Friday, 14 May 2010

Timelines

To make up for my tardiness last week, I thought I should offer a selection of pastries as well as various teas and coffees for your consumption, so please help yourself.

I'm typing up my final edits and will resubmit my novel in the next couple of days, however, as soon as that's done, I'm going to go straight back to the wip I was working on a few weeks ago. The book I'm editing is a chick lit novel and the time frame covers several months, which hasn't been too much of a problem to follow. However my wip is a longer book with events taking place over several years, I'm also writing it from four (at the moment) points of view. So I need a well organized timeline.

With each book, I have a character list, a chapter summary and chapter index cards, as well as notes, etc, but for this longer book I'm having to do a lot of research and need to ensure that I have every event in the correct place for each character.

I was wondering if you do use a timeline, how you plan it? Do you have any advice on how to start setting up a timeline that shows where everything is quickly, without getting bogged down with too much information at every time point?

I'm probably making this far harder than it needs to be, but despite trying different ways of doing it, I can't seem to get it right and was wondering what works for other people.

17 comments:

Leatherdykeuk said...

If I had the space I'd use a corkboard. As it is I use a program called 'Write It Now' which has a useful timeline feature.

Karen said...

Timeline was a nightmare in mine as everything was supposed to happen in the space of a month, but seemed a lot longer!

When I'd finished I went through each chapter making a note of the key events, and them wrote them on an actual calendar to make sure it was do-able!

How that would work over years though I don't know, so hopefully the others will have some helpful suggestions :o)

HelenMHunt said...

This is something I've never done, and think I should, so I look forward to hearing other people's answers.

liz fenwick said...

I do a time line for each character and for the story in general. I think a cork board would be ideal so you could moves things easily - Rachel does the programme have that function?

Great topic Debs and so important even in simple story let alone....

Sorry for my absence lately but have been so busy with life, ash, kids that i am not sure where I have been.

lx

Denise said...

At the moment I'm using index cards for chapter summaries, and writing the day / time in the top corner. Mine is set over a couple of weeks, so easy to do that for. I have them in a photo album so it's quick to flick through, but probably not so useful for a period of years.

I like the idea of a piece of software for that, although I'd probably want a timeline printed out. I always need the big picture stuff on paper, I'm just odd like that!

Lane said...

Thanks for the lovely spread this week Debs. You're forgiven:-)

My current timeline is very simple - one year with a significant event in each month, so twelve post its are enough.

Complicated timelines scare me so I'll be scooping up useful tips, starting with Rachel's.

Flowerpot said...

I have a timeline but it's in my head! Any ideas very useful...

Ellie said...

I'm with Flowerpot - it's all in my head! Unfortunately so is a lot of other stuff, so I think I need to put it into writing. Or maybe pictures... I'm going to be experimenting a bit this weekend, and may give Excel a go! That's how I keep track of project timelines at work, so maybe it'll help with my writing too.

Fia said...

Yummy pastries, thank you.

I know some people use Excel or whatever it is that makes spreadsheets.

Like Denise, though, I like everything visual so have printed out a calender and have the three months of my story on the shed wall. I use different colours for different characters.

Good question Debs.

Cathy said...

My timeline has been a nightmare because my novel covers about ten years, plus some flashbacks, and I needed to be specific about dates in places. I've got to check it very carefully in my final read through.

Sylvia Phoenix said...

My time line didn't need much planning, as the story progressed in a forward direction and just kept going. That was until I decided to write a back story in order to fill in some details about the characters and their histories. Once I started doing this, the plot became much more convoluted. Not only is the back story itself turning out to be more complicated than I'd imagined, but the interrelationships between main story and back story are becoming tangled.

So help! I need to do some kind of time line planning but I don't know how to go about it. Perhaps I should try out some of the software you have mentioned, though I'll have to get my technical assistant to help me.

sheepish said...

Oh dear have I missed all the cakes, late as usual, where does the time go . Perhaps I need a timeline for my life!!!! Excellent topic. I like the idea of using an actual calendar and will definitely try it, especially as I'm pretty hopeless with computer programs. I have a white board but nowhere that I can keep it at the moment as the house is still very chaotic so just have postits on A3 paper but its not ideal. Thats my excuse anyway.

L-Plate Author said...

My books scan about eight months and I don't do anything with the timeline on the first draft. When I do the first reading, I mark out any reference to time and then on the second draft I add in what I need to change it, marking it down in each new chapter on a word document.

But I suppose for me it's easy as it's only months, not years. And it's not too bad until I'm told to amend something and then the only way I know how to change the timeline then is to read it all through again!

I'm not sure there is an easy way to do it, other than chapter headings. But I do like Denise's idea of using a photo album to flip through with cards.

And I bet you already do what I've said anyway, Debs x

Debs said...

Thanks for all the great comments and advice.

I thought I could be missing the point somewhere (it happens a lot) but Timelines seem to be one of those strange things that don't have one particular way to do it.

I'll definately check out the 'Write It Now' programme, thanks Rachel.

JJ Beattie said...

Sorry I'm late... Bangkok drama has kept me away.

I don't think I have anything useful to add. It all started off fairly simply but as I'm restructuring it's pretty tough. I have a spreadsheet with characters ages plotted out so that I know how old everyone is at any given time. I can add in the important occasions to the s/sheet too so I don't get lost. But I do get lost obviously.

Captain Black said...

My general writing technique involved breaking things down into chapters, scenes and storyboards. This resulted in a well-defined logical structure for the WiP, which helps no end in some of the later disciplines such as writing summaries and synopses. It means you can work on things in small, manageable chunks while building up the greater whole.

Same goes for time lines*. Each scene is given a date and time, which allows you to build up the sequence(s) of events and summarise them in a table of dates/times and one-liners. I used a spreadsheet for this, though a simpler table would probably have done the job, whether physical or electronic.

* Is timeline a word or should it be two words?

LilyS said...

I haven't written up a timeline but I know mine is in the space of a month. Now I am doing the edit only time will tell (excuse the pun) if everything fits.

Good luck with it and thanks for the post, got some great tips!