Toothless Letter TOften skipping along hand in hand with plot, timelines are about the order in which things happen. Plot is the events of the novel, timeline is when these events happen.

Timelines are defined as graphical representations of a period of time where important events are marked. Timelines for novels often include all the events of a plot, whether that be the main plot events, or the sub plots, and often both. Character developments, setting changes, I put all types of stuff on my timelines, after in different colours to help distinguish between different plots, of whether something is character or plot.

Here’s one of my ones.


This is the original timeline for Black Dawn, a book that is now getting a complete re-write. I’ll probably re-do this timeline at some point, with colours, but this is the first one I found in my stack of writing stuff.

In there I have chapter numbers, when character are first introduced, major developments between characters. I have the major plot points, and minor plot points, I’ve even got some one liners that I thought of and really wanted to put in the book. And you can tell that I was writing it in a hurry because I’m having trouble deciphering the handwriting, and I can peer at the original!

Planners probably use them more than I do. Mainly I use timelines when I haven’t got all the pieces of a novel in one coherent string, like when I have all the major and some minor plot points but not always the bits in-between. Whereas I can imagine that they are a very powerful tool when planning a novel as well.

I can see them being especially useful is there are any types of flashback, or time hoping going on. A couple of my novels have big jumps in time, either months or years, whereas others might visit the past in flashbacks, so whilst the novel might visit them at various places in a certain plot order, the timeline would help someone order them from the point of view of the character, or sequential time.

Thinking about it, I probably need to do a timeline for Archmage. There is just a lot going on over many years, it probably would help me to get everything straight.

Do any of you, my wonderful readers, use timelines for your novels?