Keeping Track of Time

When I’m writing a story, I try to maintain a consistent timeline. Even in science fiction, time progresses in a logical direction. The story can jump around, but the orderly passing of time should be maintained.

This may seem obvious, yet I have read novels where the author confused the passage of time in the story. Some things happened too soon and other events took too long or happened out of sequence. Also, when using flashbacks, there should be one central timeline that the flashback always comes back to. In some novels, I get confused as to what is a flashback and what is current time in the story.

Even minor scenes such as eating a meal or traveling between two places, the time it takes to eat is a set amount of time. And it takes a traveler a certain amount of time to travel between two places, even in science fiction. The author needs to fill in for the passage of time consistently. If not, there is no story. Just a series of unconnected scenes.

To help keep my timeline organized while writing a novel, at the beginning of each chapter I put the day of the week, month, and season when the chapter scenes occur. Keeping track of a story’s timeline this way helps me keep the timeline straight in my head while I write the next chapter.

There are probably other methods. Whichever is used, I think it is important for an author to maintain a consistent timeline, whether the story is over a few days or many years. It is easy to overlook this important step.

The world and the universe keep track of time. An author should, too

Important Jobs in a Nonprofit

This blog post continues a recent blog post about nonprofit positions.

Nonprofit employees are categorized as operations (general overhead) or programs (specific to accomplishing the mission). I’m writing about the operations side since program people are unique to each nonprofit.

The most important employee is the executive director. However, many nonprofits have no other operations employee, which is wrong. One person cannot do everything. A nonprofit should have, at a minimum, three other employees.

  1. An office manager who oversees the day-to-day running of the office like a second in command. There are too many daily issues occurring for an executive director to manage alone.
  2. A volunteer coordinator who manages all the volunteers. There must be a person to make sure the volunteers are happy, which can be a daunting task.
  3. A grant writer who helps bring in the money. Many nonprofits fold this duty into the executive director’s job. But nonprofits who fill this job usually are better funded.

[I didn’t include a finance manager because these duties can be handled by the office manager or grant writer. With a single mission, there are software programs to help. With multiple missions, hiring a company to run the finances is easier.]

These three listed positions can be part time, but they must be paid positions. People are more invested in the nonprofit if it is their job.

Many times, these three positions are left vacant to keep operation expenses low. As a result, people from the programs side become drawn into doing operations work, worsening the problem on both sides. Even board members become involved with operations.

A nonprofit should look at itself like a business and hire those who would make it a success. Don’t pretend things are working out. They usually aren’t.

Heroes Need Friends

Recently I listened to a podcast* where the guest speaker talked about characters. One thing the guest speaker said was that a hero** should not be a hero alone. Every hero needs others to help them do heroic stuff.

I’ve read stories or watched shows where the hero took on the villain alone with maybe a few bystanders thrown in for atmosphere. To me the story or show had action, but no character and certainly no dialogue except for the occasional one-liners or grunt. The hero had no personality.

I didn’t realize until the podcast about the importance of the hero to have others around to help. These people give the hero personality and depth of character. They make the hero stronger when he/she must rely on others to achieve their goal. The hero is even stronger when they ask for help.

The same can be true for the villain. The hero has more of a challenge when the villain has help.

These helpers are not subservient to the hero or villain (well, maybe the villain). Instead, they fill in for the flaws the hero or villain may have, giving the writer opportunities for a more developed hero or villain through added conflict.

A team who supports the hero in achieving the goal provides the writer with lots of material to make the story more meaningful. The team is what makes a “hero’s journey” type of story a better story. Aren’t we all better as a team?


* Sorry, I listen to several podcasts almost each day on my walk and I could not find which one this played on or who was the speaker. I should take better notes.

** I use “hero” in the generic sense that includes hero (male) and heroine (female) and herowhere (extraterrestrial).

Professional versus Volunteer Grant Writer

There are two types of grant writers—someone paid by the nonprofit and one who is not (a volunteer).

I’m a volunteer grant writer which means I provide my services without compensation. But I know professional grant writers who each formed a company and are paid for their services.

Professional grant writers are paid either hourly or by a set fee. Whether the nonprofit gets the grant or not, the grant writer gets paid. The other way is for the grant writer to get about ten percent of the awarded amount. If the grant is not awarded, the grant writer does not get paid.

There is a long list of pros and cons for these two methods of pay. The grant writers I know are paid an hourly rate. I was involved in one situation where the grant writer was paid a percentage of the award.

Personally, I would rather pay the grant writer up front for their services. I feel the nonprofit has the best control of the grant writers’ work such as selecting the foundation. In the other situation, the nonprofit had almost no input into the application and the grant writer only submitted grants to places they were fairly certain of success (and getting paid).

Yes, it seems easier with a greater chance for success to pay a grant writer a percentage of the award amount. But reality can be much different after the grant is awarded. Having control might be easier and not all grants are good for the nonprofit.

Of course, whether a nonprofit pays for a grant writer or not depends on whether they have the money to do so. Many times, the nonprofit’s staff and management write the grants. In another blog post, I’ll explain why bringing on a grant writer, paid or volunteer, is as necessary as paying a volunteer coordinator (and doable).