Tools: Straightening out a story’s timeline

Note: the following is not a paid infomercial. I bought a tool and found it useful. I thought you might too.

I wrote a book in a week. I wrote it in a mad rush, spewing out a lot of words in a short span of time. I was in a rush to get the story out of my head and onto the page. The word ‘obsessed’ could be used. I did not have time to plot or plan or outline. I just wrote. So when I went to revise it, I needed help to see how it all fit together, laying out all the scenes.

It has a lot of scenes that have to be in a specific order because the suspense is (or should be) building with each scene. Plus, I need threads of romance and suspense woven into the plot. I need to know where each character is during each scene, who’s active vs. just standing around, and I need to know the time of day of each scene. And I need to be able to see all this information at a glance.

Insane? Well, all right, maybe it is. But it is also doable, with the right tool.

Aeon Timeline is designed to do all this.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 2.38.24 PM

I assigned each scene to one of three arcs. (You can have as many arcs as you want, and turn them on or off. I set this up to view the main arcs to ensure I was including enough suspense scenes and enough romance scenes.)

I create timelines for each of the main characters, and selected whether they were in the scene to participate, observe, or in one case, die. If I’ve got a character who spends most of the scenes participating, I question whether I need this guy around at all. Maybe I can combine him with another character.

In this story, the action takes place over 12 hours. I assigned each scene to a specific time of day because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t grouping all the actions scenes together, but pacing them out with romantic scenes or character development.

Tip: When I first tried to set this up, I got incredibly frustrated. No matter how often I tweaked the settings, I ended up with a screen that showed the last 30 years, with all the events I needed to track scrunched up all together in the last 10% of the screen. If you’re in this position, make sure the Timeline Bounds are set up correctly, then exit the app and open it up again.

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