Do the Timelines In Your Novel Make Sense?

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By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

The timelines in my first novel didn’t work. The written analysis from my freelance editor pointed out dozens of timelines that weren’t realistic; for example, my main character travelled large distances in an absurdly short period of time, the setting (especially the weather) didn’t fit the time of year, and on and on.

We writers are usually so intent on getting the story down on paper that it’s easy to overlook these small details. But even though these problems may seem minor in the scheme of things, they will, if unaddressed, chip away at the quality of your novel.

Check Your Timelines Before You Submit Your Manuscript

It’s a good idea to check the timelines in your manuscript before you submit it to an editor, agent, and/or publisher. The following method works for me:

  1. Write an outline of your manuscript.
  2. Break the outline down into chapters.
  3. In the margin, write down the dates for each chapter (e.g., March to April 2017).
  4. Write your first draft, following the descriptions and dates in your outline.
  5. After you finish writing your first draft, write a second chapter by chapter outline of your manuscript, and include the timelines. Quite often, this outline will differ from the outline you created before you started writing your first draft. Ask yourself the following questions: Does the action fit into the timelines in this chapter? Are the physical details appropriate for the time period? (For example, would you expect to see flowers at this time of year?)
  6. If the timelines (and details) in your first draft don’t work, note the changes that you need to make in the margin of your second outline.
  7. After you’ve written your second, third, and fourth drafts, check your timelines again.

Once you’re happy with your timelines and polished your manuscript, it’s time to submit it.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from ( and Indigo Books and Music ( Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at


Have No Time to Write?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at‪ 

If you’re like most people, your life is busy, filled with work, home chores, and family responsibilities. But you also need some time to work on your novel. What can you do?

Set Small Writing Goals

If your writing time is limited, try setting small writing goals. Some ideas:

  • Decide how quickly you want to write or rewrite a single chapter (for example, one chapter per week).
  • Then decide how many days per week you can write. Three or four days per week might be realistic for some people.
  • Next, decide how much time you have to write on those days (e.g., one or two hours).
  • Set realistic goals for each writing session. For example, you might try writing just one or two scenes or three to six pages during a single session.

The Results Add Up!

These goals might seem ridiculously small, but the results really add up! If, for example, you write one chapter per week, you’ll end up with four chapters per month. That means, if your novel has twenty-eight chapters, you can finish one draft of your manuscript in seven months.

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Exactly two hours on the round clock
Exactly two hours on the large round clock

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from ( and Indigo Books and Music ( Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at

Writing the Dark Novel

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

My first novel, recently published, was a joy to write. A lighthearted romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, it was a sweet and funny story built around two loveable characters. My second novel, which I am currently writing, is far different: it’s angry, cynical, and deeply sad. In other words, it’s a “dark” novel.

Why would anyone choose to write such a gloomy book? Lots of reasons . . . .

First, a dark novel gives a writer the golden opportunity to deal with real-life experiences, the sorts of everyday events that most people experience but rarely talk about. Trouble paying off a mortgage, disrespectful and abusive treatment from a boss, unruly children, parents who don’t understand your personal struggles . . . all of the hardships of modern life can become the foundation of a dark novel. Dark novels also offer intellectual challenges for writers, as their plots and characters tend to be more complex and harder to describe.

More importantly—at least from my point of view—the process of writing a dark novel forces a writer to confront the truth. By confronting certain hard realities I’ve had to face and by writing about them, I’ve been able to come to terms with my past and to help myself heal. Doing this takes courage, but the experience has been more deeply satisfying than I could have ever imagined.

It’s not easy to write a dark novel. Far too often, the dredging up of painful emotions leaves me depleted and depressed, and all I want to do is to abandon the novel once and for all. But I just can’t; the book is too powerful to run away from, and it’s crying out to be written. The journey hasn’t been easy so far, but it’s definitely worth taking.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪  Kathleen’s first novel, Love Is the Punch Line, a midlife romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, is available NOW, in trade paperback and ebook from ( and Indigo Books and Music ( 

Visit the Love Is the Punch Line Media Room at

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Preparing to Launch Your First Novel

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

You’re finished writing (and perhaps editing) your first novel, you’ve set up your online platform . . . now what? Exactly what do you have to do to publish, sell, and market your book?

