Timelining

Okay. Alright. So. I am not a plotter by nature, and any kind of organisation system I have tried has failed me utterly. Something about all of the bits and bobs (especially in certain speciality writing programs) leave me irritable and unproductive. This shouldn’t go here, and what is that doing there, grumble grumble. Too bad I’m not a programmer, or I would just make my own application the way I want it.

But there comes a time when some things are necessary, and you either adapt, or fall to the ground in a sobbing heap. I adapted, and man, have I ever been missing out on the fun!

The Damning Moths requires an ongoing timeline. Simply put, there are a number of vital players in different locations who I need to keep track of, even if their actions never show up on paper. Oh, sure, I hummed and hahhed over how best to do this, and tried the sort of standard-looking horizontal timeline dealie (you know the kind they have to depict historical events or a person’s lifetime). That flopped. Too many people, too many things happening, too difficult to modify; I found myself holding the original sketchy outline of “character, location, and event” in a messy pile in my notebook, with a bucket-load of extra frustration. So what do I try to keep this tidy and easier to reference to prevent mistakes?

I realised at some point, people use daily planners in the format they are because it’s the effective way. I already knew the calendar system for TDM (which is actually far too complicated to relate in a few sentences), the length of the years, the months and seasons, so forth. Which lead me to the somewhat lengthy, but ultimately very useful process of creating the full calendar in a normal OpenOffice document, using a table. Yep, just like a real calendar, with little boxes for each day, or month, or year, depending on the level of detail it holds.

As such, I have several versions to reference. The historical, which is just years listed, because the characters have lifespans of hundreds of years, so I just use that to note births, deaths, and important events like wars, covering the past several thousand years as I need it. Then we move down to important years, which shows all the dates for a more specific tracking of events and the season they occur in. And now, the individual book calendar, which follows where people are at times of the day and when important plot points are revealed to various characters.

Sound complicated? It is and isn’t; when TDM deals so heavily with misplaced memory and deceit between people that the individual character’s knowledge at different times is a major factor, this makes it much, much easier. It took a lot of work in the first place to build the calendars. But it’s so refreshing to have it finally laid out where I can see everything at a glance, and I’ve kept blank copies of the yearly calendar to re-use for each subsequent book. There won’t be future issues regarding who is where and what they know about at the time. I’ve got it covered. I can easily figure out people’s relative age during events through history, keep track of who knows who and when they meet, and of course, at the book level, I can make sure no one will be written in two places at once as these subplots come crashing together. It’s exciting.

~A

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2 thoughts on “Timelining

  1. Wow, very cool! Lucky me, I guess, for having a standard calendar. I was just able to print the several months (in future years) that my book takes place. After reading how much you’ve gone through to get yours settled, I appreciate the simplicity of my process much more now!

    1. Oh yes, it would be far too easy to just stick with urban fantasy and have normal places with normal dates, wouldn’t it? XD At least TDM is meant to span almost all of my major fantasy plots in one way or another, so I don’t have to redo this work for the other novels I’m planning!

      ~A

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