When I wrote my first book, Our Moon, I had no desire to make it a series. I had planned it as a standalone, not knowing if I’d ever write another book again as I’d had no other ideas at the time. Then readers read it and asked for more about the other guys in the band and I was thrilled. Our Moon’s standalone status quickly disappeared.
When I began writing Hearts in the Sand, I was grateful for my anal-retentiveness during Our Moon. While writing my first book, I was terrified of breaking continuity. For those of you who haven’t read it, Our Moon takes place over several years and flips from the present to the past. Age was a pretty big deal as well, so my biggest fear was somehow screwing that up. How was I going to keep track of everything?
Let me take a step back. When I write, I pretty much wing it. I don’t work with detailed outlines or character profiles, I just let the story take me where it wants to take me. I have a general idea of what is going to happen, but the journey to that destination is undefined. I may jot down a few notes, because I’m very forgetful, but aside from that, it’s all in my head. Needless to say, I don’t have a Word file or notebook where I keep notes. So, how was I going to keep track of a timeline?
Hello, Microsoft Excel, my dear, dear friend.
I’ve worked in Excel a lot over the years. A lot. People don’t often think of it as a notes app, it’s mostly put into the “math” box because it has the capacity to do formulas and calculate just about anything.
Well…what makes up a timeline?
Since age was a big deal with Our Moon, it was important to me to be able to determine my characters’ ages at any given time in the book. Enter Excel. I could list the dates and have a running calculation of the characters’ ages by using their birthdates!
Ok, so I might be nerding out a little bit here.
But like I said, when I was writing Hearts in the Sand, this timeline I had created came in so handy!! I was able to make references to the events of Our Moon and accurately state that it happened 2, 3, 4 years ago, etc. That saved my butt when it came to the continuity between books, and it gives me one less thing to worry over as I continue the series.
Take a look!