Timelines help me keep up with important dates and events when I’m writing, especially when I’m working on a series that spans three or more books. With my Petal Pushers Cozy Mystery series, for example, I not only have to keep up when each murder or crime happens and clues are found, I’ve also got a ghost who was born in the 1800s whose history I need to keep straight. Even if I’m working on a book that isn’t in a series, I find timelines really help me keep up with the main events, how much time passes between scenes, etc.
I haven’t found any special software for this that I like. For To Have and To Hold, Like it or Not, I printed off a two month calendar and filled in the important stuff. For my Time Travel Genealogy Trilogy (which is not yet finished and still needs a better title), I did plug all the characters into a file in my genealogy software because there were so many birth and death dates, but created a few separate outline style timelines to track events that happen over a few hundred years. With Secrets, Snapdragons, and a Spirit, and Poison, Perennials, and a Poltergeist, I whipped up timelines for each book and a more detailed master line on Word. And there have been other times when I simply scribbled it all out with pen and paper.
During my brainstorming stages, when I’m sketching out characters and outlining my next story, I find that timelines are a great tool to keep myself from forgetting exactly when certain things happen. It goes through a few changes as I write, and it’s something I always refer back to on the final edit.
Do you use them?