Monday, December 3, 2012

What I need is a TARDIS!



I have to start with a disclaimer here. I don’t watch Dr. Who. Never have. But if you don’t know what a TARDIS is then you’re living under a rock. Now to the blog.

When I start a new book, one of the first things I determine is how much time the story will cover. My first MS covered about two and a half months. My second MS (which will be my debut release) only covers approximately two weeks. For me, writing a book I had to squeeze into two weeks was much easier to do.

With the current WIP (which will be my second release) I knew the story needed to cover six weeks. The impetus that gets the hero home to Anchor Island (which is the LAST place he wants to be – for good reason) is an issue that required a six week commitment on his part. So I had my story length and off I went.

But now there’s a problem. I’m about two thirds through the story and we’re only eight days in. 50,000 words and basically a week covered. That means I have about 35,000 words to write the other five weeks. I know I could condense a bit of time, but that’s A LOT of story and I’m not sure the reader would be happy if I went from day 8 to a month later.

I guess you could say I’m in a bit of a quandary, folks. But maybe I have an answer. Shorten the book.

Not the word count, of course, but the length of time covered in the story. I have a really good reason it might be cut short. The hero would have to make a really tough choice. The heroine already knows the current situation will end in six weeks so if it suddenly ended in three or four, she’d be devastated.

Heartbroken is what I need, so this could work. Of course that means I still have to fit two to three weeks into 35-40K words. I can do that. Maybe.

To the writers, ever found yourself in this kind of a pickle? Do you know going in how long your story will be or do you pants it and however long it takes, that’s how long it takes? If you do plan ahead, how do you decide how long it should be? To the readers, how do you feel about time lapses in books? Do you mind if the author jumps a week or two? Feel like you missed out on anything? Can you think of an example that worked for you?

21 comments:

quantum said...

If I have understood this, then you are writing the novel in real time. Each day in the book corresponds to one day of your life and one night in the book corresponds to one night of your life.

Terri, you cannot live your life like this! Life is unpredictable. That's the nature of the beast. Science dismissed determinism as bunk after Quantum theory was born ..... many years ago.

If you persist with this approach you definitely need a Tardis. Actually Paul Davis has written a guide to building a time travel machine. I haven't read it but think it requires black holes or worm holes. If you have any handy then do give it a try. But be prepared to end up in a different galaxy! LOL

quantum said...

Just read it again. I think you are mapping time in the story onto words on the page. That makes more sense to me .... just.

I have no problems with skipping forward or using flasbacks. Maureen wizzes about in time through 'The Kraken's mirror'

I think you should write the story as it comes to you. If it's too long in the end, then editing may be necessary. It's much easier to cut or condense than it is to expand .... at least with writing! LOL

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm in a time quandary right now too. My heroine gets pregnant but they have to be together long enough for that to happen. But I kind of gloss over it. I need to go back and give myself a better time frame. We'll see. One of MANY things I need to go back and fix in this book. LOL!!

This sounds great though, Ter!! I like the idea of her thinking she's got more time with him. I'd almost think she'd be mad too, if her time gets cut short. Lots of fun to mess with. :)

TerriOsburn said...

Q - It's like you're trying to communicate with me, I just know it. But I have no idea what language you're speaking. LOL! (The TARDIS was for the characters, dear. Not me. My brain particles are scrambled enough already.)

Marn - Your comment makes me realize I also need to have them together long enough to actually fall in love. Happened in 2 weeks in the first book so surely I can make that work in 4 weeks!

Janga said...

My first book takes place over nine months; the other two cover a year each. With the first book, I knew I wanted to start in May with a dead relationship and end in December with a renewed one, working against the conventional symbolism of seasons. With the others, I flew without a map, letting the story dictate how much time was covered. I did find when revising that I had to change some things so that I had the right flowers blooming for the season and moonrise occurring at the right time.

I haven't researched the question, but my instictive response is that most of the books I read cover from several months to several years. I'm bothered by time shifts only when they are abrupt with nothing in the story to prepare me for the change.

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - I figure I'll eventually have a story that covers a longer period of time. But I'm not very good at creating conflict so keeping a conflict up for a year sounds quite daunting.

For the time lapses I was thinking of some Nora Roberts books. Is it The Reef in which they're treasure divers? I think that one jumps months if not years until the couple gets reunited. The way Nora did it worked well.

MsHellion said...

Being I write my books like episodes from 24, yes, I know exactly your problem and I do it all the time. Commit the problem; I have no solutions obviously.

And I didn't know what a TARDIS was, so I'll back to my rock. Though I have watched some episodes of Dr. Who. David Tennant is kinda cute. :)

As a reader, if people who've NEVER met fall in love in a week, I don't believe it as much. But if they know each other from before, then I think it was like love in hiatus they weren't allowed to act on and now they can...so it will depend on the situation.

TerriOsburn said...

Makes note Hellie will not believe my first book.

