Tag Archives: Writing a Book

Developing a Timeline


Developing a Timeline.

Today I’m going to share a powerful — yet simple– tool that has improved the “big picture” of my story.

My timeline is a simple spreadsheet – Dates form the column headers, and the rows are free form, used for tracking developing threads and storylines.


Since I’m already well into my first draft, I have dropped scenes/actions from my growing story into it. It’s already helped me track the complex and various themes/undercurrents at work. I’ve found some gaps to fill in, and believe I could have overlooked them by just reading back through what I’ve written. The timeline should result in a stronger, better story by helping me hit all my marks, and keep me from wandering too far off the story in dialog and scenes.

The spreadsheet helps visualize the components and characters of the story, and has helped me to see how they can weave together better. For example, I’ve already seen where earlier insertion of a character into the story eliminated the need for backstory later, and found opportunities for dropping bread crumbs and background hints that will tie together later on.

Early in the outlining process for this novel, I developed a timeline for my character back stories, and it was extremely helpful. I thought through what drives my players. But using a timeline for the main story just seemed too complex.  Building it now , I can now see how it’s a great tool to use while writing, and imagine revising will benefit as well.

Many writers prefer using sticky notes– or 3×5 cards– pinned/taped to a board or wall that serves the same function as a spreadsheet.  Personally, I’m not disciplined enough for that, and find a spreadsheet is much more forgiving.  I love the flexibility a spreadsheet offers.  For instance, I’ve just decided it would be helpful to color code Point of View into the timeline. I  believe it will help me examine which character has the best POV for the action/scene unfolding.

Do you have tools, tips, tricks or suggestions that help you develop your story?I’d love to hear from you.


I’m adding this to my “Lessons learned” list!

16.  Develop a Timeline for your Story. A spreadsheet, or sticky notes/3×5 cards can be used to see the character interactions, story development, plot line and twists, and help you see the “bigger picture” of the story you are writing as it will unfold for the reader. Simple and powerful tool to keep your writing on track and coherent!


To see all the lessons to date, click here:   Go to Lessons I’m Learning….




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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Writing the Book


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2014 – What a Year for Change

When the days are short and the weather cold, it is a our tradition to reflect on changes the year about to pass has brought, and to give thanks.

As each year closes, we have been amazed at blessings that have continued to shower on us, and we give praise to the Lord who has made each of our years better than the last.

This is not to say  there aren’t challenges and setbacks. This year has blown by in most respects. Amidst health issues and inevitable and unplanned expenses,  I was able to retire from my “day job” in mid October and joined my husband in his leather business full time. While only a couple months into that transition,  we are extremely happy with it.

I had two major plans for 2014: retiring, and my book writing project, “The White Haired Shooter.”

Both these plans underwent a multitude of twists and turns during the year, and a quote attributed to Woody Allen really fits:

 “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”

I started blogging in January of 2014, with articles that form the information base for the book,  and by early summer had established a fairly solid direction and felt ready to start putting the book together.

To better prepare myself, I began studying the process of writing, publishing, and marketing. Part of my studies involved taking part in “flash fiction” events and contests, and I got hooked on learning the dynamics of story writing.  That process rekindled  a bookworm’s childhood dream of writing books myself – and I suppose, on the brink of second childhood, that’s poetic timing!

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I am still writing.  I have down-sized the scope of the original how-to book, and began writing a novel that illustrates the challenges, progress, and integration of self defense – in particular guns- in the lives of three mature women.  One of the women just happens to have a how-to book designed to help the mature woman learn to shoot, and, da da da daaaaa, it is written by yours truly, the White Haired Shooter. (Funny how that worked out, eh?)

Haven’t figured out how to market the how-to book part yet, but entertaining a few ideas, and having a blast doing it.

Quite a change from my original intent. But I like to think, a better approach.  There are many training manuals, videos and classes available for women these days, to just write one without any “real” credentials – other than I am a mature woman, I shoot, and have assisted in training others – isn’t much of a platform to launch from.

The audience I am targeting (all right, I’ll try to control the puns) is the mature woman, and her decision whether or not to learn to shoot a gun as part of self defense. That is so much more than just the basics of pulling a trigger and learning proper grip, and is the primary aim  (okay, I promise that’s the last one) of the White Haired Shooter.  I had an epiphany, taken straight from my study of fiction:

 SHOW don’t TELL

And that’s what Sylvia, Laura and Pat, the main characters of the novel, are doing.  I believe it’s got the potential to entertain while informing, and be far better than trying to integrate that theme into a how-to manual alone.

This project will take longer than I ever imagined, but I am excited about the different levels and opportunities  opened up by basing the mature woman’s experiences and challenges in a work of fiction.

As a major part of  “getting schooled,” I am once again side-tracking, this time by writing a couple of novels based on short stories I wrote during the summer.  I feel better “practicing”  with them, and then bringing new skills to the main book(s).

Blogging, unfortunately, will be inconsistent for some time. With the changes retirement has brought, and working our own business, I have a lot of adjusting to do.  Old schedules have been tossed, and new ones haven’t yet – if ever – been formed.  God only put so many hours into a day, and they do fly by when we’re having so much fun!

Finally, and from the heart, here’s wishing you and yours have a wonderful holiday season and a blessed New Year!


~~  Peggy

The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter


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Back to Basics – Punctuation

Way past time I take punctuation seriously.  These two tomes have moved up on my study list:




Reluctantly –  with worry lines furrowing my brow – I am studying basic punctuation.  It has been brought to my attention that I overuse, misuse, and frivolously use my nemesis:


I admit, I never paid attention to the correct use of that punctuation mark in school or since.  Years ago I studied medical transcription, and I nailed 97% of the course. My downfall: that dang comma. I was torn apart by the teacher for being oblivious to this basic form of punctuation. She was baffled.  More recently, I lost points in a writing contest for comma transgressions. The judge gave me 100% on everything else, but on punctuation: 50%. Once again, comma mucking ruined my chances.

