Notes on Editing: Consistency in Timeline and Characters

Copyright Terry Bain:

Lately I’ve been increasingly frustrated with my work-in-progress (WIP). It’s like every time I get one problem figured out, another rears its ugly head. 

Perhaps one of the reasons I’m so challenged with my current WIP is because I never outlined when I began writing it. I’ve outlined since my first draft, and plotted endlessly. However, I’ve also made plot adjustments and added new thoughts, scenes, characters, etc. So in the end, I feel overwhelmed by the changes and hopelessly frustrated by the timeline. 

I’ve found one way that allows me to keep this all straight in my mind, and breaks my editing up into shorter chunks, so I thought I’d share. 

  1. I’ve broken down and titled the scenes in my WIP by character and select just those scenes in Scrivener.
  2. Looking at only those scenes, I read through them--quickly--looking for timeline issues as well as character issues. Is the character of Joe being consistent throughout the novel? Or halfway through, is he showing characteristics that aren’t like him? *By timeline, I mean progression of events as well as dates and times of the novel. In Scrivener, I make comments on the side as I go, notes to myself to return to a certain paragraph or sentence later, or check on a fact later. (Note: I’m a compulsive editor, so big-picture edits are extremely difficult for me.)
  3. After a quick review of the character’s scenes, I go through and edit more closely. Taking only these scenes as a whole allow me to read just those events and make sure that everything for that character is smooth and consistent.

I don’t know whether this is an unorthodox solution to timeline issues and consistency in characters, or whether it’s old news. But I’ve struggled to find a way to keep track of important events keeping my characters consistent at the same time. This way, I can compare one scene with another and check for inconsistencies.

Also, it gives me a piece of editing that I can focus on without getting overwhelmed by the entire picture.