If you are writing a novel and a series character, one of the things that could cause you problems further down the road is the timeline. Just imagine the problems J K Rowling would have had if she’d not detailed chapter, novel and series timelines on a spreadsheet. It is always a good idea to keep track of where your story is going, if he or she does something on a Monday, you don’t want him or her thinking the next day is Sunday. You may well laugh at this, but anyone who has written a full length novel or read a badly edited one, will tell you how easy it is to make such mistakes if you don’t keep track of the time.

Dealing With Your Story Timeline

You have to find some way of keeping your timeline straight. You may use writing software such as Ywriter, which lets you put in days and times, or you can, as I do. I  make sure that you state the time and day each time it changes (unless such details are necessary I take them out when I’ve finished editing.

If you are not into spread sheets then you need some kind of method of keeping track of your story timeline and of major plot points in the same way that you would ensure that a character with blue eyes still has blue eyes as the story progresses – if they don’t you have to find a reason for it, coloured contact lenses perhaps. It is jarring for a reader when certain details such as physical description and time change without an explanation. If your character has been on a drunken binge or been transported to another universe, you have to signal that to the reader if you want your story to make sense. How do you keep track of the timeline and other details in your novel?

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Writing a Series

21 January 2014

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Writing the Second Book in a Noir Series

Writing the second book on what I have planned as a noir series, is causing me more problems than I had antiicipated. I thought I had the story nailed with a corrupt Chief Superintendent of police but then found that I’d written myself into a corner. As of now the corrupt officer is a Chief Inspector so that means I have not only had to cut a significant amount of the material, I’ve also had to change names etc wherever the alleged corruption occurs or is being investigated – that’ll teach me not to be too clever.
On the plus side, the main reason I decided to write a series rather than a stand alone novel was because I thought I had a really interesting protagonist. One American reviewer really liked the character and said they were looking forward to reading more about her, so that was a real plus.

Writing a Series – A Sense of Place

One of the things established by Raymond Chandler and other noir novelists was a clear sense of place. Like most noir fiction, my series is set in a city, on the ‘mean streets’ of Brixton to be precise and making the setting memorable is not an easy task. One of the things that I think a writer must be careful of when writing a series is not to be too repetitive. It’s all to easy to write a bit too close to the first book, so I keep checking back to try and ensure that I don’t commit that sin. Are you writing a series? If so what do you think the problems might be?


We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer’s

Dick Swaab We Are Our Brains: From the Womb to Alzheimer's(1) Release Date: 30 Jan 2014 Buy new: £20.00 £13.40

The Son

Jo Nesbo Download: £6.99

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn 545 days in the top 100 Gone Girl(3316) Download: £2.00

Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus)

Ian Rankin Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus) 94 days in the top 100 Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus)(438) Download: £4.74

Be Careful What You Wish For (Clifton Chronicles)

Jeffrey Archer Release Date: 13 Mar 2014 Buy new: £20.00 £16.37


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Writing Characters With Flaws

Nobody is perfect and if you want a character that readers find believable then make sure that you give them some flaws. Writing characters   doesn’t or shouldn’t just apply to your antagonist or your villain. Your protagonist or primary character needs to have flaws also, where they have the edge on the opponent or villain is that they recognise their flaws and we come to sympathise with them flaws and all.

The protagonist in my noir series Lambeth Croak, is a mixed race female writer and researcher. She is underemployed in her profession and occasionally helps out her friend who runs a missing persons’ agency. She is supposed to help with research and document traces but the cases she becomes involved in often mean a lot more, which is why she is a reluctant private investigator.

My primary character’s name is Bev Stone, she is an edgy, no nonsense feminist with a Greta Garbo complex, i.e. she prefers to be left alone, life on the other hand has different ideas. Brought up by two Jamaican aunts Bev knows how to defend herself, except when it comes to her abusive, soon to be ex husband. Bev lives and works in Brixton but is essentially a middle class academic with no current students and a lack of money. One reviewer said that they wanted to know more about Bev, which pleased me considerably because that meant I’d made her, at least for that reader, believable – and believable people often have flaws.


Writing Character Sheets

You need to know yur character well, especially the protagonist, and the best way I have found of doing this is to have a character sheet or sheets. The sheet should not only be the character’s name, age, job and physical description, it should have background information or back story. You may or may not use some back story in your book but you need to have it in order to know how your character will react in certain circumstances. You need to know what makes your character angry, what makes them afraid and whether or not they stick at something once they have started.

Writing Character Change

Something about your character needs to change by the end of your story. Change could be overt and life changing or it can be something less obvious, such as a change in that character’s attitude towards something. For example Bev has always felt secure in her own home, until someone breaks in and threatens not only her possessions but her privacy, her need to be herself on her own terms in a world that makes it difficult, especially if you are female.

Get to know your characters as well as, or better than, you know yourself and your best friend or closest relative. Your knowledge of and belief in your character will make them come alive on the page. If you are, like me, writing a series, then yu need to be doubly sure that is the case. Readers don’t have to like your character, but you don’t want them to forget them easily either. Write a rounded character, a character with flaws. What do you think is essential in building a fictional character.

Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus)

Ian Rankin 87 days in the top 100 Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus)(376) Download: £4.74

Twelve Years a Slave

Solomon Northup Twelve Years a Slave 12 days in the top 100 Twelve Years a Slave(97) Buy new: £5.39 £5.09 12 used & new from £2.28

First Thrills

Lee Child , Jeffery Deaver First Thrills 173 days in the top 100 First Thrills(102) Download: £0.99

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike)

Robert Galbraith 180 days in the top 100 The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike)(1804) Download: £4.24


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