Timelines. Where things don’t always go on time.

Timelines in stories are weird things. They need to be there for a story to make sense. If everything happens haphazardly (you can’t believe how long I waited for a moment to use that word!), a story is just a heap of words in distress.


At the moment of composing this blog post, I’m battling a timeline issue. In the 2nd Emma Nelson story. And it is at the approach of the end of the book. Everything is coming together but I need to find the right way and order for those things to happen.

For instance, there are three cars to juggle, but one of them isn’t in the story yet, and one of them won’t make it til the end of the story. Then there are people in various places who have to get together, using two of the three mentioned cars. There is a hospital visit and something with an aquarium and these two things are connected by the same car, which is not going reach the end of the story either, but its end is different from the other car. Emma and Jeff are in one place, need to go to another place while they want to be in a third place. After that they have to go to some (so far unknown) fourth place to pick someone up and do something nasty to one of the three cars.

When I look at that jumble of things that need to happen, I wonder how on Earth I managed to get this far in the story without getting killed, maimed or kidnapped!

The place where I have to find myself a way out of calls for some thought. I need to step back, gather all the facts and determine what is the best way to make things happen in a coherent and also satisfying manner. Maybe some bad guys and gals need to get killed, I don’t know.

That just popped up as I am writing this. I remember that the first Emma Nelson book also took a long, long time to write. That is because I don’t consider myself a particularly good mystery writer. Or maybe writing mystery is supposed to take long.

On the railroad

I will take some time and balance the words left and right. At some point the battle will be fought and I will come out the victor. With a new Emma Nelson mystery to show.

Until then I hope that the Emma fans will give me some more time for the maze to be unmazed and the mess to be unmessed.

Have a wonderful day!


2 thoughts on “Timelines. Where things don’t always go on time.”

  1. I now need to avoid re-reading this blog post so that, with a bit of luck, I’ll have forgotten the collection of key details disclosed without any “Spoiler Alert” warning by the time the tale is published and I can read it!!!!

    Competent handling of multi-thread timelines in both fact and fiction writing is one of those things which I’m sure most readers (including myself) only notice when it is missing. Paul is putting massive effort into delivering an enjoyable read, but that effort simply won’t show up on the page (or screen).

    Mind you, sometimes things go wrong. There’s a classic film noir (I can’t remember which) where even at the end, one of the murders is completely unexplained and unsolved, yet all the sleuths are congratulating one another on wrapping everything up. Juggle enough sparkly balls and – with luck – the audience won’t notice if one drops out of sight? There are certainly aspects of Hitchcox’s 39 Steps which don’t bear close consideration.

    My advice to Paul is to put the book to one side, do something else (or nothing at all, just relax), and let the brain get on with its work behind the scenes. I discovered years ago that the my brain sometimes cheerfully solves crossword puzzle clues that way. All of a sudden, hours after I’ve put the puzzle down, the answer and how it fits will suddenly pop into my mind.

    Best of luck, and I’m sure our wait will be worth it.

    1. Thank you very much for the word of confidence, Tim! Like my writing brothers in arms (and keyboards) I do put a lot of effort into making a story sensible and ’rounded’. I shall now go and look for sparkly balls to throw in every direction. That’s a golden tip. 😀

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