Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Of Calendars and Time Lines

When I wrote my Tangled Strands story all those years ago, I had a rough timeline in my head. Sharon’s birthday was in August, she came back to Willow Valley in February, and her baby was born in late spring. Other events wove themselves in between those in a flexible way. Since I got into this serious revision of the novel, I’ve known I’d have to go back to work things out more specifically with a calendar—the 1958 calendar, to be precise. Doing that during the last few days has turned out to be more interesting than I expected.

My first step was to find a 1958 calendar. Of course the Internet could give it to me, but it didn’t prove as easy as I anticipated. I could find calendars for that year, but I needed a blank calendar so I could write in all my events. I eventually settled for printing out nine copies (that’s how long the story lasts)of a calendar template and filling in the numbers for the days. I wrote the names of the months in block capital letters in pink marker across the top. I didn’t bother with Sunday, Monday, and the like because those are always in the same place on a calendar. I did, following the 1958 calendar, handwrite the dates in each one, and that didn’t take too long.

Of course I worked in pencil, but even that isn’t perfect because I don’t have a fresh or decent eraser in the house that won’t leave dark smudges if I erase. I was at the story today but didn't think to get one. The 1958 calendar told me Easter came on April 6—important because I have an event that relates to Easter. Larry has Easter vacation, and the plot events at the close of that are some of the biggest in the story. As it turned out, it gave me a little trouble, but most of all were the surprises over how things came up that just didn’t let themselves be nailed down without some kind of problem. Most of them were related to Sunday.

For example, I had pictured the cookie-baking effort towards peacemaking happening the day after the big blow-up with the slap. But the blow up definitely happened Saturday, and the day after would be Sunday. Not that one couldn’t make cookies on a Sunday (though I know some who wouldn’t), but Sharon’s first Sunday had other things that needed to happen, such as her declining to go to church with Agnes. So the cookie-making idea had to be pushed to Monday. Sharon’s doctors appointments were another thing that needed to be anchored down on logical dates that spring.

Sharon’s grandmother told her how many weeks it would be until her track-driving father would be back in town. So when would that happen? The date of the meeting in Alec Thorne’s law office controlled the date Sharon started looking for a job, so that all had to be coordinated. I’ve finished the effort now, up through where I’ve done the revisions, but not beyond. I have yet to figure out and nail down the rest of the dates as I go along (except for Mother's Day, which is a given),and I look forward to finally having a birth date for Sharon’s baby.

Ooh! I just thought of another issue to check. Between the blizzard at the time of Sharon’s return to the day she reflects by the river, is there enough time for the snow to melt? I just checked and—whew! there is.