Editing Rant: Timeline

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love this story. Wonderful … wait, what just happened? During the morning the person was caught in rush hour, but evening she is surprised when people are working on a Sunday? Oh, and a secondary character just flew home after a long weekend. Early morning has rush hour just about one hour past dawn a nice solid 8:30, but evening rush hour is long past though it is just sunset, and since it is late autumnĀ in the story that makes it about 5:30 pm? Why no rush hour at 5:30 pm?

TIMELINE folks are your friend, and they are not just for thrillers anymore.

Anytime you have a countdown … a letter arrives saying a visitor arrives in four days, a child is kidnapped and given 48 hours to find, or a person comes back after four weeks away … make sure these work. Your readers don’t need to know the countdown to the hour (or minute depending on how tight it is), but you should. And if daylight versus nighttime hours apply keep track of the time of year and how many daylight hours actually exist. Is it the 14-hours of summer or the 9-hours of winter, or equinox of 12 hours for the spring and fall? Are tides 24-hour apart or 12?

Timeline, seasonal, daylight hours. Everyone understands the passage of time and it is one of the fastest things to throw readers out of the story when the fourth dimension is ill-defined.

I can go on and on about this. It is a common issue. Make a timeline, because the rewrite tends to get extensive. I usually just put in comments with “TIMELINE” notes over to the side during the editing phase to make certain everything lines up.