Wednesday, 23 April 2014

My take on Timelines

post it

 As some of you might know I've been writing a novel or should I say trying to write a novel for some time now. It's been slow progress and finalising it is undoubtedly hampered by the fact that I've not touched it since the end of last year. It's all very neatly filed away in a big folder and I try not to listen to my poor characters crying out for attention and love and of course for some type of resolution.

I've learnt a lot during my novel writing experience and I can certainly see how my writing has developed since I first started. However, one thing that I've never really mastered is the timeline.

I understand the logic of it - it is after all a highly logical process (perhaps in fact that's where my failing begins - I'm not the most logical of people). It looks like it will be a really useful and beneficial process that will aid my writing and help me get to grips with plot timing and character movements and yet each time I've tried to work with it, I just don't get it. I've used computerised versions using sophisticated Excel spreadsheets, I've used Iphone sticky note applications and I've tried mind mapping it. I've also used plain old fashioned post it notes - they were everywhere and it was fun looking at all the colours but one day they all got out of order and it got complicated!

I think it's a mindset issue. I look at all that data and the timing and what's supposed to happen next and I have some sort of mental block. I guess I like to just sit down at the laptop and type. I know, however, that it would also be useful to have a guide as to where I'm going to go next. I found the most workable solution for me was to open up a word document and to write the book as a list. In my head after I'd written the first point, I asked the question -  and the next thing that happens is and the next thing that happens is?

Now all I need to do is to find that list and start writing again...

Or alternatively I'll stick to writing short stories. I don't need a timeline for those.

Do you use a timeline and if so what has worked for you? Or are you someone that can hold all the information in their head and call upon it when needed?  If you've found something that works for you, please do share. It might help me save my poor darling characters and enable their escape from the big wooden chest in which they are currently trapped.


  1. Oh, Angela, can I relate to this. Sure, I have a timeline, but then I gallop ahead...forget where I am, what day it is in "story present"...and I end up with a snarl to straighten out later.

    I know about this first hand. For my first series of novels, at my publisher's request, I had to change the timeline to match where Jane Austen left off with Persuasion. Which meant a complete change of seasons, as well as changes in characters. I still cringe at the continuity errors I know must be lurking!

    So as you might expect, in my current work-in-progress I'm lost. I know what day it is supposed to be...and I keep writing...but anybody reading from the beginning would, like, question my sanity or something. :D

    1. At least I know I'm not alone in my lost world then Laura :-) Thanks for stopping by to comment.

  2. Haha! The old plotting/planning vs fly by the seat of your pants argument. Both are valid and work for different people in different ways. You certainly shouldn't be worried if the timeline thing just doesn't come easily. If it complicates your work, and wastes time, just write and then work out the inconsistencies after. And that's ok!

    Me I'm a perfectionist planner. I waste time plotting, planning, world building, thinking about culture, class systems, political organisations, environmental factors... but at the end of the day I still have a zero word count!

    I believe there are no hard and fast rules for writing though. We are all individuals with different learning styles. What's important is the expression of the story and you have to do what comes naturally to you to be able to get it out on paper so to speak. :-)

    Great topic by the way and good luck with your novel too, I know you'll finish it. :-D

    1. Hi Jessica, thanks for stopping by. I loved your view of being a perfectionist planner but with zero word count. That make me laugh. Thanks also for your encouragement to continue and finish the novel.