Finding a great fiction timeline worksheet online is impossible, yet keeping track of a story and organizing the details is probably a minor obsession for many writers. What’s the best way to do it? Tables and storyboards, electronic files, lists, post-its, yellow legal pads, white boards, folders, even using recipe cards and laying them around on the floor? Personally, none of them ever did the job. It was too much text, too many papers or files, or just a mess that made tracking hopeless. Whether it’s straight storytelling or a complex work of non-linear fiction, losing control is not an option.
To get a handle on trajectories, research, pertinent dates, characters, plot development and the myriad other factors that go into creative writing projects, I’ve developed an easy-to-use Fiction Timeline Worksheet based in Microsoft Office Excel 2007. It’s graphic rather than text-based, and works for short and long fiction alike. Though the timeline itself is linear, those writing non-linear fiction will find it invaluable. After all, time only moves in one direction even if the narration doesn’t, and it’s adaptable enough to work on both micro and macro levels. It relies on quick points rather than elaborations. This distillation process helps the writer understand a project’s most important elements. It’s visual and it’s flexible, which means that connections can be made through colour-coding, and details can be moved around easily to adjust how the story unfolds. It also supports the dynamic nature of creative work, so as narratives get pulled apart and recreated or shifted around in time, changes can be made instantly.
Novels can be laid out on a single timeline, or broken down into modules like chapters or scenes. Use it to map out a new project or reorganize an old manuscript that’s not working out. Alter elements according to the needs of each project.
The Fiction Timeline Worksheet is continually under development, so if anyone has any feedback – what works, what doesn’t, what’s missing or unnecessary, please feel free to comment.
My only request is that the proprietary header not be removed, and if it’s passed along to others please be sure to refer back to this web site.
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Follow this blog for updates on a game-changing story development tool that will do what no existing writing system can – turn writing into storytelling so writers can finally understand how to engage readers to give themselves the best chance possible to get read and get published.
Other posts by Sandra Chmara:
- The Alchemy of Great Storytelling
- The Best Editing Tool You Probably Don’t Use
- Making Yourself Submission-Ready
- How Narrative Is Like A Symphonic Score
- Women And Writing: Epic Fail
- Workshops, Writer’s Groups, Classrooms
- Banning Books … Yours
- Stuck Noplace, Going Nowhere – Writer’s Purgatory
- The Query Letter – Why You Should Never, Ever …
- What Stage Is Your Writing In?
- Being Original In A Copycat World
- The Truth Behind Writing What You Know
- What If The Muse Is Just Not That Into You?
- Motive Killed The Writer
- Literary Horse Flop
- Will You Survive Writing?
- Great Writing Secrets – The Business Letter
- Why We Write