I had hoped to slip out the back door on this issue during my lifetime, but it is becoming obvious I am going to have to work through this.   I have overcome other areas, and this too will come (I hope).

I just need to find the proper motivation. With the Lord’s grace.

I have subscribed to the “put ’em wherever they feel right” method, and I am now becoming “comma-phobic.” My eyes glaze over, and I can only manage to skim read through the examples. Makes me feel downright silly, it does!  (also over use exclamation points, and just avoid semi-colons).

There, confession is good for the soul.  My new year’s resolution is to the master the COMMA.

So far, I have been pleasantly surprised as I re-read (or more truthfully, first time I didn’t skim read)  “The Elements of Style.”  I found it easy to read and even interesting. Amazing.

The Chicago Manual of Style, however, is still a blur!


— Peggy


The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter


Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Writing the Book


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It’s official! I have joined the ranks of the retired. Actually just changed vocations, will now be working full time alongside hubby in his leather business.

It’s been just two days, but I definitely feel more relaxed and have more energy. I am no longer pulled in different directions. I like!

Update on the book:  I am working on developing  depth in the main characters, and have outlined quite a bit of the story.  I am still working through a couple of books on fiction and novel writing, and putting what I learn into some unrelated short stories for “practice.”  The actual “White Haired Shooter” non-fiction book is starting to take on more shape.

I’m am very excited about this project, and will keep posting my progress here.

— Peggy


The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter

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Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Writing the Book


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An Update on The White Haired Shooter


I’ve been stretched for time, having to choose what I want to do with the waking hours these past few months! This blog has been one of those things in my life’s pile of “gotta do’s” – along with the housework!  Both are very important to me, just haven’t figured out how to expand the hours and minutes the good Lord has blessed me with to fit it all in.

Retirement from my “day job” is scheduled for the middle of October, and unexpectedly taking more brain cells than I expected. Suddenly the owners of the company are paying attention to my departure, and I am doing a lot of training!  Glad to see the years I put in were valuable to them, but it’s kind of exhausting. While my hours at “work” have been greatly reduced, it is taking me most of the day before I go in and the day after I complete my duties there to recover.  Who knew!

Continuing with my efforts of getting my writing skills up to speed, and in the process I have come to some profound decisions on the structure of the book.

I am still putting together a nuts and bolts “handbook” of shooting aimed (hahaha) at the mature woman, but I have decided to fictionalize most of discussion of the issues a mature woman faces – from the fears and physical issues involved in deciding to own a gun and learning to shoot, to some of the more basic components of finding classes, need for practice, etc. In other words I want to “SHOW” rather than “TELL” the narrative underlying issues, and develop a few characters to help with that. Also planning on a “twist” of having the WhiteHaired Shooter as character in the book, and present the training manual along with the story…  Least that’s where I am heading. They will be separate, but integrated.  What I don’t want to end up with is a “training manual” that might sell, but very few of my target audience want to read it all the way through. By presenting (hopefully) an engaging story, I want my characters to speak and help reach my readers. Entertain while educating.

I never did approach life in a straight line manner, zig and zag has always been my rather warped style!  Don’t know why I expected anything different, especially since I released my inner child from her bondage!

So, back to sharpening the skills and the pencils! Story arcs, plot twists, character development, and writing lots of unrelated flash fiction and short stories for practice!  And somehow keep a log of my journey in this blog. I’m thinking and hoping that the actual retirement mid-October will assist in that!

Back to hitting the books!

— Peggy


The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter

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Posted by on September 30, 2014 in Writing the Book


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Self Editing For Fiction Writers, by Browne & King


This book is an amazing resource! It’s been around since 1993, and I picked up a used copy on Amazon for about $4.

Working my way through it now, and if you haven’t heard of it or read it, and you write fiction, or are learning to write fiction, I would recommend it!

Any one else out there read/studied this?

Do you have any other gems you’ve come across?


— Peggy


The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter


Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Writing the Book


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Learning the Craft

I am sure those who have been writing for years, and particularly those who are published, have read a lot of statements by “aspiring writers” that provide a good chuckle.

One statement from many unpublished writers, is that writing a novel is “easy.” And I believe it can be! Words flow in torrents from the brain to the finger tips!

But is it any good?

Is it captivating?

Does “clever” use of language alone grip a reader and carry a plot?

Are the characters believable and have depth so the reader loves (or hates) them?

Does it have what it takes to stand out from among all the other novels/books available?

Why would anyone want to read it, even if it is self published?

Writing is both an ART and a CRAFT.

The ART part (the flowing words mentioned above) may indeed come easy to some fortunate few.  Many books are written by “novice” or “newbie” writers relying on pure talent and bravado.  Some are excellent, some not so much. Writing the “next one” is where the well often goes dry, and the struggle begins; or alternatively a long list of poor plots and characters begins.

But ART alone, and having a fair grasp of grammar, large vocabulary, and an ability to organize and present language won’t cut it in the long run.

That’s where the CRAFT of writing comes in to play. Honing the craft comes from experience and training (only rarely is it a gift.) It must be learned and earned. The tricks and tools of the trade, along with rules and guidelines exist for good reason.

Personally, I’ve slowed down on the non fiction book a bit, and decided it’s time to take advantage of the amazing resources available to learn the craft. I’ve begun writing short stories and flash fiction while studying the craft side of writing, and taking advantage of some wonderful tools this age of the internet has bestowed upon us!

I believe that will affect the quality of my non fiction book as well!


— Peggy


The White haired Shooter

The White haired Shooter


Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Writing the Book


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