You draw up a schedule filled with tasks and deadlines to keep you on track. Here’s a very brief—and definitely incomplete—schedule that a novelist might follow:

  • Month 1: Submit your manuscript to literary agents.
  • Month 4: Follow up with agents.
  • Month 5: If you haven’t yet found an agent, submit your manuscript to book publishers.
  • Month 8: Follow up with publishers.
  • Month 9: If you haven’t found an agent or a publisher, you might consider self-publishing your book. If you choose this route, set a publication date and apply for an ISBN (or two ISBNs if you’re publishing both an ebook and print book). You can also choose to register copyright for your book. Once you have this information, create cover copy and a title page in Word. Next, hire a cover designer.
  • Months 10 to 12: Once you’ve hired a cover designer, ask him or her to create Advance Review Copy (ARC) and final versions of the cover for both the print book and the ebook. Be sure to add the ISBN to the back cover. Hire a formatter for the ebook and print book.
  • Months 13 to 14: Using a program such as CreateSpace, print several copies of the ARC version of the book; be sure to use the ARC version of the cover. Search for prospective reviewers to review your book before it’s published. Ask the reviewers to email their reviews to you and send them the ARC copies as soon as you receive them in the mail.
  • Month 15: Follow up with the ARC reviewers to see if they received their books. Contact PR firms for blog tours; if they turn you down, consider creating your own blog tour.
  • Month 16: Finalize plans an set up a schedule for the blog tour.
  • Months 17 and 18: Place ads for your book and start the blog tour. At the conclusion of the tour, email each blog to thank them for participating.
  • Month 19: Email ARC reviewers who have not yet sent their reviews to you.
  • Month 20: First, publish the ebook. Next, publish the printed book; be sure to use the final version of the cover and text, not the ARC versions. Add the reviews (from the ARC reviewers) to your book pages on Amazon and Goodreads. Announce the publication of your novel on your social media accounts (author webpage, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and add your book’s cover, blurb, and link to its purchase page on Amazon to your author site. Finally, send a personal email to the ARC reviewers to thank them.

Then write your next novel and start the process all over again!

Kathleen Jones’ first novel, a midlife comic romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, will be published in April 2018 by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC. Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at   or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪ 




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The Best Bloggers for New Indie Novelists

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist. Please sign up for free updates at ‪ 

Are you a new indie novelist wondering how to publish, market, and promote your novel? Wonder no more! These bloggers are here to help:

  • Jane Friedman: The mission of Jane Friedman, a former publisher of Writer’s Digest, is to educate writers on all aspects of the publishing industry. Topics covered by her award-winning blog: how to publish your book; how to self-publish your book; writing a novel synopsis; how to find a literary agent for your book; should you hire a professional editor; 5 WordPress themes for professional authors. Visit her at



  • Booklife is Publishers Weekly’s site for indie authors. The site provides guidance on topics such as writing tips, marketing, design, and social media, and includes profiles of indie authors, all at


  • Writer’s Digest’s blog is a treasure trove of information for new novelists, covering everything from literary agent listings and ideas on how to combat author anxiety to writing successful query letters and tips for getting rid of writer’s block, all at


  • Author Jody Hedlund provides guidance to fellow writers on such subjects as stalled plots, tips for increasing your writing input, and ideas for staying motivated during the long process of writing a novel:


  • Indie Reader is the definitive resource for indie authors, covering indie books, authors, and independent publishing. Includes reviews of indie books. Visit




That’s just a brief sampling of the help available. Indie novelists, you are not alone!


Kathleen Jones’ first novel, a midlife comic romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, will be published in the spring of 2018 by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC. Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at

or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪ 




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Should You Write Your Novel “For the Market”?


By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist


According to popular wisdom, novelists who want to sell lots of books “should” write the types of books that most readers supposedly want to buy, principally fiction that falls within certain established genres such as romance, horror, and mystery.

