Hate Outlines? Timeline!

Keeping the plot of a novel-length manuscript can be a challenge for the most organized of writers. If you, like me, aren’t naturally left-brained sequential, then it can be more of a headache because your mind doesn’t organize information in a stepwise fashion. Have you ever looked at your story and realize that everything is happening in one day? or two different things are going on in the same night?

Reading a manuscript that is disorganized is no fun, for obvious reasons; but what do you do when you don’t like or can’t write to an outline?

One tool is a timeline that simply tracks each chapter and includes a simple sentence or two as to the action that takes place. I find that I have a bad habit of putting all my action on one or two days, and using a timeline helps me straighten all that out and figure out the flow of the action.

Here’s an example from Rachel and I, the timeline from our book, Burning Bright:

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I don’t start using a timeline until I’m about 10,000 or 30,000 words into a project.  Once I have enough material to have a clear picture of the story, then I’m able to write down what I have and see where I am trying to go.

Another tool is to build a literal calendar:

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This is from an earlier draft of the book, when we first worked on sorting out when things happened.  It’s important for the flow of the story that the action ebb and flow, rather than clot and spurt.  The calendar can help you sort out who does what to whom when.

I hope whatever you use works for you.  Every writer is different.  But if you need some ideas for how to play with and reorganize your plots, I hope this generates some solutions for you.

Write on!

This post originally appeared on the now defunct Samhain Publishing blog, 01/28/2012.

A New Year’s Party – and a Giveaway!

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The party over at The Romance Studio is in full swing!  Throughout the weekend, I will be blogging on different topics – five posts a day! – as will the other participating authors.  We have prizes from each of us, and the grand prize is a $100 USD gift certificate to the online retailer Amazon.  If you like to read, then this is the party for you!

Friday the 13th!

  1. Happy New Year! and a State of the State
  2. Body Movement – Walking
  3. Body Movement – Get Help, Get a Trainer
  4. Body Movement – Get Help: Body Buddy
  5. Don’t Eliminate, Add – Five Colors!

Saturday the 14th

  1. Feed Your Mind – Writing Prompts
  2. Life of the Mind – How To Read a Book
  3. Morning Pages and Self-Dialog
  4. Meditation
  5. Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Sunday the 15th

  1. Family and Friends – a Birthday List
  2. Non-Bill Mail
  3. Renewal Weekly
  4. Crafts To Explore – Zen and the Art of Knitting
  5. Tarot and the Subconscious

Monday the 16th

  1. Kon-Mari
  2. Routine – Daily Round
  3. Simple Abundance
  4. Candles – Slow Down and Unplug
  5. Happy New Year!  The Writer Zen Garden

Write! Promptly! Writing Prompt! Free Workshop, Having Fun with Writing Prompts


Have you always wanted to write?  Are you already a writer, but stalled in getting words on the page?  Are you a working author who needs some exercises to keep limber?  Just looking for a good time?  ~leer~

Well, you’ve come to the write place.  Join me at Coffee Time Romance, the award-winning forum for readers and authors.  For the next two weeks, June 12th through June 25th, I’ll be your facilitator for “Having Fun with Writing Prompts.”  Together, we’ll play on the page, write a lot, and just keep ourselves occupied with words.  Lots, and lots, and lots of words.

Sound like fun?  Great!  Join me!

Coffee Time Romance Forum,
“Having Fun with Writing Prompts,”
Facilitated by A. Catherine Noon

Tue Cent Twosday – New Age Foo Foo

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I admit it. I read all sorts of stuff. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Stuff that defies description, but after you read it and someone asks you what you read, you’re all, “Um, stuff.”

When I was about fifteen, I got very curious in the nature of the soul and the existence of God. I blame this, appropriately enough, on my parents. (Isn’t everything their fault?) More specifically, it’s my dad. See, he studied to be a priest when he was in college. Nine years of becoming a Paulist Father (they’re the order involved with the media – television, radio, that kind of thing). He dropped out two months before he was to be ordained, citing significant philosophical uncertainty in the divinity of Christ.

All well and good, except that in first grade, my parents enrolled me in Catholic school.

Sorta confusing, you say? Tell me!

