Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tip for Writers: Timeline

If you’re writing a book that spans a significant period of time, or one that packs a lot of action into a few weeks, keeping track of what happens when is very important. Not just while you’re writing, but when you come to editing your manuscript and decide you want to switch things around a little. You don’t want to get your dates muddled up. Continuity is important. Readers pick up on it, so stay on top of this.

Most of my projects end up spanning at least a year. Don’t ask me why. I don’t plan it, but that’s what happens. My debut novel Chasing Pavements is one example. When I started it, I didn’t intend for it to cover a 12-month period, but I kept a record of all the events that took place. I created a Calendar for the novel on Microsoft Excel for the time period covered in the story.

So, for a book that starts in January 2012 and ends in December 2012, create 7 x 5 tables for each calendar month, with Monday-Sunday in the 7 cells across the row. Use the clock on the computer to fill in the dates. Then, highlight the days/dates where all the action takes place.  Add a comment (using the Add Comment/New Comment feature under the Insert/Review section of Excel) to the relevant day/date with information such as:
  • Chapter number/title
  • Event (e.g. main characters first meet)
  • Birthdays/anniversaries/important milestones
Leave notes for events not covered in the story but have taken place during the time (e.g. for back-stories, events referred to only briefly etc.). The aim is to map out the whole novel on the event-level, and you can do this before, during, and after you've written the first draft.  

If you need to chop and change or re-jig the order of events later, you can update the spreadsheet and refer back to it when you’re writing and editing. This way, you don't confuse yourself or the reader.

There might be some clever software out there that create calendars like these, so you can experiment with those if you like, but I’m comfortable with Excel and I’ve never looked back.

Thank you for reading this post. If you're interested in my debut novel, click the image below to learn more about it:

Like all my other books, it's also available on:
iBooks   |   B&N Nook   |   Kobo |   Smashwords 

Book Details

Length: 110,000 words
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Clean Romance / Diverse Romance / Interracial Romance / Romantic Drama / Women’s Fiction

Mood: Inspirational / Feel Good / Coming of Age / Dark
Content: Sexy but No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: New Adult & College / Adult / Female Readers

Recommended for: Readers that enjoy romance novels with serious issues and characters with depth. This is a story about life, love, friendship, family, music, art, destiny and soul mates.

And the first two books in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:

Amazon USAmazon UK|   iBooks US & UK   |   B&N Nook Store   |   Smashwords

PB1 Book Details

Length: 29,000 words
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Vampire Romance / Paranormal Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mood: Dark / Humorous / Coming of age
Content: No violence / No explicit sex scenes / No erotica
Audience: Teen / Young Adult / New Adult / Adult
Recommended for: Readers that love all things vampires, slayers and witches!


  1. Just learned through a comment on this post on Twitter that Aeon TImeline works great to create calendars if you work on a Mac. Thanks to @BenJTimmins for sharing :)

  2. Thanks for the awesome tip. I'm going to try it and see if I can't get back on track with my novel.

    1. You're welcome! I hope it can help. I have a few other writing tips floating around on this blog so have a look around. :)