On the surface, this advice makes a lot of sense. Book publishers are more likely to buy conventional genre novels, mainly because they have large, dedicated audiences. Publishing is a business, after all, and publishers need to sell as many books as possible.

But the reasoning behind this advice is flawed. Sure, there are large audiences for these types of books, but publishers put out a lot of them, creating a lot of competition for readers. The result is too many authors and publishers producing far too many similar novels, novels that tend to be bland, boring, unoriginal, and even superficial.

Lost in the shuffle is a very different type of book fan, a fan who is frequently ignored by book publishers: the sophisticated reader. This breed of reader is hungry for thoughtful, original writing, writing free of stifling convention, writing bursting with complex characters and unpredictable plots, writing that says something fresh and startling about the human condition.

So should more novelists “ignore the market” and write what they want? My answer to that question would be a qualified yes. Yes, more novelists should write what they want to write. That type of writing is more of a creative challenge for the writer and can be more exciting and rewarding for the reader. And the world hardly needs more predictable and pedestrian novels. And serious writers do have the option to self-publish. But . . . it’s hard to sell a self-published novel, even a well-written and professionally produced one. After all self-published authors don’t have the same resources as book publishers.

So serious novelists should continue to write from the heart but maybe, after they self-publish their work and start to sell a reasonable number of copies, they should band together to persuade publishers to make unconventional, challenging novels more widely available.

An impossible task perhaps? Not when you consider the fact that a number of offbeat, critically acclaimed novels have managed to sell well even though they didn’t fit into established genres: Life of Pi by Yann Martel, How to Build a Girl by Caitlan Moran, and almost any novel by Margaret Atwood and John Irving.

Kathleen Jones’ first novel, a midlife comic romance set in the world of stand-up comedy, will be published in the spring of 2018 by Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC. Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at

or on Twitter at and sign up for free updates at ‪ 




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Comedians’ Lives Aren’t All That Funny

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Recently, while writing a novel set in the world of stand-up comedy, I did some research on the real lives and personalities of stand-up comedians. What I uncovered was intriguing—and more than a little unsettling.

It seems that comedians’ minds are wired differently from the minds of average people. A study of 523 comedians from the U.S., U.K. and Australia found that comedians are good at making people laugh because they have the ability to associate odd things and to “think outside the box”—traits typical of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder! Their thinking is often manic, which can help them combine ideas to form original and funny connections. (

Even more intriguing is the fact that comedians’ flamboyant onstage personalities are often at odds with their introverted offstage ones. And these quiet people are usually not all that agreeable. Stand-up comedy is a very competitive business, and stand-up comedians worry a great deal about others stealing their material. Much of that material involves the telling of brutal, nasty—and funny—truths. Moreover, comedians, as a group, aren’t particularly conscientious, that is, responsible, organized, and dependable. Instead, they tend to be spontaneous and to use aggressive humour directed at the audience or at themselves. (

More relevant to my novel was the research I found on the instability of comedians’ lives. Most of them must travel 40 to 50 weeks per year and perform from Thursday to Sunday to succeed in the stand-up comedy business. Of course, the constant travel takes a toll on their personal lives, and it’s difficult for them to maintain a steady intimate relationship. (

Do you have some insight on the real personalities and lives of stand-up comedians? If you do, please share them with us.


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Help for the Newbie Novelist

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Starting a new career as a novelist can be a daunting proposition, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the book market and the publishing process. Fortunately, there are a number of practical books that can quickly bring you up to speed:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel ( by Tom Monteleone

Tom, a professional writer since 1972, penned this friendly guide from a novelist’s point of view. His book covers just about everything related to novels and novelists: the various markets for different novel genres; the core elements that make up a good novel; research, time management, and discipline; rewriting; alternative publishing; and the book publishing process. Above all, Tom emphasizes the fun and creativity involved in writing a novel. As he states in his introduction, “If you want work, go get a gig in a pie factory or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.”

Create Your Writer Platform ( by Chuck Sambuchino

Like it or not, all novelists—those who sell their books to a traditional publisher as well as those who self-publish—now need to promote themselves online if they want to develop an audience for their work. Chuck, a prolific blogger who specializes in book publishing, provides a detailed overview of the various types of platforms available to authors—websites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, newsletters, and more—and dispenses helpful advice that’s custom tailored to the needs of fiction and non-fiction writers.

