Dating… when is the story set?

I’ve mentioned before that I have been writing for many, many years without publishing success. I read some published authors and think, without being immodest, that what I’ve written is not just better than their book sitting in my hands, but a great deal better. I see their work on the shelves of book shops and think if only… Over the years I’ve tried to get my work published, I’ve had agents, I’ve written countless letters, sent many manuscripts and synopses and sample chapters. But never mind, writing is my passion, I do it because I love doing it, I love telling stories.

Me and Frankie working in the garden, I wonder what we were writing in those days?

As you can see from my list of novels, I have many waiting to hit the Kindle, but most of them were written some time ago, sometimes many years ago. Now, do they stand the test of time? Well, yes, some of them do; I have grown as a writer, matured and developed, obviously I have and it shows in some of my work. That is one thing; the other thing is technology…  When I wrote ‘Flipside,’ there were no mobile phones and no personal computers and it is somewhat crucial to the plot that Jaz the heroine is stranded without being able to call for help.

So what to do? When I edit my novels do I rewrite them? That would take me forever and I have new stories to tell, new books to write. So if I just edit them to make them the best they can be as they are, do I update them? Well, no, because then all sorts of dilemmas and difficulties would not have arisen in the plot if there had been email and texting and Google. So I have to somehow date them so the reader isn’t left pondering why the characters did not just check out something on the net.  However,  I cannot abide great clunking inserts of dates; for example in the book I am reading at the moment, halfway through  a chapter, the author, who shall be nameless, writes “In November 1918, the war which had drawn in nations from every corner of the globe, came to an end…” and then the narrative carries on. Could we not have learned of the date in a more subtle way?

In my novels ‘Farholm’ and ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov,’ the characters use mobile phones, but on the whole technology is low-key; I did wonder whether to include some current event to date the events, but then it didn’t seem important and readers might pick up that they were set in the early 2000s by the fact people smoke in public places. In ‘Loving Judah’ which I’m working on at the moment Aislin could easily have found out many truths if she had simply gone to an internet café. However, that would have changed the plot so again, I’ve glossed over it.

When I come to edit ‘The Double Act’ for publication I am going to have to make some changes because I will need to tell my readers very firmly that it is set in the 1990’s… watch this space to see how I manage to do it without any clunking!


  1. SoundEagle

    Hi Lois,

    It would seem that even authors have to build in obsolescence in their stories and characters.

    I feel that the pace of social change and the increasing human population have caused everything to be cramped out of existence and to recede into the past, into oblivion, into historical junkyards.

    Happy October to you!


    1. Lois

      And a very happy October to you too! It is a month of many family and friends birthdays… oh and my wedding anniversary too!
      I agree totally with your comment… ‘historical junkyards’, I like that!


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