How did you see some episodes and not know? I'd assumed it played a large role in each episode. LOL! But I could be wrong. I did include a picture up there.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Have to admit I've never planned out the timeframe but it seems like a total "Of Course I Should Do That" thing to me now!

P. Kirby said...

As will all things writing and plotting, I never have any idea how long a story will take. But, since my stories are often structured roughly like mysteries, they run a couple of weeks. OTOH, I agree that couples falling in love in a week or two can feel unrealistic. This type of timeline can be challenging when you're building a relationship.

My tendency is to write one day at a time, and hence, I too end up with a lot of words on the page and only a few days have passed.

I'm sort of struggling with this in the space opera WIP, because it's supposed to be more epic in scope. Somehow a week doesn't really work in this context.

OTOH, I don't see any reason not to to have days- or weeks-long gaps. Given your genre, I guess you have to have h/h on page together most of the time. In reality, dating couples may go several days, maybe even a week or two, apart, due to...life. Folks travel, they get sick, they have minor personal crisis, etc. All of which can eat up time. (I do have a four-day gap where my heroine is recuperating from injuries.)

Alternately, they could have a period of non-conflict, where they're just dating, enjoying each other's company, etc. That goes on for a week or so. And then things blow up. But the calm before the storm could be mostly relegated to a few paragraphs of exposition. Or you could write one cute/funny/lovey-dovey scene that typifies their time together and pretty much say..."and this continued until...[bad shite happened]"

But, yes, I totally relate to this problem. Since this fall into my weak zone - plotting - I don't have much in the way of advice.

TerriOsburn said...

Pat - Thanks to my island being teeny tiny and the H/H working together daily, it almost required I write every day. Which I don't usually do. Even in the last book that covered a couple weeks I skipped a couple days here or there.

I do have an idea to kind of "sum up" a week when they were happy and frolicking between the blankets. No reason to write the details of that stuff. Just hints here and there to see them really falling for each other.

Maureen said...

I like the week sum up sort of stuff. With my characters often being on a ship, you know there are times of just...sailing. And well, on a tourist destination island, there are going to be days of just dealing with the influx of customers...

As I wrote you last night, I have my couple held against their will in a room by a baddie. I have her recuperating from PTSD at one point and needing days where she doesn't go out... But all in all, I'm not against the 'four days later...' transition.

I see it all the time when I read, so you're on safe ground giving it a try!

Good for you that you know what a TARDIS is! ;-)

TerriOsburn said...

It's an acronym, right? I read somewhere what it stands for but I can't remember it now.

Maureen said...

Time and Relative Dimensions in Space - Sort more what it can do that what it is.

Maureen said...

Would be sorta like naming your car Wheels that travel on concrete...

irisheyes said...

Believe it or not this is the first problem that confronts me when I sit down to write. I never see anyone discuss it but I'm always trying to figure out how much time is going to pass between beginning to end and how to write it out. Because of that, I pay a lot of attention to it in the books I read. Being the perfectionistic person that I am, I like a definitive answer before I can move forward. Just another reason for me to procrastinate. LOL

What I've found: like most things there is no right or wrong, black or white answer. As with anything else, it's all in the hands of the writer. A good writer can accomplish anything. I would have told you years ago I wouldn't believe a romance could bloom in a day, a week, a month, etc. I've read books where all of the above has happened and I believed! LOL

I like the summation of what has happened over a few days or a weeks worth of time. When you think about it, it's very easy to do. When you're building a relationship you don't see each other every day. People have jobs, families, friends - other things to occupy their time and glossing over all of those things in a paragraph or two is perfectly acceptable.

So, I say as long as there is an explanation as to why the time has or hasn't elapsed you can pull off just about anything time wise.

MsHellion said...

I don't remember them calling it a "TARDIS"--they might have used the whole phrase, but I don't remember. I was more into the STORY itself than how they were traveling. For me, they were traveling in a blue phone booth thing. Worked for Bill & Ted--who was I to complain?

TerriOsburn said...

Irish - I often use holidays. Not sure why. First book is the couple of weeks before Memorial Day. The island is a tourist attraction so I know the tourists would pick up on that weekend. This was a way to show the island before the wave of people hit.

The second book (my WIP) is the end of the summer and meant to end at Labor Day. But now I realize it has to end well before that. Which I think will make the book much better.

I don't always do the time thing first, but I do decide it before I start writing. Usually. I need that frame to center the story in my mind.

TerriOsburn said...

Hellie, no explanation necessary. And I totally forgot about Bill & Ted. That movie was so classic.

MsHellion said...

I don't think I've seen Bill & Ted in full either. I know I've seen pieces. Again, a product of my Amish upbringing.

Speaking of Amish, there is a new show coming on Discovery channel (I think) called AMISH MAFIA. I nearly fell out of my chair on Sunday upon seeing the commercial.

Maureen said...

I know, I wonder what their weapon of choice is... Shun Guns?