Friday, April 13, 2012

TBR welcomes Marilyn Meredith

The Importance of Keeping Track of Time and Days in Your Story

Though The DaVinci Code was a major bestseller, I had a big problem with all that went on. Certainly it was exciting, with one peril escalating into another, but I kept shaking my head and thinking, “This is impossible. All of this couldn’t have happened to the hero in this short a period of time.”

When writing, though a lot of action should take place, it’s important that what does happen is possible in the amount of time depicted.

Some authors do a whole story board with each scene depicted, what’s going to happen, and when it’s going to happen.

I’ve never done that, nor do I outline the whole story. My process always begins with the characters. Because I write a series, I already know many of the characters, the new ones will have something to do with the main plot, in most cases a murder victim and the suspects. I do keep 3 X 5 cards with important information about ongoing characters including what kind of cars they drive. (Though I still seem to have trouble keeping track of what colors the cars are—thank goodness for editors and a publisher who pay attention.)

Sometimes I’ll just do a simple calendar with the days of the week at the top and the major occurrences during each day at the time they will happen.

The one time I didn’t do that, the editor from the publishing house sent me a note that Friday was missing. She was right. I jumped from Thursday to Saturday, which meant I had to do some major rewriting.

Because my Rocky Bluff P.D. series always tells the story from multiple points of view, keeping track of the days and what time things are happening is even more important.  For the latest one, No Bells, I used a notebook to keep track of my days and times.

I’d already written some notes about the way I expected the plot to go, but it doesn’t always happen the way I think it will, as the characters tend to take over once I really get moving on the writing.

As I write the book on the computer, I keep short notes on the pages of the notebook under headings like Monday, a.m. It also helped me keep track of the clues and other happenings while the plot unfolded. When I couldn’t remember if I’d already told about something, or a new name I’d come up with, I could easily find it in the notebook.

Of course there’s no set way to do this, but the point is to figure out a way to keep track of your timeline so you don’t cram too much into one day, or like I did, lose a day completely.

My latest, No Bells, takes place over about a little more than a week’s time. A short period of time, but a lot happens. Officer Gordon Butler takes center stage as the woman he’s in love with becomes the major suspect in the murder of her best friend.

No Bells Official Blurb:

Officer Gordon Butler has finally found the love he’s been seeking for a long time, but there’s one big problem, she’s the major suspect in a murder case.


F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels—and a few that will never see print. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is No Bells. F. M. (Marilyn) is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves as the program chair for the Public Safety Writers of America’s writing conference. She’s been an instructor at many writing conferences.

CONTEST: The person who comments on the most blogs on my tour will win three books in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series: No Sanctuary, An Axe to Grind, and Angel Lost. Be sure and leave your email too, so I can contact you. 

TBR: Thanks for visiting TBR, Marilyn. Best of luck to you.


  1. Welcome to TBR, Marilyn, and thanks for the great tips.

  2. In the 2 history mystery novels I've written so far I had to spend quite some time checking, and making sure, I felt the incidents were plausible regarding the time frame. I, also, made a calendar to track days though I haven't used a notebook like you suggest. That will be a great idea for the family saga I've just started. Thanks, Marilyn.

  3. Thanks for allowing me to visit, Cate, I'm happy to be with your for the day.

    Nancy, when I wrote my first book, a family saga, I used 3 X 5 cards to keep track of historical events. The stack of cards grew quite thick. It was far more complicated than my mysteries and covered years rather than days. I'm sure there's a way to do this on the computer, but I've never found one that works for me.

  4. Nothing more distracting when in midst of story author loses time sequence. Makes me want to toss and go on to another book. I see you have posted another photo. As much as enjoy reading your information find fun to guess which photo will appear. Thanks for a great blog adventure.

  5. Hi, Jake, that photo was taken at the main Tulare County Library in Visalia when they were having an author fair.

  6. For my novel, that takes place in a short period of time, I have a timeline written out. I used a pretend date to start, and from there I have kept track of my "two days later", "a week later" by date. This way, when someone says my character did a certain thing "a few months ago", I know it really was a few months ago. Thanks for reiterating how important it is to keep track of time when writing a story.

  7. Hi,"Phoenixgirl" who looks extremely familiar. A timeline is important, no matter how you do it. Keep writing.

  8. Hi Marilyn. Thank you for an interesting blog tour. I learned a thing or two while following you around. I have eight mystery novels under my belt and love to write but am lousy at self promotion. I am planning to take some suggestions of your "Writer's Trick of the Trade" to heart, starting with DorothyL. How do I subscribe?

  9. You need to do a Google Search for DorothyL and the directions for subscribing and posting are on that website.

  10. Thank you, Marilyn. By the way, the reason I signed on as "Anonymous" is because my URL profile was not accepted. (I probably did something wrong.)
    Alice Zogg

  11. Marilyn, I always make a calendar of events so I don't leave out Friday like you mentioned. It makes the action seem real if the timeline works. I use the timeline for notes as well so I know which car my hero is driving. He goes through a few vehicles in one book, so I can't have him driving the Jeep when he crashed it in the prior story. My Johnny Casino Casebook is a series of linked short stories, so events happen weeks apart, but I can't total one car and then drive it in the next story. Your take is spot on and great for us writers.

  12. Hi, GB, I thought I had kept track for my cars, but I didn't do it as well as I thought I had. In my very first Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, Tempe drove a Blazer then a Bronco, then a Blazer. No one noticed until finally a reader called me and pointed it out. Ugh!

  13. Okay, I wrote a long comment and got kicked off so I am going to leave it at thank you for your post and please enter me into the contest for your books at Scrapgirl1467 (at) yahoo (dot) com.


  14. I always have a notebook next to me. For my last Passenger to Paradise novel, I kept a little notebook next to me that I filled with essential information to which I kept referring.

    Thanks for sharing your process.


    1. My notebook is not so little, Monti--but it sure helps to keep track of what's going on.

  15. I like your table in the bookstore Marilyn. Especially the crime scene tape...Nice touch!


  16. The photo was taken at the main Tulare county library in Visalia. I always take my crime scene tape along with me. Someone once asked if I stole it from a crime scene. Sure. (You can buy anything on the Internet.)


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