The one thing which I neglect and which I should make more effort to think about when I write is the time of year when it happens, and sometimes the actual dates that things happen in my books. Apart from one story, when the events had to take place within a two week period, time becomes elastic as I write.
In one story I wrote everything seemed to be set in the summer and then suddenly the plot needed it to be November 5th, Fireworks Night, Bonfire Night. I had to go back over what I had written and insert comments about the nights drawing in, blackberries ripening, leaves falling etc, to give the reader at least a clue that the narrative was progressing through autumn. In another novel, where the main character was a teacher, she suddenly seemed to be teaching for seven days in a row with no weekend; then I needed her to have a half-term but it didn’t fit in with the number of weeks since she had started the term and I had to insert an extra few weeks where nothing much happened in the plot.
When I wrote my first Radwinter novel, I did it as part of the National Novel Writing Month in 2013; on November 1st, my character started narrating his story:
Friday, November 1st 2013, evening
I knocked on Paul’s door and I must admit I felt rather glum; I shouldn’t have been surprised that Rebecca had something else to which involved the car, so I’d had to catch the bus. I’d asked if she could drop me off, but she said as we live on one side of Strand and Paul lives on the other, it wasn’t convenient as she was going in the other direction. I was so cross I didn’t even ask where she was going, and it was only as I sat on the number 403 that I wondered.
It was the first time I had consciously tried to set a date for when the events were happening; I wasn’t trying to write it as a diary. later as the events progressed in the novel, it became clear that the story-line would involve Christmas, and there was too much happening for it to fit in two months, so I revised it back, but really carefully looking at days and weekends etc. Eventually, when the story was finished its starting point was late September. Since then I have tried to be more aware of time, seasons and dates, but when my writing gets going, the narrative just flows, the characters take over and it’s only afterwards I go back and sort out the calendar!
If you haven’t read my novels, have a look here:
The novel which happened overa two week period is ‘Farholm’, the one about a teacher is ‘Flipside’ and the one which features a Firework Night is an unpublished story from twenty odd years ago which i am reworking, called ‘A Strong Hand From Above’ – that maybe the next one published!