Ep 149 How to write stories with different timelines. And should your write under different pen names for different genres?

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podcast-artworkIn this minisode of So you want to be a writer: Layne wants to know about how to write stories with different timelines. And Bohdi asks whether he should write under different pen names for different genres.

Got a question for Val and Al? Ask at podcast [at] writerscentre [dot] com [dot] au

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Review of the Week
From Megan:

I started listening to Al and Val a little over a year ago. Full of humour, their insights into the world of writing, publishing, and blogging have been extremely helpful. Their combined experiences, along with weekly author interviews, and Allison’s weekly Author Platform Building tips have been invaluable to me in my own writing, and building my author platform BEFORE my book comes out. Thank you so much. They have me in stitches at times, nodding in agreement, or going, ‘Wow! I’m so glad that I know that now.’ I can’t wait to hear what Allison and Valerie have for us in 2017. I’m excited!

Thanks, Megan!

Listener Questions

Layne asks:

Hi Valerie and Allison

Firstly, I’d just like to you let you know that I’ve recently completed my 30-day boot camp as part of the Make Time to Write course. I added just under 26,000 in that time, so thank you, Allison for devising this highly effective course. More than just effective — it’s perfect.

Now, to my question: my novel covers two timelines in the main character’s life: her childhood (chiefly her school years) and her adult life, where we see her as a wife and a mother, facing some very challenging times. The timelines alternate throughout the story, though in no precise way — a childhood chapter here, followed by two or three adult chapters, then maybe a number of childhood episodes, or perhaps a very long one, before we go back to a chapter or three in the adult timeline, etc.While they don’t follow a rigid, childhood/adult/childhood/adult pattern, they occur, obviously, in an order that informs the major plot points and subplots of the story as they unfold, to help us understand the character and the decisions she makes along the way.

However, what seems to be happening to me as I write is that I’ll get really into the ‘groove’ of one of the timelines, let’s say the childhood years, and then five or even six chapters will come out at once. Then I begin to worry I’m losing touch with the adult timeline, so I’ll write another 10,000 words there. And back and forth I go, as ideas present themselves to me. So I’m not writing in a chapter one, followed by chapter two, followed by chapter three format. I’m writing scenes and chapters as they occur to me — and they DO occur to me, at the oddest times. So I attack those scenes/chapters immediately as I worry I will forget them, and thus lose good material. So now, as it stands, I’ve currently got nearly 60,000 words of chapters all over both timelines.

Is this a mistake? Should I be trying to write in an order that might approximate the order of the finished book?

My plan has always been to assemble the chapters into some kind of ‘order’ down the track, once the bare bones (first draft?) of the story are done. But by writing in this way — chapters here and there across two different timelines, am I running the risk of:

  • writing two separate stories
  • writing timelines that will be difficult to meld together into a cohesive story
  • writing thousands of words that I will have to jettison down the track because they don’t ‘fit’ logically together within the story?

I hope you can comprehend what I’m getting at? In essence, I guess my question is: is writing discrete chapters and episodes an advisable practice, or should I try to assemble my inspiration/thoughts/scenes/chapters according to a Chapter One…Chapter Two…The End format.

Gosh, I’m so sorry it has taken me so many words to ask my question. Thank you for your wonderful podcast and your fantastic courses, and I really hope you can make some sense of my rambling question??

Valerie and Allison answer your question in the podcast.

Bodhi asks:

Hi Valerie and Allison,

Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I want to write adult literature, young adult, children’s and fantasy (also screenwriting). My concern is that publishers won’t want a diverse author.

Would you advise writing under different pseudonyms for different genres (like J.K. Rowling for the Potter series, but as Robert Galbraith for her crime fiction)? Or would you advise writing everything under the same name?

I find I’m too scared to even think about writing any other genre than YA (which I’m writing now) because of the boundaries I imagine to be there. So all these ideas are simply stuck in a folder, waiting to be pursued.

Love the podcast. I’m quite new to it so I have a lot to catch up on!

Regards,

Bohdi

Val and Al answer these questions in this minisode. We hope you find this useful! If you have a question, email us at: podcast [at] writerscentre [dot] com [dot] au

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podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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