropriate calendar square. That helps you orient yourself in time so you don't do crazy things like have two weeks in a row without a weekend showing up and so you can refer to events earlier in the book as "two weeks ago" or whatever at a glance. I know of some people who even find out things like phases of the moon and put that in there so that they don't have two full moons in too short a space of time, but so far I don't think I've mentioned moonlight.

You'd think by this time I'd have learned to do this from the start because it would save me a lot of trouble. I didn't start the calendar until midway through book 4 -- and then realized that I'd written too many consecutive days without a weekend showing up. Oops. This time, it turned out that I was later in time than I realized, and an event that I had pegged to a specific date and had planned to happen in a later chapter actually needed to go earlier because I'd passed that date. Oops again. And guess which chapter now needs to be rewritten? Yep, The Dreaded Chapter Five. There's something I wrote in chapter five that will be moved to chapter six or later, and then I need to write the date-specific event in chapter five. I don't know what it is about that chapter.

I also need to learn to file these calendars where I stand a chance of finding them again because they come in really handy when a copy editor questions the timeline -- or when I start revising and doing the kind of major surgery where I accidentally cut an entire day instead of just a scene that takes place that day (I need to know to change the transition to the next scene to something like "a couple of days later" instead of "the next day"). I had to recreate the book 3 calendar from a previous version of the book before all the hacking and slashing so I could see how the timeline was supposed to work when I got to copy edits because I couldn't find that calendar. It's probably under a pile on my desk and I'll find it by the time the book is published.

So now I guess I have to go downstairs and find something else to block the draft (new weatherstripping will have to wait until it gets warm enough to have the door open for a few minutes) so I can read over what my editor said about the book. I don't know why I get all anxious and reluctant about that because she's already said she loves it. We'll see if I have to put the potential book 5 on the back burner until this is done or if it's just a little work and I can do some of both each day. And we'll see if my all-or-nothing brain can handle that kind of multitasking.

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