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All in good time

Creating a timeline for your novel 

Life makes more sense when you understand where you’ve come from and where you’re headed. We all have a past, present and future. Writing is no different.

That’s why, whether you’re a plotter (you plan ahead) or a pantser (you write as you go), a timeline can give you the direction you need.

The process of creating a timeline will help you decide what to include in your story. You’ll then have a clear idea of where you’re headed and the key events you intend to take place along the way, meaning you’ll be less likely to write yourself into a black hole

Find your track

Many writers struggle to stay on track with their works as they navigate plot, characters, dialogue, themes and more. It can be hard to find direction when there’s a lot going on. 

A timeline makes your destination clear and enables you to see the key ‘stops’ along the way, helping to keep you in motion as you journey along the grand railway of your story. 

Taking time to put together your timeline before writing is a good habit. It’ll keep you focused and will also ensure you hold your storyline together at all times.

Map out your route 

Depending on what level of planning works for you, you may decide to create a detailed timeline or a basic outline of the ‘stops’, for example the essential dates, days and times. 

Award-winning crime writer, Mari Hannah, begins every project by finding the sunrise and sunset times for the period in which her novel is set. Burying a body in daylight would bring a host of plot twists for any crime writer to deal with!

Your timeline can have various formats: 

Ways of using timelines

If you’re working on a story and the plotline has run away from you, there’s a strong possibility that you need to create a timeline to get you back on track.

Play around with the best way to create your timeline. I’ve discovered, in time, that I work most effectively as a Post-it planner. Experimentation will help you find your way. 

Think about the complexities of your piece and choose how you want to use a timeline that not only keeps your events in order but holds your entire story together.

A well-planned timeline gives you confidence and your readers a seamless experience. 

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About Shelley Wilson

Shelley Wilson is a British, genre-straddling author of sixteen books including motivational self-help books and young adult fantasy fiction. She has a crazy black cat called Luna and is obsessed with vampires, Tudor and Viking history as well as exploring castles


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