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Keeping Track - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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Writing Skills

Novels are long and complicated.  By the time I’d written episode four of mine, I found myself leafing through earlier chapters to refresh my memory of simple encounters and description.  Was Ginger a redhead?  Did the Professor find the alien artifact, or was it the Captain?

Searching back through my work wastes valuable time but, if I rely on my fuzzy memory and get it wrong, the story would continue forward in the wrong direction.  It is easy to change a blonde to a redhead during the edit.  It might take days to modify the sequence of action if an important event and the immediate aftermath were remembered incorrectly.  

Many authors compose a summary of each chapter as they write.  This provides information that might be required later.  Here is an example of one:

Billy Trapp (40)(Graying brown hair)  and Tinny Parker (38) find a bat with a hawks head.  Rachael is their aging white ferret.  Rocky is their gray haired cat.  Rocky does not like thunder.  

A wormhole appears.  Bill and Tinny go to her parent’s house (they are on vacation in Florida) on Clarence Street just outside of Bellville.  Something crashes into the garage.  It is August.  Tinny’s brother (not present) is named Chuck.

It is a sunny afternoon.  Bill cracks open the pod found in the garage.  Inside is a small, furry and dead alien.  He meets the neighbors – Ida and Jake Henderson, an elderly couple.  They meet Ted, the RCMP constable and other officials.  In the end short aliens capture our people.

Although these outlines are short, complicated chapters may require as much as half a page.  They are filled with names, physical descriptions, timelines, character traits and a brief description of the action.  The summary is intended only for you; it can be in point form and as cryptic as you like.  Don’t go into too much detail; that will defeat the summary’s purpose.  

The summary is a valuable tool and, unless you have a photographic memory, it will be used often.

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