So what’s all this got to do with New Age Foo Foo? Well, when I was fifteen, my dad started studying Zen Buddhism. Now, when a man with a Masters in Philosophy, a B.A. in Theology, and a classical education decides to study something, they don’t fool around. Only trouble is, my dad doesn’t speak or read Japanese. Accordingly, copies of D.T. Suzuki and Lao Tzu started showing up all over his house. I asked him, “Dad, why do you have five – no, six – copies of Suzuki on the dining room table?” “Well, I’m studying Zen Buddhism. And I don’t read Japanese.”

“Um, Dad? These are all in English…?”

“Yes, dear.”

Why, Dad? Why do you have six copies of Suzuki in English, to study Zen Buddhism, because you don’t read Japanese?”

“Those are all by different translators.”

It was then that I began to understand Zen. A little.

I’m very proud of the fact that I did not once take a nerf bat to his head.

Thought about it, though.

“Okay. You have six copies of D.T. Suzuki, all by different translators, in English because you don’t read Japanese, because you’re studying Zen Buddhism. WHY?”

“Because it’s the only way I can get as close as possible to the original language. See, it’s like this. Each translator sees the language a little differently, so they translate it a little differently. By reading them and comparing them, I can get as close as possible to the original language without actually speaking Japanese.”

Ask a stupid question…

So we started discussing Zen Buddhism. At dinner. Over ice cream. While doing chores.

And you know what? That stuff is kind of interesting! I started to ask about theology in general, and we were off. We talked about Saint Thomas Aquinas, who interpreted the works of Aristotle for the Church, we talked about religious hysteria when I subscribed for a while to a magazine called The Plain Truth, we talked about God and concepts of deity…

Fast forward to college. I got interested in different religions and went to church or temple with anyone who would take me. In college, I met some Wiccans and got invited to come to a ritual with them. I was, naturally, interested. One of the books they gave me was by a woman named Anodea Judith, a Western-trained Jungian psychologist who became interested in Eastern healing modalities. She wrote a book called The Sevenfold Journey, which is a primer about the chakras for Westerners. I loved it! Set up like a workbook, it has exercises for people to try, all associated with the individual chakras. (If you don’t know what a chakra is, hold on, I’ll tell you.) It had journal exercises, of course, but what I like about it is it has physical ones too, and music, spirituality, all sorts of things. You don’t have to change your religion to go through it, either – it explains the concepts and gives you stuff to do and think about.

A chakra is an ancient Hindu concept, which roughly translates to “spinning wheel.” And no, I did NOT read six different texts by different translators to find this out; I’ll trust Anodea Judith’s definition. The idea is that we have these wheels in our body, associated with major intersections of nerves. This makes a lot of sense to me, actually, since nerves transmit electrochemical impulses. The idea that there is an ‘energy’ associated with that transmission seems plausible, since electricity is energy. There are several chakra systems, depending who you talk to. Judith teaches about seven major ones.

What does this have to do with writing?

Good question. Judith has a number of tools in her books, not just The Sevenfold Journey, that allow a person to ruminate on themselves and their place in the universe. I figure, I’ll snag one or two each issue and share my thoughts about them. If you want to try them in the privacy of your own morning pages, more power to you.

I won’t, though, translate for you.


This was originally posted on my now discontinued blog, Noonsense, 07/27/2010.

Luck O’ The Irish! Enter To Win $100 Gift Card and Other Prizes. Plus, Blog Posts from Noony!

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It’s that time o’ the year, me dears!  The St. Patrick’s Day Party at The Romance Studio!  You can enter to win a $100 USD gift card from the online retailer Amazon, books from Noon & Wilder and other fabulous authors, and read excerpts, recipes, stories and more!  Won’t you join us?

Here’s the links to my posts, so it’s easy to find.  Won’t you stop by and comment?  You’ll be glad you did, and I’ll feel the love.  What could be better?

Happy reading!

Sunday, March 13th

(Note – I don’t have any posts on the 12th due to a family emergency, but there is plenty of content from my fellow authors so don’t be shy!)

  1. Daylight Savings Time and a Fairy Tale
  2. Coming In April – the A-Z Challenge. Where’s YOUR Alphabet?
  3. Movie Night with the Nice Girls Writing Naughty
  4. The Honey Pat
  5. Pysanky!

Monday, March 14th

  1. Crafts and Stress – Why *Else* Do You Think I Knit?
  2. From the Tip of the Pen – Work In Progress, Excerpt M/M Romance
  3. Mini Vacations – Galena!
  4. Myths and Modern Life
  5. Coffee!

