Sunday 19 June 2022

To put in dates and places or not?

 Lost Places, Factory, Clock, Time

One year at the SCBWI conference in Winchester I “won” a critique from an agent. She read the opening of The House on Schelberg Street and the synopsis. She didn’t like the text and said that if I needed to put in dates and places the writing wasn’t clear enough.

Just a few days later the text was accepted for publication – dates and all. The editor wanted me to cut our some of the scenes, and especially some of the letters. A friend who read the book after it was published asked about the now missing scenes. He was checking that everything was logical.

Whether or not I include dates and places, I check scrupulously that time works and that the difference in setting is logical. I even use a perpetual calendar – and access weather descriptions to make sure my texts are accurate.

I tried with Face to Face with the Führer to dispense with places and times altogether in chapter headings. However, the editor has suggested putting them in – she’d thought events set in World War I were in World War II. So, a task recently has been to put the places and dates back in. However, instead of putting them at the beginning of each chapter, I’ve created sections of just the place, month and year.

Ironically I’m also on the “time” edit of Helga’s Story. I’m putting the times and dates into each chapter heading at the moment to make sure it all works. I’m not sure whether to leave them in or not. Helga remembers large chunks of time. Jamie is living through an intense few weeks though her time also stretches out longer in the end.

I’ve read a few with time and place details in chapter headings and in fact I pay little attention to them.  Only if the prose puzzles me a little do I go back and look.

The most recent book I’ve read like this is The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner. This is actually set just after the end of the war.  In fact, I took absolutely no notice of the dates at all.

My first three Schellberg Novel all have time and dates as chapter headings. Should I do the same for the others?

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