Keeping track of time in any genre of writing can be a little like blowing on a dandelion or licking your finger to see which way the wind is blowing. I’ve struggled to keep tabs in my historical novels, often spendinghours and hours sifting through my manuscripts with bits of paper and dates hoping that I’m making some sort of sense with the timeline. There are several systems or tools to help with this particular issue and here are three that I’ve used.
- Good Old Fashioned Paper Calendar
I’m a paper and ink girl first and foremost and this was a method I used for some time in the beginning. Creating a calendar for events that happened in the past isn’t difficult with word processing tools or even if you have to draw the lines yourself. It can become a bit messy if hand made, unless you write in pencil then events are difficult to change. But it’s a tool nevertheless. I’ve used Time and Date calendar which also allows you to select a country and therefore highlights any critical events that may also help.
- Excel Spreadsheet
I progressed from a paper timeline purely because it didn’t really cut the mustard especially with long timelines that existed over several years, or even months. Understanding what time of year it is in your story line can be quite critical especially if you are using the weather, for example, to deepen the subtext. There are plenty of templates around, this one is nice and simple. Even so, I’m not a great Excel user, my brain isn’t mathematical enough to even begin to understand it and it still didn’t give me the detail I wanted.
- Aeon Timeline Software
This is my new toy! I’ve secretly yearned to own this piece of software which has transformed my battle with timelines into an experience that is really pleasurable (and possible yet another excuse for procrastination…) When I came across a deal a couple of weeks ago offering this at half price I couldn’t stop myself. It’s so intuitive and easy to use. You can create characters, events and story arcs within a timeline in the past, present or future. Over a long period of time or just within days. If you write in fantasy, you can create your own calendars with different days, months, years, adjust the length of any measurement of time and allow yourself to create a whole new world. And, if you use Scrivener, it syncs your work, so that any changes you make in either will be reflected in the other. What’s not to like?
So how do you track time in your writing?