I am a visual person. In the way I learn, work through problems, consume books, and comprehend things. I enjoy the audio part of experiences, but the visual is more important for me. So recently I started contemplating how to tackle the problem with editing my novel.
First I’ll explain how I wrote my novel, and the problems that have surfaced while editing. I started the novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where the goal is to start a novel and write 50,000 words in the month of November. My novel starts in the year 1785 and moves through time to the present. Due to the time constraints, I wrote it in chronological order feeling it was the easiest way to get started. And to be honest, at the time, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to sift in the parts that happened in the past throughout the book, or to proceed with how the events occurred through time.
However, once I started editing I realized I wanted my present day characters to make an appearance early on to help the reader get connected with them and feel involved with the story, as opposed to being introduced to new characters every few chapters. I reasoned that if a reader started to form an attachment to a character just to be introduced to new characters a chapter or two later, they might get frustrated and put down the book.
To resolve this issue I removed chapters two through twelve from the front of the book, and I plan to weave them in later in the story. Thus, my problem began. I’m trying to figure out where to insert these. I needed a visual representation of the book summarizing each chapter, so I could start figuring out where to insert the eleven I had cut.
I thought about mapping out the chapters on my wall, or on a big poster board, but I really needed something that was portable and that I could easily glance at while sitting in front of my computer.
That’s when I created a Chapter Map. I’m sure there are other clever names people call projects like this, but this is the name I chose. As you can see from the picture, it’s a grid with a brief summary of the main events in each chapter. I’ve written the date and location above each summary to keep track of the scenes. I wrote them on sticky notes, so when I start inserting chapters, I can easily move them around. I even started color coding each one. The teal writing represents an event from the past. Gray represents the main town where the characters live, and the red represents events that occur in the forest bordering my town.
It is a rather simple grid that helps me see events in my story and where they are taking place. And while it’s quite simple, it’s already helped me immensely. Since I like sharing tips and tricks I’ve learned or made up along the way, I have the template for the Chapter Map for anyone who would like to see it or use it. Each box within the grid is labeled with a chapter number. They’re not visible in the picture, because they are under the sticky notes, but they help me keep my chapters organized as I move them around.
Here are my questions for you today: Have you created anything to visually represent your story or novel? Whether it’s a timeline, or note cards to represent the highs and lows of your plot, I’d love to hear what you do. What little tricks help you when trying to rearrange scenes?