How to Format Numbers, Dates, and Times in Your Manuscript

clock and notebook formatting timeBecause my kids graduated from school long ago, I no longer know what’s taught in English class—aside from the “cursive writing” controversy. I only know I see a wide variety of grammar and format errors in the manuscripts I edit and proofread.

Many writers incorrectly format numbers, dates, and times, so I thought I’d give you some basic guidelines today. [Read more…]

Dealing with Time in Sequels, Part 5 of our series

Unlike the scene, which happens moment by moment, the passage of time in a sequel is flexible. Here you can move quickly through hours or days (even months) in your story. What took 158 words as a scene can be written in much fewer words. I’ll take our last example, a scene, and make it a sequel.

Example: Marta searched her Excel file for the next group of potential investors to contact. She made phone call after phone call as she identified names, her temper rising with every conversation. Ten calls, and ten “no’s.” The clock on the wall read 3:30. She shut down her laptop, stuffed it into her briefcase, and tromped out of the office. She’d start again tomorrow.

I have sufficiently covered several hours in her day vs. the few minutes of one phone call I used in a scene. We see her emotional and mental state, and her decision and action (all the elements of sequel).

Questions? Ask below in the comment section.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

Dealing with Time in Scenes, Part 4 of our series

Time is a story element with which many beginning writers struggle. Whether your novel occurs over a period of days or years, you must lead us through that time.

In scenes, time passes moment by moment. This means we see the action as it happens. Let’s pick up the action where Friday’s sequel left off (Marta had reached for the phone).

Example: Marta flipped open her cell phone and punched in the number for Sam Casey, regional manager for Robbins Bookstores. Her fingers drummed the desk as waited for someone to answer the phone.

“Robbins Bookstore Inc. How may I help you?” the receptionist answered.

“This is Marta Chaplin of Chaplin Real Estate. I’d like to speak with Mr. Casey.” Marta tried to sound as official and confident despite her nervousness.

“Mr. Casey isn’t available. Would you like it voicemail?”

“Yes, please.” Marta sat straight her office chair as she listened to the brief voicemail message. “Mr. Casey, this is Marta Chaplin of Chaplin Real Estate in Classic, Oklahoma. I’d like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss a proposed strip mall to go up here in Classic.” Marta rattled off her phone number and ended the call. With a sigh of disgust, she tossed her cell phone on the desk and returned to her Excel file of investors.

As they read, readers will fill in all the little details of making a phone call—punching in the numbers, hearing the phone ring, speaking with the receptionist, closing the cell phone and tossing it down, the phone likely sliding on the desk, and Marta physically turning to her computer. They may even imagine her fingers poised over the keyboard.

Scenes occur in real time, but it would be excruciating if we were to relate every action and every second. We don’t need to state “Marta punched the five button on her phone, then a three, then another three…” Readers can and will fill in action you do not specifically show.

Next time, we’ll look at dealing with time in sequels.

Friday’s offer, posted Feb. 1 at the end of the post, will remain open until this Friday, Feb. 8, at which time comments will be closed and the offer ends.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

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