Always in the mood for Dean Koontz…. wonder what adventure awaits me this time…


Getting a timeline for your plot.

Getting a Timeline for your Plot Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.gif

On occasion I read a book where suddenly the plot does not seem feasible because the author has ignored a proper timeline. Maybe the editor missed it? Or maybe they neglected to plan out a logical sequence to the events that take place in the story?

It comes down to how you write – your process. If you are a pantser and just go with the flow, assigning a timeline is most likely going to stifle the creativity. But if you are a planner, then this is probably a step you already include in your process.

For a pantser, I’d add this after you’ve nearly finished your manuscript to help fine tune everything. If you are a planner, adding another vector to your plots direction is invaluable.

For me personally, I’m a combination of the two. I like to free-style until I get a meaty chunk of prose to look at. Is it a solid concept? Are my characters interesting? It there enough of an idea for a novel? Usually the content I’m working with is a collection of scenes equivalent to about three to five chapters. From there I start to weave a more intricate plot. That way I can remove anything that is dragging the pace of the story, see if my character is working, ensure the antagonist and challenges my protagonist faces are introduced in the right points of my hero’s journey.

It usually takes the form of pages of hand-written scribbles that I transpose into an Excel spreadsheet. Broken up into chapters, I detail what happens (story); how each chapter drives the story forward (plot), How each chapter increases the stakes (pace & tension); and the amount of time that passes (timeline.) I began to introduce this last column because after sending my first novel out to beta readers and edits, I discovered that on two occasions my weekends lasted three days, and the main characters – high school students – had to stick to a class schedule… which was all over the place. Urgh, how embarrassing! Such a glaringly obvious faux-par. And so that extra column became invaluable. It helped me keep track of the days passing in my story, but also decreased on the amount of money I was paying to a professional editor by limiting the errors (thus time spent) on my manuscript.

Getting a Timeline for your Plot Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

It also enabled me to keep a realism in my story… and remove superfluous scenes.

Writing is creating art – we all have our own way of doing things. Creation is a personal journey. I like a structure to work to, but the freedom to write what I want. Therefore the guide of an Excel spreadsheet keeps me in check, in context, and on point. Without strangling my creativity. Some writing applications have this inbuilt within the software (like Scrivener,) but I like a one page summary that I can refer to instantly, usually pinned to the wall in front of me while I’m writing.

This chart allows me to see where my story is at, write a future scene, or jump to an entirely different project (with its own spreadsheet.) A great tool to get you into the headspace needed to write. And with the added element of having things timed properly – both in sequence they happen in your novel, and in the amount of time that passes – you are fee to work on whichever scene you want to without getting too mentally jumbled. So when you get stuck somewhere, to avoid writer’s block, jump to a different point in your story and keep writing.

What methods do you use to structure your story? Do plan the whole thing or a few chapters at a time? Does your character guide your story? Is knowing how many days pass in a chapter important to you? Have you seen a better method for plotting that works for you?

And in the meantime – happy writing! 🙂


© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs’ by Jennifer Saunders

A woman who is a quiet pioneer, and simply loves to laugh and see the best in any situation…

Bonkers Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

‘As the steady march of time takes its toll on my memory and the vultures circle, I thought I should have a stab at recollecting how it all happened. . .’

Jennifer Saunders’ brilliant comic creations have brought joy to millions for three decades. From Comic Strip to Comic Relief, from Bolly-swilling Edina in Absolutely Fabulous to Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, her characters are household names.

But it’s Jennifer herself who has a place in all our hearts. This is her funny, touching and disarmingly honest memoir, filled with stories of friends, laughter and occasional heartache – but never misery.

From her childhood on RAF bases, where her father was a pilot, to her life-changing encounter with a young Dawn French, on to success and family, the book charts her extraordinary story, including the slip ups and battles along the way.

Prepare to chuckle, cry, and whoop with delight.


It’s very amusing, a light tone oozing through the narrative. Life is always painted in positivity and promise. It was very, dare I say, English.

