Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fixing Continuity In Your Stories

Do the things that happen in your chapter 3 or 4 mesh with those things in chapter 17 or 19? You might think the ideas do, but it is amazing how many stories I have read where that continuity is simply not there. Somewhere, between those chapters, you got side-tracked. You started following another theme or idea and ended up in a place where you had not planned on being. Yes, it felt like you were in the right place, and maybe the journey was fun, but it is not where you needed to be.

This is not just an issue with plot either. Too often, writers will have characters say or do things early on in the book, and then, several chapters later, end up doing or saying something that contradicts the earlier comment or action.

Although many authors may say it is not going to be a big issue with their readers, it will be. Your readers are much smarter than you think they are. They pick up on the smallest of details and will turn that into the one epic failure of the book.

So how do you fix this problem? Well, I would say take more time to plot your book and jump on my lectern and scream of the benefits of plotting over being a pantster, but I won't go there right now (just image me screaming though). You can, however, take the time to think. In other words, pay attention to what you write.

As you get ready to dive into chapter 6, think about the prior chapters. The odds are you are starting this chapter days after you finished the prior ones so it will take some time to review that work. Take notes of the chapters. At some level, keep a running chapter by chapter synopsis.

This does work. I have one client who, every now and then, struggles with a plot issue. When that happens, we talk it though and I have her take me chapter by chapter through the story until we reach the problem. Sure enough, the majority of the time, the issue showed up in one of those later chapters where there was a continuity issue.

I really want to open this one up to the writers out there. How do you insure there is continuity in your books. Let's call this SHARING WEDNESDAY!

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge "OneNote" fan. I use it to make a "notebook" for each of my story ideas.

    I love historical romance, so historically accurate details are super important to me! The first page of my notebook is always a calendar for the year in which the story takes place. Page 2 is a timeline of the book's events. Page 3 is a listing of characters, places, and other items of importance such as fashion, newspaper headlines, inventions, latest rage, etc. Next, main characters each get a bio page. Followed by a page devoted to "the brief story outline".

    And lastly, every chapter gets its own page with all the important details of what happens in that chapter --along with notes about the point of the chapter or what I want that chapter to achieve.

    Three years ago, when I first started learning to write, I didn't know to keep such thorough notes. I just wrote, quite happily mid you. But I was continually lost! Couldn't remember what I wrote. Couldn't find important details. Repeated "stuff". Three hundred and seventy-some-odd rewrites later, I finally figured out what would work for me. A guidebook for each story. I started making real progress the day I invented my notebooks and started keeping notes.
    Kate M