So now I’ve told you about plotting plot driven books and writing character driven books without an outline but with a setting. Now I’m going to talk about using a timeline to write a book. Basically it’s simple – you have a story that takes place say in a week – you use the week as your outline and plot the story around that. Or you have a journey – plot the story frome the start of the voyage to the end. I did that with the book on Alexander the Great, using the timeline of his voyage through Asia along with a map that showed where his army went. The trick was to get him from point A to point B – and that was the main part of the story. Having a timeline as the structure upon which you build your story is always a good idea – even in fiction when you really haven’t really thought about time. Plotting your story using the timeline also keeps it moving forward.
Complex plots can profit from using a timeline. One of my book, Virtual Murder, takes place in two worlds – the real world and the world created by the mutants. It also had three protagonists, each in their own timeline or world, and flashbacks to certain happenings. Since the story takes place in the real work in a single week, it was important to keep a timeline handy with the important actions in the book in order to keep the story together and clear.
I don’t have the plotting notes for Virtual Murder anymore, but I remember they went something like this:
Monkey goes into the virtual world for three days to save Mitch.
Sally is in the real world for one day – she watches Mitch in the sending room and talks to Digby about the possibility of mutants being real.
Monkey / Mitch – three days.
Sally / Digby – One day – Tuesday
Tuesday night in New Mexico – Laurel and Carlos fall in love – they go to the desert camping and Carloes tells Laurel of his conversation with Mahler, the eldest Mutant.
Wednesday – Mitch ‘wakes up’ from the virtual world and goes to Dallas.
Wednesday night – Carlos goes to Dallas at Laurel’s urging to try to warn Mitch.
Thursday Morning – Carlos goes back to New Mexico. Monkey meets Mitch in the real world. Mitch learns who Monkey really is.
(Etc. etc.)
This method is handy when the plot has a lot of characters, is complex, or is a historical novel. A timeline can save a lot of rewriting and trouble if you use it for most books, actually.
Good Luck!