Developing a Timeline.
Today I’m going to share a powerful — yet simple– tool that has improved the “big picture” of my story.
My timeline is a simple spreadsheet – Dates form the column headers, and the rows are free form, used for tracking developing threads and storylines.
Since I’m already well into my first draft, I have dropped scenes/actions from my growing story into it. It’s already helped me track the complex and various themes/undercurrents at work. I’ve found some gaps to fill in, and believe I could have overlooked them by just reading back through what I’ve written. The timeline should result in a stronger, better story by helping me hit all my marks, and keep me from wandering too far off the story in dialog and scenes.
The spreadsheet helps visualize the components and characters of the story, and has helped me to see how they can weave together better. For example, I’ve already seen where earlier insertion of a character into the story eliminated the need for backstory later, and found opportunities for dropping bread crumbs and background hints that will tie together later on.
Early in the outlining process for this novel, I developed a timeline for my character back stories, and it was extremely helpful. I thought through what drives my players. But using a timeline for the main story just seemed too complex. Building it now , I can now see how it’s a great tool to use while writing, and imagine revising will benefit as well.
Many writers prefer using sticky notes– or 3×5 cards– pinned/taped to a board or wall that serves the same function as a spreadsheet. Personally, I’m not disciplined enough for that, and find a spreadsheet is much more forgiving. I love the flexibility a spreadsheet offers. For instance, I’ve just decided it would be helpful to color code Point of View into the timeline. I believe it will help me examine which character has the best POV for the action/scene unfolding.
Do you have tools, tips, tricks or suggestions that help you develop your story?I’d love to hear from you.
I’m adding this to my “Lessons learned” list!
16. Develop a Timeline for your Story. A spreadsheet, or sticky notes/3×5 cards can be used to see the character interactions, story development, plot line and twists, and help you see the “bigger picture” of the story you are writing as it will unfold for the reader. Simple and powerful tool to keep your writing on track and coherent!
To see all the lessons to date, click here: Go to Lessons I’m Learning….