Avoid a Time Warp

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One of the most difficult things for me to remember when I am writing, is to show the passage of time.

As I work at my computer, the stories flow continuously, so I often need to go back as I edit and insert time “markers” for readers. (This is especially important because most people read a chapter or so at a time. They need reminders as to where they are on the story’s timeline).

So, just how do authors deal with the passage of time in their books?

Well, some authors actually date their chapters, such as “Monday. 9 A.M.”

Some label them by the year: 1942.

Some by the season: Summer, 1950.

Still others use the age of the main character: Eighteen.

However, most often authors simply use phrases (usually in the first paragraph of a chapter or scene) which denote passage of time.

Later that morning, the next day, or the following day.

She glanced at the bedside clock. Was it already seven?

The sun dipped behind the mountains.

He had just enough time to shower and dress before his eight-thirty meeting.

She rushed into the baby’s room. Had he really slept through the night?

You get the point: avoid reader confusion by showing the passage of time where necessary.

Do it subtly. Do it creatively. Use a variety of techniques. 

Try Writing Backwards

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You are beginning to write Chapter Six.

Before you start to type, you ask yourself how the chapter fits into your overall plot. What do you want to include? How should the chapter begin?

You’re stuck.

But, if you do know how you want the chapter to end, try this:

Start at the end (the part you do know) and write backwards until you get to the beginning scene of the chapter.

Even if you’re not stuck, you may find this to be a great exercise. You will be forced to focus on exactly where you want to take the reader—from point A (beginning scene) to point B (the cliffhanger that makes them want to read more).

Sometimes simply getting a visual of where you want to end will inspire you to write a stellar beginning.