Recently I posted about outlining in Scrivener and using color coding to track plot lines. Elsewhere on the Internet, a couple of VCFA alumni were chatting about making timelines — could this be done in Scrivener? If not, what tools did people use?
Varian Johnson had a simple solution that I loved: he makes his timelines in iCal. He maps scenes to specific dates, and this helps him track his story and remember the context of the world outside, such as holidays and March Madness and anything else his main character might think about.
Erin Hagar pointed to Aeon Timeline — software that’s meant for outlining and making timelines. Aeon Timeline can be synched with Scrivener with all of the information imported as custom meta data.
I tried both, and the iCal method really worked for me because it helped me keep perspective. My novel begins just after the end of the school year, and I’d forgotten basic holidays such as Father’s Day. One of the scenes I’d outlined actually made sense to set on that day, and using the holiday adds resonance I would have otherwise missed.
I printed the iCal timeline as a PDF and then dragged it into my Scrivener Research Binder for reference. After all of my independent outlining and timeline work, Aeon Timeline didn’t work for me. It seems like a good tool for tracking multiple characters and scenes and for outlining from scratch, but it was overkill given the amount of work I’d already completed. The visual timeline was pretty cool, though, and I liked having the ability to map multiple story arcs and characters by color in two dimensions.
Another alumn mentioned creating a timeline in Google Calendar and adding the URL to Scrivener in order to have a calendar that’s always up to date — sounds like another great solution!
Now the only strange thing is that when I look forward to May and June, character life events pop up. I wonder what it’d be like to write the story live, as it unfolds in real time. This may be an experiment for another novel in another time — perhaps one that spans years rather than weeks 🙂
How do you plan and map your work?