Tuesday, March 15th

  1. Tiger by the Tale
  2. Calendaring and Color
  3. Journaling
  4. The Joy of Baths
  5. Kids and Chores

Wednesday, March 16th

  1. Another World – Why Make It Up? (with an Excerpt, M/M Romance, Mild Heat)
  2. Cooking and Food Porn
  3. What’s Next – Sapphire Dream (Excerpt, M/M Romance)
  4. The Music of Persis – Beats Antique
  5. In the Future – Seekers and Mystery

Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day!

  1. Plausible Premise – M/M and Lamiae
  2. Have Fun With It (M/M Excerpt)
  3. What’s Next for the Emerald City Shifters – Sealed by Duty (M/M Excerpt)
  4. Fun Stuff – A to Z
  5. Movie Night – and Thank You!


Wandering Around the Web – Two for Thursday



Join me at the Torquere Press LiveJournal for a Field Trip to the Field Museum!

It’s one of my favorite museums, and it’s open free during February to Illinois residents!  Some writer buds and I went last weekend and I have the pictures to prove it! 🙂  Join me!


Join me on LinkedIn for a discussion about Triberr and some ways to use it.

Triberr is an effective tool to boost your reach and I chat about some of the ways I’ve been using it.  Join me!

A Writer In Her Library

2016-01-07 ACN Pic 1When I teach, students often ask me for books that I recommend.  I like Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict; The Building Blocks of Good Fiction.  Debra breaks down how good stories work and why, and helps us create compelling characters that will drive our story forward.

Her grids are helpful for evaluating our own stories and making them stronger.  I particularly like how she uses several popular movies as examples, and breaks down where they work and where they don’t.  It makes it easy to see her points and figure out how to apply them to our own writing.

Highly recommended.

Magic Monday – Fun with Prompts

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So, it’s like this.  I was noodling ideas for my Monday blog posts, and came up with an idea to share some of the goofy results from Prompt Circles over the past several years.  Today’s is about … well, you’ll see in a moment.  I entered “funny pictures dog bathtub” into Google, thinking I’d find something funny.

THIS poor sod is one of the first pictures that popped up and I think I pulled something laughing.

For those of you unfamiliar with Prompt Circles and writing prompts, a little explanation will help.  A writing prompt is designed to help germinate ideas, and can take many forms: a short statement, an image, a scent, a song… anything that will give the writer something to start from.  The Prompt Circles that I run in Writer Zen Garden are designed to be a group event where we share prompts, write for a set amount of time, (say ten or fifteen minutes), and then those who wish to, can share what they wrote.

A popular tool is called the Amazing Story Generator, which is a lot of fun to play with.  I’ve pasted details on it below the prompt, in case you want to try it out for yourself.  Without further ado, I give you:

Suffering from amnesia / a talking dog / refused to leave the bathtub


“Ralph, come on. You have to get out of that tub! Now!”

“Why? And who are you, anyway?”

“Oh, Ralph. I’m Louise.”

“Louise, come on. Just leave him in there.”

“Dad, you can’t. He’s gonna clog the drain!”

“Janey, don’t whine. And put your phone down; this does not need to go on Facebook.”

“Oh, Mom.”

“I’m hungry. Are you people part of my pack? Where’s the food?”

“Yes, hello? Animal Control? Harry, I got through. Yes, hello? This is Louis Hancock and six-two-five Crescent. The dog won’t get out of the tub.”

“Damn right I won’t. None of you will give me a straight answer. I’m hungry, too. Hey, is that a cat? I could eat a cat.”


“Yes, he’s a Siberian Husky, but he’s from Canada, not Siberia. He doesn’t have any Russian accent at all. What? Who? No, Harry’s from Poughkeepsie. The dog’s from Saskatoon.”

“Janey, your mother said no Facebook. Ralph, you may not eat the cat. You love that cat. You’ve known him since he was a kitten.”


2016-01-04 ACN Pic 1If this seems like fun to you, give it a try.  The Amazing Story Generator is a lot of fun.  You can use it with your family, your church or community group, or your writers group.  Or, give yourself a challenge and post the results on your blog.

Or, give it a try with this prompt.  Set your timer on your smartphone for ten minutes and see what comes out of your pen or keyboard.  Have fun!

If you’re near Chicago, join me in Writer Zen Garden:

The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Twitter | Meetup