How To Create a Timeline for Your Novel

Maybe you created a brand new world and need to give background on its history. Or maybe your novel switches back and forth between the past and the present to get your plot across. Maybe, like me, you have a string of crimes to follow.

No matter what genre you’re writing in if you’re writing a series chances are you’re going to need a timeline of events.

how to create a timeline for your novel rachel poli

There are many different ways to create a timeline for your novel. Everyone works in different ways at different paces, so some of these ideas may work better than others.

1. Excel Spreadsheet

I think using a spreadsheet would be easy enough, well organized, and easy on the eyes. You can create a graph-like timeline using the columns and rows. List your dates in a column and then include what happens on each date in the rows.

You could also list the dates in the first column and list the characters in the first row. Then you match up the character to the date and write in what happens to them.

2. Word Document

This is similar to the spreadsheet, just a little less organized. Just create a long list of dates in chronological order and write in what happens on those days.

Sounds simple enough and it’d be easy to add in dates in the middle in case you forget something.

3. Calendar

Get a planner or download/create a calendar template on the computer and fill in the dates as needed. If your novel takes place from May to December, then only create a calendar for those months.

4. Index cards

Make an index card for each date and then string them together or tack them together on a bulletin board. This would be a lot of work, but it will look cool at the end–especially if you decide to string them together in order.

5. Poster

Create a cool-looking timeline just like in your old history textbooks with the horizontal line and the dates sticking out of it. If you’re like me, use pretty colors to highlight significant dates.

I wish I had a picture of my poster to show you, but I have yet to finish my timeline. Math is my arch nemesis.

That I spent my weekend playing video games.

How do you keep track of the dates and events in your novel?

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So I Had A Post For Today…

I scheduled a post for today way back at the beginning of the month. Except I never wrote it.

I never wrote it because I never finished what I needed to do for my novel in order to write this post.

So I have moved this post to be uploaded on Monday, with some hope that the weekend will allow me some extra time to make it through this little mini-project on my novel and I’ll be able to talk about it on here, my blog.

But I’ll give you a sneak peek, anyway because I really don’t have anything else semi-intelligent to say.

I’ve been slowly working on my detective series, Detective Florence. Notice I said series, not novel.

Sure, I’ve been working on the first novel since November 2013 and I’ve made a lot of changes to it since then. But there’s just so much information that goes into the first novel and I have so many ideas for the novels to come.

You know how when you finished reading the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, you most likely said to yourself, “Wow, Rowling had this all planned from the very beginning!”

I swear she must have thought of the series as a whole and not just novel-by-novel. Or she must have had some idea anyway… I do remember when the fourth novel came out Rowling was interviewed and said she needed to change something in that novel because she noticed a huge plot hole.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been looking at Detective Florence as a whole, not novel by novel. Sure, I’m still sending bits and pieces of the novel to my writer’s group, so I am I mainly focused on the first installment.

But when you have cases that date back to previous cases and people that were connected to cases in the past, I figured I needed to map out all the dates for all the cases I have planned… It’s a lot more work than you would think.

If you know me, then you know math and I don’t get along very well. I’ve already messed it all up twice before finding dates that made sense with one another. George aged five years, but that’s alright I guess… We’ll see how it all works out.

But more on that later.

When you write a series, do you look at it as a whole or just book-by-book?

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