The best parts, I found, had to deal with the behind the scenes stuff about becoming a comedian, getting the gigs, and inventing new material for her career. Anecdotes with Dawn French, Ruby Wax, Joanna Lumley and Goldie Hawn are brilliant, and are like your sitting there having a natter over a glass of champagne. Jennifer Saunders work ethic, being an artist at heart, is blunt and honest and has cemented Sandwich as a girl after my own heart. Endearing.

Dealing with elements of communication from the past – before technology butted in and removed much of the need for the written word are instilled with Jennifer’s particular brand of silliness. It reminds me of the notes I used to pass between my girlfriends in high school classes.

BQ Bonkers by Casey Carlisle

The narrative tends to wander a bit. Following Saunders train of thought before being dragged back to finish the story in earnest. Sometimes it was with a delicious side story, sometimes with some backstory, and sometimes with something nonsensical, mildly interesting, bordering on dull.

For the most part I found ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs‘ entertaining and educational. But in some parts, and more frequently towards the end, a little waffly.

I especially loved the chapters over Jennifer dealing with cancer. How she got through it, what happened, and how it affected her life a short time after. It was personal for me. I could relate to so much of it having experienced my own journey. It is also a tale to promote for all women to get regular mammograms. Many stories I’ve read about cancer suffrage deal with being sick and feeling shite. But Saunders kept her positive outlook powering right on through. As I did. My strongest memory is still pissing myself laughing at episodes of ‘Glee‘ on my laptop in attempts to keep up the positive energy and distract from what I was told of an unavoidable 6 month expiration date.

Overall feeling: Positively funny

 Bonkers Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bonkers Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg


© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Vitro’ (#2 Corpus) by Jessica Khoury

A great adventure that questions the morality of scientific exploration.

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux.

In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.


I initially read the first novel of this collection over two years ago, and while I enjoyed ‘Origin,’ it felt like there was something missing. ‘Vitro’ and the third book in this trilogy ‘Kalahari’ are not sequels, but rather companion novels, it is easy to see a marked improvement in Khoury’s storytelling skills with each installment. None of these novels need to be read in order either, they are all strong standalones set in the same universe.

Vitro’ marks a great adventure from Jessica Khoury. One thing with her books is that they are thoroughly researched. The landscape is so picturesque and oozes from the page, so too does the science – though fictitious, there are enough of the basics honed in science fact to give a sense of believability. You really feel like you’re there along with the protagonist. Just brilliant.

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgSophie was a great main character. I liked her do or die attitude. She doubted herself very little even though she struggled with emotional demons and desired a place to belong. I wrestled more with the story towards the end – so much happened that I couldn’t as easily connect with Sophie or her choices. But still a great journey to read along with.

Sophie’s love interest, Jim was my hero. Literally my new fictional boyfriend crush. He was like a zombie – Khoury threw everything at this guy and he just kept getting back up! Loved it. I almost wished there was a spin off adventure series for Jim. I’ve read that this trilogy is the end for the corpus series – but really there are infinite possibilities to revisit and write more. I’m a big believer in never say never…

The pacing was better than ‘Origin,’ there were just a few moments where the narrative felt waffly, either in exposition or dialogue. But it was easy to skim past and get to the good stuff.

Something about the concept of this book that was morbidly fascinating. It didn’t sit well with me… I guess because of its implications. I squirmed a bit. It also felt a little unfinished, or not fully realised as the concepts in ‘Origin.’ There also seemed to be a lot of layers of story with ‘Vitro’ too. I loved the complexity, but it came close to feeling messy. I think the subtext of the book is what left me most uncomfortable‎. The different shades of humanity we see coming out in the different characters and how it ask us some big questions.

Again Khoury’s writing style and explicit description of landscape was thoroughly engaging. If she wrote travel books I’d never have to leave home.

Definitely an engaging read that I’d recommend to lovers of adventure with a science fiction twist. I had no hesitation in purchasing the final book in this collection ‘Kalahari,’ the review for that one is to come later this month.

Overall feeling: FMTFO! (freak me the firetruck out!)

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg


© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.