On our panel, “From Cooking to Basketry to Basketball: Weaving Passions Into Plots,” Diane Mott Davidson shared this writing tip: She plots her action on a calendar. She first maps out on the calendar page the time frame of the story, then she fills in the action on the appropriate days. This makes perfect sense, especially for her culinary mysteries. Anyone who has read her books knows that her main character, caterer Goldy Schulz, lives her own life by the calendar and the catering events she has booked on it.
But it makes a lot of sense for any kind of novel-length story. How many times have I tried to sort out in my mind things like: If Kirby and Bragger get the permission slips on Friday, when will they need to turn them in? Or: If Kirby and Bragger have been doing this and that and that other thing all week, shouldn’t it be time for a weekend already? How helpful it would be to have everything mapped out so I can look at it and know exactly which day which characters are doing what. I’m certainly going to try it.
Also, Diane says she doesn’t weave the plot around Goldy’s catering dates. She does just the opposite—she schedules the catering dates according to what needs to happen in the mystery. If Goldy needs to run into another character and note odd behavior or glean an important clue from the conversation, Diane schedules the next catered affair to fit into that plot point.