29 January 2016

Cool tools for writers: Timeline software

The other day I hit the point in my current WIP (a historical series) where I need a timeline to keep all the events straight: characters' birth dates, major events in their lives pre-Book 1, historical events relevant to the story, major events in the storylines of the books, etc.

On past projects I'd attempted to use paper and pen(cil) to draw my timeline but found that to be unwieldy. I changed my mind about when things happened, changed it back again, had a bunch of things happening in a short period of time and the writing got all cramped, the tape holding the pieces of paper together ripped, the tape prevented me from folding the timeline up into a portable size...you get the idea.

What I'd love is a home office with walls covered in whiteboard paint, but since that's not going to happen anytime soon, I decided to look into timeline app for writers. After researching several options and asking fellow writers for recommendations, I bought Aeon Timeline because:
  • I'd heard only good things about it;
  • There are multiple ways to view the timeline, including zooming in to view a day hour-by-hour and zooming out to view decades (or even centuries) simultaneously;
  • You can attach websites and photos to timeline events (I hadn't even thought to look for this);
  • It's reasonably priced ($40);
  • And perhaps most importantly, it syncs with Scrivener, my preferred word processing tool.
I've been using it for a couple of weeks now, and while I haven't used all the features yet (the attachments, the syncing), so far I'm very happy with my purchase. It's sufficiently complex for my needs but works intuitively enough (with the aid of a few tutorial videos) to allow me to start using it within half an hour of purchase.

I use the arcs to organize events into That Which Happens in History, That Which Happens Pre-Book 1, That Which Happens in Book 1, etc., and I use the entities to assign events to characters. You can set up an event to take place over an extended period of time (e.g. reigning period of an English king/queen). You can indicate whether a person participated in an event or merely observed it. You can hide arcs and entities when you want to narrow in on certain characters or groups of events. Lots and lots of other features that I won't go into because I'm not being paid to market this software. Point is: it's working for me.

If dropping $40 isn't an option, though, and you need something free, here are a few suggestions sent to me by Twitter associate @calgarynyk:
MS Office
MS Powerpoint:
Source Forge's The Timeline Project (open source, multi-platform)

Nick also sent me this link to the eLearning Insdustry's list of Top 10 Free Timeline Creation Tools for Teachers.

What awesome tools do you use to help you in your writing process?

1 comment:

  1. I use Aeon Timeline for Windows for many of the same reasons. Has paid for itself several times over, as I storyboarded my existing mss and found several chronological inconsistencies (that my betas had all missed too!) Few changes elsewhere, much better. Rock solid. I'm contemplating adding datelines to my mss and now I know down to the second if need be what happened when.

    Also using it to keep track of flashbacks...what was exposited when so I know what characters should know at any given time (and what they have yet to find out.)