I have a somewhat tenuous relationship with time, and nowhere does it show up more than when I’m writing. Even though I write fast-paced plots that run over a few weeks or a month, I lose track of the time and suddenly two different plot points are happening at the same time.
I used to sit with a calendar and make notes on the Scrivener file, chapter by chapter, but then I didn’t get the full picture; I had no one document where I could look at the whole timetable. And flipping back and forth between chapters makes it hard to remember the sequence.
Then I discovered Aeon Timeline, a program that helps you organize a timeline by chapters or individual events, characters involved, and other potentially important characteristics. It organizes itself around two concepts: events and entities.
Here is a screenshot of my current project:
On the left, you can see the timeline. In my case, it’s color-coded to match a template I have for romance writing. On the right, you can see an event (the one highlighted on the left). On the event side, you can see at the top the event data — title, color, and parent. I do not use ‘parent’ because it ties everything to a preceding event and my mind doesn’t function that way. Below that to the right there’s data such as participants and observers, story arc, and location. Those are used as sorting prompts, and I haven’t found myself gravitating toward that function yet.
Below is what the ‘entity’ window looks like:
This is the ‘manage entity’ window. You can add entities here (to add anywhere, click a ‘plus’ button) and edit them. I recommend using this box rather than the ‘add entity’ box because you can manage things better here. Note on the left the window will also let you define story arcs and enter different places.
Notice I don’t use the birth/death blanks because I’m not writing epic fantasy. If I ever make the unified timeline for all my novels, I could use that. (But it would be an unwieldy timeline spanning 6000 years.)
The good thing about Aeon Timeline (to me) is that I can see that timeline, and in making it, I can ‘feel’ that timeline. I often make it after writing the book in my proofreading stage. This is probably the wrong way to use it. If I set it up before, I could actually import it into Scrivener (my writing software) and the timeline would show up. Somewhere. I have to try that.
The bad thing about this is all the data entry. I feel possessed to put in all the entity data and use all the categories when developing the event, and this can be a lot of work. Being a plantser (planner/pantser) writer, I don’t know that I would know all the events before using this tool such that I could use it at the beginning. I would advise to enter what is needed and leave the other bells and whistles alone.
I’m halfway through entering my Christmas romance for the year, Kringle in the Night, as I edit it one more time to make it ready for the Christmas season. It’s helping greatly. I’ll let you know about the Scrivener integration later.