Book Marketing Is Dead ( by Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy, a book cover designer, writing coach, and publishing consultant, demonstrates that online platform building has become a far more effective tool for selling books than traditional marketing. He emphasizes the importance of building relationships on social media and discusses the key elements of an effective author website. He also covers the types of marketing that can work for authors.

Do you know of any helpful resources for new (and not so new) novelists? Please share them with us.

 Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at

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Organizing a Writer’s Life

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

Writers have to deal with an endless stream of paper. Manuscripts, notes, contracts, and other flotsam and jetsam all too easily clutter up our lives.

If you’re starting to get overwhelmed, I have a few suggestions to help you dig yourself out of the mess:

Research Notes

  • Organize your research notes by using separate sheets of paper for every subject covered by your novel.
  • Underline or circle key information in your notes.


  • Type and proofread each chapter after you’ve finished writing it (if you write in long hand). Be sure to format and number the pages.
  • Print out the chapter. Store it in a cardboard box kept in a safe place. (I keep my manuscripts in cardboard boxes stored in a closet.)

Other Types of Documents

  • Keep track of various types of documents by purchasing colourful cardboard folders (with two compartments per folder) and an equally colourful canvas zip bag from a dollar store.
  • Place specific types of documents in each folder and label the outside. For example, I have different folders for contracts, agents, publishers, editors, author platforms and social media, etc.
  • Store all of these author-related folders in the canvas zip bag, and store the bag (zipped up, of course) in a secure place such as a filing cabinet.

Records of Contacts with Agents, Publishers, and Freelance Editors

  • Purchase a 3-ring binder and colourful tab dividers from a dollar store.
  • Make notes on individual book publishers, literary agents, and freelance editors on separate sheets, and file each sheet alphabetically in the binder. Provide information on the people you contacted, the dates you contacted them, documents you submitted to them, etc.

The task of organizing bits and pieces of paper can be (and usually is!) dull and mind-numbing. But once your system is in place, you’ll have more time to do the work you really enjoy: writing!

Want to Read More?

The staff of Writer’s Relief (an author’s submission service) provide more ideas in “Four Ways to Organize Your Writing (Or Not) Before You Sit Down to Write”:

How do you organize your writing materials? Please tell us!

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at

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Why Bother to Outline a Novel?

By Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist

The first time I wrote a novel, I had a clear picture of how I wanted it to turn out. But I wrote the chapters out of sequence and let my moods dictate the scenes I wrote on a given day. For example, whenever I was depressed, I wrote scenes full of hurt, loneliness, and heartache. On the other hand, when my life was going well, I wrote more robust scenes, scenes bursting with triumph, optimism, and joy.

My practice of writing whatever I felt when I felt it might have been a successful one if I had laid down a plan for the novel before I began writing it. Alas, I had no such plan, and the various chapters I wrote didn’t fit together at all.

So when I sat down to write my second novel, the first thing I did was to create an outline. That outline took four months to write (I was juggling writing with a full-time job), but it turned out to be a very wise investment of my time and energy. I now knew exactly where my story was going.

How do you create an outline for your novel? Before you begin, jot down the following in point form:

  • First, figure out how you want your novel to begin and end.
  • Next, create the main characters and identify the major problems and conflicts they will face.
  • Then determine the major plot points. This step would involve such things as plot twists, changes in the relationship between the leading characters, etc.

Once you have pinned down these core elements, you can start to create an outline. Some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Try to write the outline in order.
  • Don’t try to write the entire outline in one sitting. Take your time and don’t rush.
  • Outline one chapter at a time.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the outline if some of it isn’t working or if new and better ideas come to mind.

If you take the time to create an outline, you can avoid ending up with a novel that’s nothing more than a mishmash of ideas.

Want to Read More?

Novelist Joseph Finder deals with the pros and cons of outlining novels in his post “Outline or Not?” at

Do you outline your novels before writing them? Please post your comments.

Visit Kathleen Jones, The Quirky Novelist, online at

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